by Liz Allison, LizAllison.com
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series welcomed in a new points system and the introduction of stage racing when the season kicked off at Daytona in February.
Changes to the points system is not anything new for NASCAR’s premier series. In fact, since the formation of NASCAR in 1948, the system that calculates championship points has been changed over a dozen times.
In the earlier days, points were based solely on the purse for each race. The more the race paid, the more points a driver received.
The late sixties shifted more towards the race distance in points distribution. For example, a shorter race length may pay 50 points to win, while a 500 mile event would divvy out 150 points to the race winner.
The modern era of NASCAR started in1972, which also brought on a more modern way of calculating championship points. NASCAR moved to a much more complicated points program by giving a certain amount of points for the number of laps a driver completed. NASCAR added a 100 point bonus to the race winner, placing a larger emphasis on winning. The points were awarded to the field by a two point interval all the way through the last place finisher.
NASCAR tweaked the system in 1975 by moving to a system that would award the winner 175 points and the points would decrease through the field, with the last place finisher receiving 34 points. This system also rewarded five bonus points to a lap leader and five bonus points to the driver who led the most laps. This system for the most part stayed in place through 2010, with the winning points jumping anywhere from 175 points to 185 points.
NASCAR did away with the old and brought in a new and revised points system in 2011 by decreasing the points to the race winner considerably, awarding the race winner 46 points , the points then decreased by one point on through the field, with the last place finisher receiving one point.
This was tweaked again in 2016, with 43 points going to the race winner.
In rolls 2017…… and the introduction of stage racing, which shook up the traditional way of NASCAR racing and the championship points distribution.
Stage racing is basically two breaks during the race where the winner of that stage is awarded bonus points…..and the top ten in those stages receive additional points towards their championship run. These two stage endings are set for predetermined laps prior to the start of the race and is different for each track. The stage bonus points are accumulated in the championship points fund for that driver for the season but will not change the outcome of that specific race.
A stage winner could ultimately win that race but would not have been as a result of being a stage winner, these are entirely different. The stage winning driver of each stage earns 10 points, 2nd place earning nine points and each finishing spot through 10th place will receive bonus points with the 10th spot, receiving one point.
The final stage is the completion of the race and the winner is the race winner, so the end of the final stage is the end of the race.
Race points are then awarded to the entire field based on the finishing order. The winner receives 40 points, 2nd place receives 35 points, 3rd place receives 34 points, decreasing the points down to one point for drivers who finish 36th-40th. The most points a driver can earn in a race is 60, which would be 40 for the race win, plus 20 points for winning both stages.
Additionally, the race winner receives five bonus points towards the late season ten race championship run, plus Playoff eligibility. If a driver leads at the end of both Stage 1 and Stage 2, and goes on to win the race, the driver is awarded seven bonus points to carry into the postseason……and….. the five bonus points in years past for leading a lap and bonus points for leading the most laps is no longer awarded.
So why did NASCAR make a change in 2017 for NASCAR’s premier series? To keep things fresh and challenging for the drivers and exciting for NASCAR’s fan base. From what I have seen so far, I would say they hit a home run!