Reflecting on NASCAR Points Racing

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick give each other plenty of room as Kevin attempts a pass on the outside.
Reflecting on NASCAR Points Racing
Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick give each other plenty of room as Kevin attempts a pass on the outside. Image credit: http://velocitymotorsportsnews.com

NASCAR’s Chase format was supposed to eliminate the habit NASCAR drivers have of “points racing,” or their habit of keeping their eyes on “the big picture” during races, especially during The Chase. However, it didn’t. This year’s elimination format, where every three races during The Chase four drivers are eliminated, was also supposed to eliminate it. Again, if you did any scanning on the team radio channels, especially the last four weeks, you know that it didn’t.

 

What are “Points Racing” and “Keeping an Eye on the Big Picture?”

Reflecting on NASCAR Points Racing
Image credit: performgroup.com

 

These are things that most NASCAR fans despise. We find it odious. We go to races, and plan ahead to watch races, to see races that are exciting with loads of passing and lots of lead changes. We want to see drivers taking chances to pass other drivers. We want to see them tradin’ paint to get an advantage.

This doesn’t happen when drivers “points race” or “remember the big picture.” Admittedly, this doesn’t happen very often during the first 26 races of the season leading up to The Chase. It also doesn’t happen very often during the first and maybe the second race of each elimination round during The Chase.

However, if you pay attention to team radios during The Chase, you hear spotters and crew chiefs, and sometimes team owners, telling their drivers to “keep your eye on The Big Picture.” These will be the teams that don’t have a win in that Chase segment and are near the cutoff. During the regular season of the first 26 races, it could also be the four or five drivers without wins who can get into The Chase if they place high enough. Or don’t crash.

 

Reflecting on NASCAR Points Racing
This is what can happen when drivers fight for each position on the track instead of racing solely for points and protecting their points position. Of course, both Joey and Carl were racing for first place and the Sprint Cup Championship at Homestead-Miami when this happened.
Image credit: nascar.com

 

The first race of each Chase segment, each driver in The Chase is going to go all out to get a win to guarantee their spot in the next round. That’s because they’ve got two races to recover from a poor finish that drops them a position or two in the standings. Those drivers with a win, or high in the Chase points and basically guaranteed to move on to the next round, will be trying things to gain an advantage over the other Chase drivers or testing new setups on their cars and pushing their cars. Most will also push themselves and their cars to try and keep others from getting a win and the guaranteed spot in the next round.

 

JGR Teams Were the Cutoff Drivers After Talladega and Phoenix

Reflecting on NASCAR Points Racing
Jimmie Johnson takes the lead with a pass that could have been risky at Homestead-Miami. Johnson could have played it safe and protected his lead over the other Chase drivers instead of going for the lead, but he didn’t. He gave us a great race instead.
Image credit: foxsports.com

 

JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch were sitting on the edge of oblivion at both Talladega and Phoenix during The Chase this year, while Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin were sitting there at Talladega. An average finish with safe driving would guarantee them a spot in The Round of Eight after Talladega and the finale at Homestead-Miami after Phoenix. However, bad finishes at Talladega would finish them and allow in other drivers, like Austin Dillon or Martin Truex Jr at Talladega and Kevin Harvick or Kurt Busch at Phoenix.

Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson were the only two drivers at both races who had the wins to be guaranteed a spot in the next round, even if they had horrible finishes at both tracks, while Harvick had enough points at Talladega to be guaranteed to move on. This meant that all three could take chances and push hard to win, and they did.

The Gibbs drivers didn’t, though. They raced for points. They raced to make sure they didn’t have a terrible finish. All they did was race to protect their position in the standings, not to advance. If you had a scanner at the track or used one of the NASCAR applications that lets you hear the race radios, you heard the spotters, crew chiefs, and, I believe, even Coach Gibbs telling the drivers to “remember the points” and “keep your eye on the big picture.”

 

Reflecting on NASCAR Points Racing
This is the result of Johnson’s not playing it safe and simply racing for points. He’s standing at the podium at the awards dinner getting to receive his seventh championship ring.
Image credit: jimmiejohnson.com

 

You can liken this to the football team in the lead in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, playing it safe and taking the whole play clock to snap the ball, and the quarterback taking a knee in the last 90 seconds or so of the game. They do this to help ensure that they don’t give the other team a chance to win the game by creating a turnover.

This has to change. NASCAR has to do something next year to eliminate this type of attitude in drivers and teams. We pay our hard-earned money at the tracks because we want to see a race that is hard fought and full of passes, rubbin’, and drivers “takin’ the air off the spoiler” of another driver to advance. We don’t want to see a bunch of humdrum drivers just putting in laps. If we wanted to see that, we could hit the freeway on Sunday.

Do you like it when drivers “points race” or keep their eye on “The Big Picture,” or do you also want to see each and every driver pushing their cars and their skills to the limit each and every race? We want to know, so let us know how you feel about this in the comments section below.

About Mike Aguilar 202 Articles
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.
  • shooter

    Just one of several reasons why I cant watch Nascar anymore .Ten years ago I would not miss a race ,but now it has been hijacked the rules and regs. that has neutered the cars, and has hamstrung the drivers all suffer. IMHO parody does not belong. Let the people RACE……Shooter

  • Jerry Whitaker

    That Gibb’s drivers display at Talladega was rediculous…running scared at the back the entire race should have them eliminated from the chase for being sissies!!! Real racers run for the win EVERY RACE!!!

  • Robert Cerani

    No the NASCAR point system was supposed to stop Jimmy Johnson from winning anymore championships. Nascar was very unfair and I am glad Jimmy Johnson won. That’s the way you do it Jimmy and Chevrolet. Put those toyotas in the shitter. where Gibbs belongs for disgracing Chevrolet years ago by going to a car company that shouldn’t even be in NASCAR. Can’t wait for Mopar to get back in racing. get rid of the Jap Crap.

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