What’s The Point?

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This past Friday, I surprised some by embracing the change that standing starts would bring. This was in complete defiance of my “Change is bad!” mentality. Today, I revert to the frame of mind that abhors anything different. Well…sort of.

With the unveiling of the 2013 rulebook last week, there have been many changes. Some I applaud, while there are a few that I question. For example, there is a new rule that numbers on the rear wing end plates must be at least eight inches tall – an inch taller than last year. While I’m happy that the series realizes that numbers were hard to see last year, I’m not sure an inch is enough to increase visibility that much. At least they didn’t allow further shrinkage.

The good and bad scenario applies to the point system, as well. The good is that they have altered the structure that previously awarded twelve points to any driver that finished eighteenth or lower. With a twenty-five car field, there was no real incentive to race for position late in the race if you were in the back of the field. Under the 2013 system, points decrease one point per position from nineteenth to twenty-fifth. A driver finishing nineteenth is awarded eleven points, while a driver finishing twenty-fifth earns only five. Anything under twenty-fifth remains at five points. That’s fair and rewards competition at the back of the field. Plus, a driver shouldn’t earn twelve points just for starting a race, when the winner only earns fifty.

That’s the good. So what is the bad? The series has always awarded a point to the pole winner and two points for the driver that led the most laps. Those were fine. But for 2013, the series has decided to follow the NASCAR model of awarding a point to every driver that leads a race for just one lap. Please.

Just when they put more of a value on points by lowering the points awarded to the back of the field – they cheapen points by giving them away to any chump that stays out during a yellow. Follow that strategy for every race and that’s an additional nineteen points available to every driver.

I always thought that was a ridiculous policy that NASCAR followed. I considered it a point of pride that the IZOD IndyCar Series didn’t cheapen their points system that way. It reeks of Tee-Ball and awarding a trophy to everyone just for competing. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to win a race. It also is very demanding to win a pole or to lead the most laps in a race. If I were a pole winner, I would find it insulting that winning the pole would count as much as one of the Lotus cars staying out for a lap under caution just to follow the pace car around and “earn” a point. Why not award racing points at the end of the season for winning the fan vote for Most Popular Driver?

As a fan, I’m insulted that points are awarded to drivers just for leading laps. In NASCAR, we’ve seen this policy abused by teammates holding back just to allow a fellow teammate to earn the obligatory free point. I can see a scenario at Mid-Ohio where lead changes are minimal. Will Power is leading early and Helio Castroneves is running second. Power would allow Helio to run up beside him at the line and earn the point before edging back ahead to take the lead before the next turn. But then they make sure no one else gets close to the front. Helio may not lead another lap, but he would be awarded the same as the Pole Winner and only one point less than the driver leading the most laps all day.

This is a rule that cheapens points and lends itself wide-open to be abused. It also further encourages “points racing” instead of what racing is all about – winning.

Most that know me know that I’m not exactly a CART advocate. I took their side at the beginning of the split, but they did a lot of things wrong. However, I’ve always said that their points structure was almost perfect. Twenty points went to the winner, sixteen went to second place. On the way down, points dwindled to the point that twelfth place was awarded one point – anyone finishing below twelfth received no points. While that encouraged those running twentieth late in the race to park their cars, it certainly put a premium on points. CART also paid one point for winning the pole and one for leading the most laps. Maximum points paid for any weekend was twenty-two. Leading a lap gave you nothing more than a warm & fuzzy feeling.

I’ve always been perplexed at football players doing a ridiculous dance after making a tackle. Isn’t that what they are paid millions to do? Should I expect high-fives from my co-workers for showing up to work on time every morning? No. Racers are expected to make their way to the front. It’s the good ones that can stay there. Being at the front by staying out during a yellow shouldn’t even help a driver’s self-esteem, much less pay points.

Since his hire last year, Chief Steward Beaux Barfield has made a lot of changes – some better than others. That’s the nature of the position. Standing starts and double-file restarts have raised a few eyebrows, but they have the potential to improve racing. For the life of me, I can see no reason whatsoever to award a point for those that lead a single lap. It crosses the line from trying to improve the show to just being a simple and absurd gimmick. What’s the point? There is no need to adopt NASCAR rules for IndyCar. C’mon Beaux – you’re better than this.

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “What’s The Point?”

  1. Agree with you on the CART point structure. No need to reward back markers with points. I do not think it encourages those back markers to park it though unless they are several laps down. F1’s point system shows us this. As for a point for leading a lap, I am not crazy about it but can live with it.

  2. Free Andrew Craig!

  3. Mike Silver Says:

    I agree with you. I thought the CART point system was the best system ever. I have never agreed with every starter earning points. A driver should not get a point just for leading a lap as your scenario shows. I would be more in favor for a point for the fastest lap of the race.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Earning a point for leading a lap is not unprecedented in American open wheel racing. ChampCar awarded a point for leading a lap from 2004 to 2006. They also dished out bonus points for fastest lap, most positions gained, and a point for the fastest qualifier on each of the two days of qualifying.

    That doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the change, though I think it is less ridiculous than giving out a point for gaining the most positions (think Luiz Garcia Jr. winning CART’s “Hard Charger” award for improving the most positions during the course of a season). It is also less ridiculous than the IRL points system from 1996 and 2001-2008 that awarded no bonus points for winning pole position.

    The 1983-2003 CART points system is probably still the best. I like the fact that it is possible for drivers to fail to score points in a race. However, with the TEAM guarenteed prize money allocated based on the points earned by full-time entries, awarding points to every car is necessary to create some seperation between the backmarkers.
    At the top, the current points system does a pretty fair job of replicating the results of the CART system.

  5. Carburetor Says:

    Hmmmm, that idea about awarding a point to the most popular driver might have some merit…….. :)

  6. I think that I can live with it. As for Will Power letting Helio take the lead for a point, well he might just see a competitive guy like that take the lead and NOT give it back. I do agree that the CART point system was near perfect.

  7. I could get behind awarding a point for leading a Green Flag lap but not under yellow.

  8. I like the 2013 IndyCar points system better than the old CART points system, except for the point for leading the race. If BB King insists on keeping this rule, it should at least be for leading under green.

    Vince Lombardi famously said about touchdown celebrations: “If you score a touchdown, act like you’ve been there before”. Pretty much the same thought as for being rewarded for leading under yellow.

    Not a lot of props here for backmarker points, but I think those opinions make light of the amount of time, effort, and money that it takes to just field a team. If we show up for work every day at our regular jobs, at some point and in some way we are usually rewarded for that. I prefer to see racing all the way through the field.

  9. Agree that the point for leading a lap is lame.

    I agree with George the old CART point system was awesome. The only change I’d make is 25 points to win, then keep the rest exactly as was.

    Also, glad IndyCar changed the points for the rear of the field.

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