What’s The Point?
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.