Should IndyCar Scrap Double-Points?

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Next weekend, the Verizon IndyCar Series will wrap up their 2016 season with a trip to Sonoma. As has been the case since 2014, the season finale will pay double-points for race results, but all bonus points will remain the same. It seems to me that if you are going to pay double-points, then everything should be doubled. Instead of a the pole position paying its usual one point, logic would have it that it should pay two next weekend.

But one should never try and use logic when it comes to double-points. If anyone with IndyCar ever did apply logic, double-points paying races would be eliminated altogether. There is no word for double-points other than gimmick – plain and simple. How else can you explain it?

Double-points racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series first appeared in 2014. In that season, the three 500-mile races – Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana – awarded double-points in an effort to balance the fact that there were so few ovals on the schedule. It just so happened that Fontana also served as the season finale, so the last race paid double points. In 2015, this was changed to only Indianapolis and the season finale at Sonoma would pay double-points. That scenario is repeated for this season.

Why the double-points system was put into place was beyond me. In my opinion, it serves as nothing but manufactured drama. The IndyCar points battle needed no built-in drama. It was dramatic enough, naturally. The last time the championship was decided before the final race, was when Tony Kanaan clinched the championship with one race to go. Kanaan was aided by the fact that he completed every lap that season. Amazingly, Kanaan finished no worse than eighth – the opening race at Homestead. After the opener, Kanaan never finished worse than fifth, which he did three times – at Richmond, Kentucky and Pike’s Peak.

Seasons like that don’t come along very often. Even with the championship in hand, Kanaan delivered a second-place finish at Texas – in a car that was in a reverse paint scheme from his usual green sidepods. That was the first and last time I ever saw that familiar 7-Eleven car in the reverse livery.

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Ten years later, after riveting season finales that went down to who would make the bigger mistake in the final race – IndyCar decided that that just wasn’t enough. They had to throw a gimmick in there to cheapen things up. They made three races double-points races, then reduced it to two for 2015 and 2016. Here’s a suggestion – reduce it to none for 2017 and beyond.

I always liked the fact that as far as the points went, no race was considered any bigger than the other. The Indianapolis 500 counted the same as the race at Iowa. There just seemed to be something pure about that. Last night’s NFL opener featured the Carolina Panthers losing to the Denver Broncos by a score of 21-20, in a much-anticipated rematch of Super Bowl 50. That win counts the same for the Broncos as when Denver meets the San Diego Chargers in October. The NFL doesn’t say that a couple of their sixteen games count more than the others. Each win or loss counts the same. It should be the same in racing.

IndyCar had that purity until 2014, when they came up with awarding double-points for the three 500-mile races. It got even more ridiculous when it included only the Indianapolis 500 and Sonoma – a track that is known more for dust and yawns than for drama. Don’t try to contrive things just to make Sonoma watchable. The season finale will be watched regardless of double-points, so long as the championship is still up for grabs.

So I ask the powers that be within IndyCar, to please scrap the double-points gimmick and bring back the purity of the points system. Now, about that crazy Indianapolis 500 qualifying format…

George Phillips

Please note:  Susan and I will be tied up all weekend, including attending the Vikings-Titans season opener. I will have little or no time to write this weekend, so there will be no post here on Monday Sep 12, but I will return on Wednesday Sep 14.-GP

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16 Responses to “Should IndyCar Scrap Double-Points?”

  1. Brian McKay Says:

    Enjoy your weekend.

  2. I don’t mind the double points for the 500 mile races, but Sonoma makes no sense. It’s a horrible race to end the season, much rather it be Iowa or California, something decent. Homestead was even better than Sonoma.

    • Indy should be double points, and I’d like to see the others have points awarded by the distance of the race.

    • As a Northern California, my suggestion to you is: don’t watch the race. Then you won’t have anything to complain about. It’s incredible to read how many “fans” of IndyCar will take a dump all over the venue that the series has selected for its finale. Average speeds are the same as Belle Isle. Plenty of dramatic moments. The series has been coming for 11 years; and it’s going back next year for the finale. I’d suggest people start accepting it instead of constantly telling Northern California fans, in so many words, we hate your track and wish you were not on the schedule. I’ll remember that the next time I snooze through a Belle Isle broadcast or watch a dull race on the ridiculous Indy road course.

  3. It sucks that Sonoma is the venue for the season finale. Adding a double points race to it almost makes it worse. I know Sonoma was examined at one time for modifications to bring it up to a more current standard, hosting big downforce, massive braking force type race cars like the modern IndyCar. I’m not sure what became of that. Obviously nothing.

    • It sucks that Belle Isle is on the schedule and there are two races. It sucks that the Indy road course is on the schedule. Not sure what you mean by “modern standard.” The circuit is used by NASCAR and IndyCar; do you know of another series that rejected Sonoma because it isn’t “more current?”

  4. I’m actually going to do something a little odd here and disagree with you. Kinda. I actually don’t have a huge problems with double points on ovals because it still brings back parity between the ovals and road courses (or at least moves the balance closer to equal) in the championship equation.

    IndyCar racing always has had and always should have a champion that best conquers it’s diversified schedule. When the schedule balance got so out of whack a few years ago with only a handful of ovals, I think double points were needed to keep the champions honest in all facets of the season. A champion should not be able to excel only on road and street courses yet completely suck wind on the ovals. Until more ovals can shift that balance of power, I think double points on a select number of events is ok.

    I don’t know if all of them need to be double points but maybe enough to get the percentage of oval points within the championship to something like 40% would be appropriate. (I actually have no idea what it is at now. I just completely pulled that number out of thin air.)

    All that said, double points on road courses is a useless idea that only swings the pendulum further out of balance.

    As for your reference to the NFL, I think one could argue some games are indeed more important that other. A win within your division is much more significant in the standings (a whole game swing) versus a team in another division or, even more so, a team in the other conference.

    • Good example of why analogies between Indycar racing (where there are 22 entrants all gaining points in a single event) and stick-and-ball team sports are not always meaningful.

      Some wins within a division are more important, but a 12-2 team beating a 3-11 team in the 15th game of the season when the other teams are all more or less 7-7 probably won’t make a difference in the final standings or who makes the playoffs…much like a Coyne driver ending up on the podium late in the season, perhaps?

      Now, if VICS went to a Chase-like system….yeah, as if….

    • Doug Gardner Says:

      I kind of agree with Paul. The ovals should count more. They could revert to the age old points system USAC used for a bit. The points were established by the race mileage. Obviously that increases the oval points. Most road races are the equivalent mileage. Just base points on mileage and portion them off from there. No qualifications points and no double points for the last race. That is just to much NASCAR or WWE. However, not doing double points a t the last race could lead to nobody giving a care about it. This could be a bonus for car owners. They could try out new talent in a race situation. Not good for the drivers of those cars.

      • billytheskink Says:

        It is interesting how the old USAC points system would change the championship picture. Power would move ahead of Pagenaud by 330 points, Power’s 1000-0 points edge at Pocono proving a critical turning point. With the 200 mile Sonoma race offering a maximum of 400 points to the winner, Paganaud’s only route to the championship would be winning the race and having Power finish 13th or worse and out of the points.

        Biggest winners switching from current points to USAC:
        RC Enerson +8, 31st to 23rd
        JR Hildebrand +5, 23rd to 18th
        Josef Newgarden +2, 5th to 3rd
        Tony Kanaan +2, 6th to 4th
        James Hinchcliffe +2, 10th to 8th
        Juan Montoya +2, 14th to 12th

        Biggest losers switching from current points to USAC:
        Helio Castroneves -3, 4th to 7th
        Alexander Rossi -3, 11th to 14th
        Gabby Chaves -3, 22nd to 25th
        Scott Dixon -2, 3rd to 5th
        Marco Andretti -2, 17th to 19th
        Max Chilton -2, 19th to 21st
        Jack Hawksworth -2, 20th to 22nd

  5. You just contradicted yourself by saying the season finale will be watched as long as the championship is up for gravs, so we should scrap double points. If not for double points, the championship would have been decided one race early both this year and last. If anything that shows double points are necessary.

  6. By what manner of logic or rational thought can one arrive at a conclusion that ovals should get double points? Give me a break!
    So what if the series champion is decided before the last race?
    No double points, no damned chase, no manufactured drama. Please!

  7. billytheskink Says:

    While I prefer having every race count the same in the points, I can appreciate the logic behind the long-time USAC system where points were awarded based on race distance. I can even appreciate the logic behind awarding double points for 500 mile races only. The Indy 500 qualifying points and the one year that bonus points were awarded for the Iowa heat races? I’d make some adjustments, but I’m on board with both concepts.

    In all these cases, Indycar is asking the drivers and teams to spend greater than the “typical” amount of time competing on track. Ideally, this extra effort and the risks and costs that it entails would be rewarded with additional prize money. Outside of the Indianapolis 500, this does not happen. Points, however, are a currency that Indycar can mint, and it makes some sense mint and dole them out when they ask their competitors for more.

    But they are not asking for more at Sonoma. The race will be roughly 200 miles, which is the typical distance of an Indycar natural terrain road course race (150 for streets, 200 for roads, 250 for short ovals). The series is awarding extra points without asking for extra effort.

  8. I agree with those who espouse the return to the “old” USAC standard of paying points based on race distance. In so saying, however, I would be in favor of eliminating points for qualifying at Indy, save one point for the pole winner. As it stands right now, with double points for the 500 PLUS points for qualifying, Indy counts for almost TRIPLE points. While I realize that the 500 is our “Super Bowl,” is it really worth all that?

  9. I’ve never liked some races paying double points either. And it’s just been unnecessary.

  10. My favorite is the CART points system from 1981/1982.

    Race distance 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th to 20th
    100 miles 20 16 14 12 10 8 6 5 4 3 2 1
    200 miles 40 32 28 24 20 16 12 10 8 6 4 2
    300 miles 60 48 42 36 30 24 18 15 12 9 6 3
    400 miles 80 64 56 48 40 32 24 20 16 12 8 4
    500 miles 100 80 70 60 50 40 30 25 20 15 10 5

    Like the USAC system but with lower values.

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