Only occasionally will the sport of auto racing be approached in this column.
That’s not because I have no interest in the sport or no knowledge about it. It is mostly because my esteemed colleague, Ken de la Bastide, devotes his entire column every week to that sport and his column runs on Wednesdays right before my first column of the week.
But sometimes there is a topic that gets under my skin enough that I will alter my tendency and write about auto racing anyway. This is one of those times.
NASCAR really needs to change the way it conducts its competition for the championship.
There are four drivers who started the final 10 races with a chance at the title who didn’t deserve that opportunity. Those drivers are Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer.
Why am I picking on those drivers? Because those four haven’t done the most important thing a driver needs to do before being considered a driving champion — they haven’t won a race. That isn’t right and it isn’t good for the sport.
Right now the current points system virtually prevents drivers from driving as hard as they can in an all out effort to win. Why? Because the risk of losing points should something go wrong is so much greater than the reward for winning.
There are several simple steps NASCAR could take to rectify this situation and to perhaps rejuvenate some interest in the sport, which was once a rival to the National Football League for the number of fans and the loyalty level.
The first step would be to make it a requirement for a driver to win at least one race before making the chase. Even a driver who finished in the top 10 every race would be on the outside looking in with a victory during the season.
Secondly, the winner of each race should get at least twice as many points as the second place driver. That would result in a more frenzied attempt to actually win, especially by the top three or four drivers.
Next, no driver should get points for finishing below 10th. All drivers who actually finish the race would get a bonus equal to about half the points of 10th.
Also, remove the points for leading a lap. Nothing bores me more in a race that one driver letting another go past so that driver can get a point for leading. The same holds true for a driver who stays out the longest during green flag pit stops in order to get that point.
I believe the bonus for the driver who leads the most laps is fine. Dominant cars and drivers should be rewarded. I would increase the size of that bonus, however.
Finally, award points for winning the pole. I like the drivers who want to go faster than everyone else. Speed is something that creates excitement in the sport.
Doing those things would make sure that all driving champions deserved the honor and would make each week’s racing superior to what it is now.