Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Numbers Don't Lie: No Need To Tinker With The Chase

No matter how intense the championship chase may be, there will always be those wanting to improve it. 

In recent weeks, a small but vocal group of fans and media members has espoused a revision to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup point system, creating a separate points table for the 12 Chase contenders. Under the so-called “12-1 System,” the top-finishing Chase contender in each race would receive 12 points, regardless of where he finished in the overall rundown. The next-best Chase contender (regardless of overall finish) would receive 11 points, with each subsequent Chase driver receiving one less point.  

Proponents claim the “12-1” system would produce tighter, more exciting championship races by penalizing drivers less in the aftermath of a poor finish, keeping more teams in title contention and increasing fan interest. Unfortunately, the numbers show that the exact opposite is true. 

Sirius XM Speedway listener Jason Lundstrom did the math this week, performing an “apples-to-apples” comparison  to determine whether the “12-1” system really does produce a closer, more exciting Chase. Lundstrom’s table reveals that under a separate, “12-1” points system for Chase contenders, Jimmie Johnson would hold a two-point lead over Brad Keselowski with three races remaining; identical to the margin he enjoys under the current, 43-1 points system. 

Under the “12-1” system, Kasey Kahne would rank third in championship points -- six points behind Johnson – while Clint Bowyer would be 11 points behind in fourth. At first glance, that seems like a tighter points chase. In reality, however, it’s not. 

Under the “12-1” system, the third-place driver trails by 50% of the points available in a single race. Under the current system, however, the third-place driver trails by 54% of a single race. That’s a minimal difference, at best.  

Under the “12-1” system, the fourth-place driver lags behind the leader by 92% of a single race. Under the current system, the gap between the championship leader and fourth place is 60% of a race. 

The top six in championship points are closer under the current system, as well. Sixth-place point man Jeff Gordon is currently 1.13 races from the lead, while under the 12-1 system, Martin Truex, Jr., would be sixth in the title chase, 1.5 races behind. 

Under the current system, the entire Chase field is separated by 140 points, or 2.92 races. Under the 12-1 system, there would be 38 points (3.17 races) between leader Johnson and 12th place Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  

Again, the 12-1 system actually results in a less-competitive title chase.



  1. Totally Agree. Under that system, you could actually finish a race in 12th place, and be all but eliminated from the Chase, if all Chasers finished in the top 12.

  2. There will always be people that dislike how the NASCAR champion is determined. The bottom line is the Chase is a gimmick created by NASCAR to draw ratings against the NFL. NASCAR has never said they created the Chase to make the racing better. The other NASCAR gimmicks such as the Lucky Dog, 3X Green-White-Checkered Finish, double-file re-starts, wave around, top 35 were created to keep fans tuned in and to draw better ratings, not because it made the racing better. If NASCAR would adopt changes that would make the racing better instead of worrying about creating gimmicks for ratings maybe more fans would embrace the sport and heck, maybe NASCAR would start to grow its fan base again.

  3. Anonymous4:09 PM

    A separate point system makes it a legit playoff.

    Closer or not....it needs fixing

  4. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Jake is correct. Nascar once was great racing, not gimmicks which have cost fans.

  5. Michael in SoCal1:21 PM

    This is a tough one, because the Chase contenders are racing among the other 31 drivers at each race for a race win, in addition to the points battle. The race is between 43 drivers, but the Chase is only between 12 drivers. In most major league sporting playoff scenarios, the championship contenders are the only one left competing. Nascar is different in how the playoffs run parallel with the last ten races of the regular season (for the non-contenders), so since the race is contested amongst 43 drivers, I believe the point system for the Chase should remain the 43 - 1, rather than a 12 - 1 points system. Although I can see an argument the other way as well.

  6. Anonymous2:39 PM

    Did he figure in the starting "points" based on their finish in the regular season?

  7. Anonymous4:40 PM

    There was no bonus points figured in either...Jimmie would have had 17 points last weekend not 12....

    1. The "12-1" system, as proposed by our caller the other day, did not include bonus points. Jason did his math based on that scenario.

  8. Michael in SoCal4:47 PM

    I have to disagree with Jack for a few of the items he mentioned. Namely:
    The Chase – while not directly created to make for better racing, the Chase did create a playoff-type system within a points system where there is no eliminations for the playoff non-contenders. Whether or not this is a good thing is up to your personal feeling s of having a playoff system in racing. And as far as trying to best the NFL in ratings, good luck.

    The Lucky Dog – this was put in place to make racing under caution safer for the drivers by outlawing racing back to the yellow. Yes, it stops drivers from ‘racing’ back to the yellow, but that keeps drivers who are stalled in the middle of the track a lot safer.

    GWC – this was put in place in an attempt to keep races from finishing under a yellow flag. To me, that is definitely an attempt to make the racing better, especially the end of the race. That said, due to the inherent characteristics of restrictor plate racing and the typical chaos that ensues when there is a GWC finish at plate tracks, the use of this rule at restrictor plate tracks might be something that is reviewed by Nascar in the interest of safety.

    Double file restarts – absolutely this one is about making racing better, if only for those first few laps prior to the cars getting in the single file parade mode.

    Wave around – this rule is something that helps the casual fan (and drivers about to go a lap down) by putting the race leader in the race leader position on restarts, as opposed to being lined up behind those cars still on the lead lap that did not pit. It was often confusing to see the leader of the race starting 4th or 6th because a handful of cars did not pit. Now, those cars that did not pit are lined up where they belong in the running order. I suppose this could make for better racing for the leaders because they are not fighting slower cars in front of them and can race with the other leaders.

    Top 35 – this one was definitely not put in place to make the racing better. This rule was just a method to give some tangible value to those teams in the Top 35, which typically resulted in some shenanigans where points were traded or sold to teams in order to make the Daytona 500. It will be nice to see this rule go away.
    I believe most of these rules were put in place with the intention of making the racing better. Now whether or not the racing actually got better is a matter of opinion.

  9. What a difference a year makes! Everyone was oohing and aawing at what a great battle last year's CHASE produced... this year the wolves are out again! I personally like the playoffs, it adds excitement. I can't believe anyone would want to go back to 2003 when the title was over 3 or 4 races to go!