Out with the old, in with the new. This seems to be NASCAR's mantra as the sanctioning body this week announced a slew of changes for the 2011 season. There's a new points system, new provisions to the Chase and even a new qualifying procedure. Fans, insiders and media have all weighed in with their opinions, especially about the new points system, including our writers when the changes were first proposed.
Now that the changes are official, the ladies of Skirts and Scuffs give their final take:
Holly Machuga: I like the new points system. It's easier to learn and explain. However, I'm interested in seeing how this changes the teams' approaches. For example, would you risk crashing to win the race, or would you just race to hold your position to gain points that way? Tony Stewart doesn't seem to think that winning is how you will win the championship. Maybe he's right, maybe he's wrong. We'll see how it plays out after the first couple races.
Paula Thompson: I think the points changes are great, but I was somewhat surprised they didn't add in a "pole point" a la IndyCar. The Chase change will bring an emphasis on winning to the top 12 (remember 2009 when Kyle Busch won four races and missed the Chase?). I'm still most excited about the "choose your championship" rule and the emphasis placed on the up-and-coming drivers, while the rainout qualifying rule change will make for an interesting discussion when the series heads to the road courses. All in all, I think NASCAR did a good job with the changes.
Summer Dreyer: While I don't have a huge problem with NASCAR's new points system, I would have liked to have seen bigger points margins between positions rather than smaller ones. However, this system really isn't going to be much different than the last one as it rewards consistency. I also would have wanted a cut-off point in the results ... like drivers 30th or worse (or something like that) aren't awarded points or it's all the same amount after that. That would discourage starting and parking and it would also keep damaged racecars from returning to the track to earn points. Sometimes they seem to present more of a hazard when they are out there.
As far as the changes to the Chase, I still think 12 drivers are too many for a Chase. Seriously, are we going to have 12 drivers/teams truly capable of winning the championship? Highly doubtful. Regardless, I'm definitely excited to see how this year plays out and what I'm sure will be an exciting year for racing.
Rebecca Kivak: I like the new provisions in the Chase that allow the two drivers with the most wins (who are not already in the top 10 spots but are in the top 20) to make the Chase. I also like that the two wildcards will not receive the bonus points for wins and will be seeded 11th and 12th. This actually makes sense: the new provision rewards drivers for wins by allowing them into the Chase, but because they didn't have consistency, they start at the bottom when the points are reshuffled. Now that those drivers will be in the Chase, it's up to them to climb the points ladder by winning and showing they can be consistent in these 10 races.
While the Chase changes put more emphasis on winning, the new points system does not, and I wish it did. The ratio between 1st and 2nd in the new points system is basically the same as that in the old system. Since NASCAR was going to the change the system anyway, why not make wins count more? I'm not saying to toss out consistency, but after all, the point of racing is to win. But NASCAR has traditionally favored consistency over wins, and that didn't change with the new system. With that being said, I still wish there were a bigger points margin between 1st and 2nd, as well as bigger margins between the top 10 positions. The way the new system appears to work, a bad finish can destroy you, which means there might be less incentive to take those risks to try and win the race if you might finish 35th instead of third. It'll be interesting to see how teams' strategies play out as they try to work toward a championship.
Despite my reservations, I do like the simplicity of the new points system - easier to explain to non-fans and easier to calculate. And I'm excited to see how the new points system and other changes play out this season.