Whether you love it or you hate it, points racing has been a part of NASCAR pretty much since its inception. The sport put such a premium on consistency that sometimes it was better to hang back and take a third place finish, then to race hard for a win.
But those days appear to be gone. The new points system puts such an emphasis on winning one has to ask the question. Is points racing a thing of the past?
“I don’t think since the moment I started racing, and especially at this level on the cup series that I’ve ever seen someone settle for second because they were points racing,” said Brian Vickers. ”I can assure you, whether it was ten years ago, last year or two years ago, you want to win.”
But drivers do admit, they do some times race for the best finish they can get and that may not be the win. But they don’t necessarily call that ‘points racing.”
“I think it’s an overused term,” said Martin Truex Jr.” Because it you are racing, if you’re running seventh or eighth, that could be a pretty good day based on how your weekend goes. People call that points racing but we call that racing. That’s what we grew up doing. If you have a seventh, eighth place car that’s where you try to finish. You don’t want to destroy the thing trying to get fifth.”
Adds Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, “I can’t say I’ve ever really points raced. You can get out of the car and say it’s a good points day, but we are always pushing to go get more. Just ‘cause we are 10th, we’re not going to ride around and say it’s a good points day. We go for the next position no matter what.”
Even if the new system doesn’t affect the way things play out on the track, it does admittedly have an effect.
“I don’t think it really changes much from the driver’s standpoint as it does for the team. Like they are willing to roll the dice more,” said Vickers. “You know take two tires, stay out thinks like that.”
And drivers believe that beyond putting more of an emphasis on winning, there is one more thing NASCAR can do to help eliminate ‘points racing’ from the sport.
“The only thing that has ever frustrated me about what some people deem points racing is when I’m missing three fenders, I’ve already blown a right front tire and I’m in 35th and I have to go back on the race track to get 34th with a wrecked race car going 200 mph,” said Vickers. “That kind of frustrates me. I think that could be solved. You know in other forms of racing after a certain position all the points are the same.”
And let’s be honest, if you win every race, you are probably going to be leading the points anyway.
Still drivers are split on whether a consistent driver can’t still be rewarded under this new system.
“The new points system winning obviously counts a lot, but I think being one of the first few guys that hasn’t won a race still has a legitimate shot to make the chase,” said Aric Almirola. “But with us, with the two DNF’s that we have, our chips are pretty much cashed in we need to win a race.”
This could lead to some wild racing and eventually drivers taking more risks on the track.
“I think we are seeing the beginning of something that is going to be extremely pressure packed and crazy,” said Carl Edwards. “Because when we get close to the 26 race regular season cut off, there are going to be guys that have no chance to be in the Chase other than to win a race. Once you put race car drivers in that position, you get some crazy things happening.”