Competitors sound off on points system

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   Plenty of discussion has recently taken place about NASCAR's current point system which has been in place since 1975. Legend has it that recently deceased statistician Bob Latford drew up the points format on a napkin at the Boot Hill Saloon in Daytona.
   The system was put in place in the 1970's because larger teams like the Wood Brothers were running limited schedules, going to the big paying events and skipping the short track races.
   There needed to be more of an emphasis on winning the championship. That goal was achieved.
   Now, many are up in arms with Matt Kenseth's 300-plus points lead over runner-up Dale Earnhardt, Jr. despite the fact that both drivers have only one win. The NASCAR system rewards consistency, which irks many racing enthusiasts.
   The safety issue came up when Robby Gordon, who had no chance to win in July at Daytona, came on the track to collect points and the hood off his car went into the grandstands.
   Even NASCAR Chairman Bill France, Jr. has said the system needs tinkering. His thoughts aren't necessarily shared by the competitors.
   RICHARD PETTY, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion:
   "The points system is good, and it's fine the way it is. There is a reason that the system works, and you have to look at the points system overall.
   "There are a lot of races. Back when my Daddy raced and I raced, we raced so many races that we not only weren't going to win them all, we weren't even going to be able to compete in all of them. When the schedule was pared down, we still won a lot of them, but the ones we didn't, we finished pretty good. There were also some races where we didn't finish that great. That's what the points system allows for. It allows for bad days.
   "You just can't have a point system that rewards you only on the good days. Not everyone is going to have a good day all the time. You have to remember the guys who have bad days too. The point system right now does that. It works because it allows for all the ups, downs, and in-betweens that you're going to have in a season."
   KYLE PETTY, Driver, #45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge:
   "The way the point system is today, it works. Let me say that. I mean, it has worked for nearly 30 years. I think it's a good system, and it shouldn't be changed or messed with. It makes for a good championship battle all season. Look at the last three seasons - the championship has been the closest it has been in years. The fact that so far this one year one guy has been able to pull away a good bit shouldn't be the determining factor, especially considering the fact the points have been so close so many other years.
   "The way the point system is set up now, it makes for a close championship battle. If that is what you want then keep it the way it is. I think if NASCAR changed the point system you would have bigger gaps. NASCAR wants a close title chase and the system right now allows for that. It works now and it really shouldn't be changed."
   DERRIKE COPE, Driver, #37 Friendly's Chevrolet:
   "You hear a lot and see a lot, and true, one guy seems to be pulling away from the rest of the field and looks like he might wrap the championship up early. But I don't see that alone as a reason to change things.
   "Historically, the finishes for the championship are always close. The competition is better every year. Start messing with the points system and we will probably mess it all up, and have to change it again the next year.
   "Right now, the system is a little complicated but, once you get a handle on it, you can follow it. The reason they changed it to what it is now is because all of the others were nearly impossible for the teams and drivers to understand, much less the fans! If things do end up changing, we have to be careful that we don't get into a situation where we change it regularly."
   GARY PUTNAM, Crew chief, #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge:
   "The current points system is good because it rewards consistency. The biggest thing that got me convinced that this point system works came five or six years back when Jeff Gordon won one of his championships. I saw a comparison of Gordon's and the runner-up's finishes; comparing it to the points structure of CART and Formula One, Gordon was still the champion. That convinced me that this system really does recognize the true champion of NASCAR.
   "Could things change? I think anything could change, but I think it's a pretty good points system right now. Maybe giving five bonus points to the pole winner might not be a bad idea, but don't give points for everyone during qualifying. I think the way it is right now is ideal for a true champion to be crowned."