That’s a pretty short drive NASCAR can make to get some great ideas on tweaking its playoff system.
When the PGA started its FedEx Cup Playoffs format in 2007, it immediately realized something NASCAR should have picked up on decades ago: The Masters means a hell of a lot more than the Greater Milwaukee Open, so the two tournaments shouldn’t give the same number of points as it pertains to playoff eligibility and seeding.
The logic transfers to NASCAR pretty easily: As much as I enjoy road races, how has no one asked why the Centurion Boats at the Glen pays as many points as the Daytona 500?
This year we have a driver in Jamie McMurray who enters a rather anti-climatic regular season finale 128 points behind 12th-place Clint Bowyer in the standings. If he had an extra 100 points in the bag (50 each for winning the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400), we’d have a barn-burner for the final postseason slot.
The FedEx Cup format awards the most points for winning majors, a little less for World Golf Championship events, and the least for your average tournament. So, why not award an extra 50 for Daytona and the Brickyard, and an extra 25 for winning the Coca-Cola 600, the Bristol night race and the Talladega regular-season race?
Now, the NASCAR system shouldn’t be as convoluted as golf’s. While the PGA system adjusts its points distribution from first to last for the bigger events, the extra NASCAR points should only be for winning.
Speaking of winning, if you think everything above is pure bunk, let me offer an alternative. On golf’s developmental Nationwide Tour, if you win three times your PGA Tour card is in the bag for the remainder of that season and the next season.
A couple of years ago I suggested that winning four times in a year in the Sprint Cup should bring an automatic Chase spot. (Not replacing another Chaser; a 13th spot should be awarded.) Jeff Gordon won three of the first nine races in 2005 and missed the Chase. It would have been nice if, as bad as the rest of the season went, he could have raced his way in by winning just one more. It would have definitely changed his race strategy.
Allotting for how much more competitive the Cup series gets every year, maybe it’s time to say three-and-you’re in. Under that scenario McMurray could race his way in Saturday night by winning. (Again, creating a 13th Chaser). Last year Kyle Busch would have already been in, and his motivation at Richmond would’ve been cracking the top 12 to knock a potential Chase foe out.
NASCAR employs a lot of bells and whistles to create drama. Why not keep it simple and use performance?