On several occasions last week before the Bristol cutoff race, I got to hear SiriusXM’s Speedway host Dave Moody do a mini-rant explaining why the current Playoff system was created.
I don’t have the exact quote and will not be able to restate it as eloquently or as convincingly as The Godfather, but the gist of what I heard was the fans sick and tired of their drivers getting out of their cars at the end of the race and talking about having a “good points day”. Fans wanted to see their drivers racing for the win not run for points. His closing point was this system has taken care of that. This system has once and for all eliminated discussion of points racing.
I was a bit surprised by his statement from two perspectives. First, it was my recollection that the the Playoff System was created primarily to create a “Game Seven moment” each season. This system guaranteed that the Champion couldn’t be crowned until the conclusion of the final race. There would be no more clinching the championship one or more races before the finale. It would maintain fan interest and keep TV viewership up through the end of the season.
As I recall, those were the reasons given then for general public consumption and up until last week were the reasons given when the subject was discussed. Fans fussing over drivers mentioning a “good points day” being the primary driving factors for what we have today was to me a new and interesting revelation.
The second surprise is how this Playoff system had taken care of drivers talking about a “good points day” once and for all.
It was surprising since qualifying to get into the Playoffs and once in, advancing to the next round is entirely dependent on drivers having enough “good points days”.
This season, like no other season prior clearly shows the importance of “good points days”.
With an unheard of 15 different winners qualifying for the Playoffs going into the final Regular Season race at Daytona there was only one slot left to qualify. Winner Kurt Busch withdrew his medical waiver and opened up two slots when they dropped the green at Daytona. The race played out and Austin Dillon took one Playoff slot with his race win. The remaining slot went to Ryan Blaney who had strung together enough “good points days” throughout the Regular Season to outpoint Martin Truex, Jr. to get into the Playoff.
So to qualify for the Playoffs you must have enough “good points days.”
Under the Playoff System there are two ways to advance to the finals-win races or have enough “good points days” to not be in the bottom four in points at the end of each three race round.
This first round of the Playoffs saw an unprecedented occurrence-no race was won by any of the sixteen Playoff Contenders. This means the twelve who advanced to the second round after Bristol did so because they had more “good points days” than Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon-four who are eliminated from the Playoffs in Round One.
They four now join the ranks of the other twenty drivers who didn’t have enough “good points days” to continue to play under this Playoff System.
And that’s the way it will be all the way to the Phoenix Finals under this System that allows three, at best to advance each round by winning while guaranteeing the remainder of the Championship field each round is set by “good points days”.
At best-nine, five and one “good points day” advancers. This season, with its odd twists and turns we have seen the other extreme for advancers as all twelve advance due to their “good points days”-the very thing Moody said this Playoff System eliminated.
And now with four eliminated previous winners joining the ranks of expected winners like Martin Truex, Jr., Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell and others the odds continue to rise that the remaining contenders may not be able to win any of the remaining Playoff races.
Such would throw the entire “eliminate good points days” driver references system into one totally dependent on “good points days”.
Such is the unintended consequences of a new car “leveling” the playing field.
As odd as Moody’s mini-rant was, the timing was even odder-immediately before a cutoff race that at a minimum of eleven of the twelve that were to advance would do so because they had a “good points day” at Bristol.
Dave is a smart guy, who doesn’t do things without a reason-so saying what he said, when he said it only adds to the head-scratching from this occasional listener.
The truth of the matter is, when you adopt a system to crown your Season Champion that is based on two methods to play-win races or score points, you have not eliminated “points racing” but guaranteed it. Don’t believe it? How many times have you heard the term “cutoff line”? What sets that?
So the System hasn’t eliminated anything. It packaged things a little differently to make it look more “stick and ball”’ish in an attempt to increase appeal. But at the end of the day when you wash off all the sugar coating you are still going to find… points.
And points are going to determine what kind of racing we are going to see.
Drivers may not crawl out of their cars today and talk about their “good points day” like they did in the past. It’s as if they are facing fines if they do. No today, it’s camouflaged behind the more acceptable Stage Finishes and Stage Points which they freely discuss. But just because they may not say it “good points days” have not been eliminated by this Playoff System.
Just ask the four who would still be racing for the 2022 Cup Championship if they had of had a better “good points day” at Bristol.
Just ask Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, and Austin Dillion how a “good points day” would have changed their season.
No matter what The Godfather says.
Thunder On… and Stay Safe.
Photo Credit (cover); Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
I was privileged to have been able to watch Midwest short track ace, Larry Phillips, Rusty Wallace, & Mark Martin mix it up weekly at the Springfield Mo. Fairgrounds track. While Rusty & Mark were just starting their careers. Mark was always a points racer, when push came to shove, he’d always back off & play it safe, rather than taking the chance that could have resulted in a win, or a torn-up car. I saw the same mentality during his NASCAR career. He had more than his share of “good points days”, & wins. But never got to hoist the big trophy.
You were blessed to see those racers in those days. That must have been something. I hated that in Cup he never got to hoist the trophy-especially the season when the penalty cost him the championship, but always respected Mark’s style-he was the consummate “clean” driver. Do you think he would have done better under the current system? I’ve often wondered.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
Have a great ‘Dega weekend!
As Mr Nance pointed out, it’s always about the points. It is rather dumbfounding how NASCAR, and all the media try to run from this fact. With 16 “playoff” drivers, and only 10 races, how can it be about anything else! I’m a racing old school, old man. And I’m sure that what I’m about to say is going to cause some consternation with some. I actually like the stage racing system, because drivers have to care about the stage points (middle parts of any race). Just look what Martin Truex did the first season with them. The amount of stage points he took into each round was stunning. So again, points racing. Racing got a lot more intense, in what typically was the boring part of races. I’m ok with the 10 race “championship” round. Here’s where I feel NASCAR went off the rails with their playoff system, thus making it look more like the WWE, instead of football or baseball. The 3 three race elimination brackets were completely unnecessary. Reset the points after the 26 races, then let the last 10 race points crown the champ. There is no need for these artificial cutoff race brackets. I know they say they want drivers to “win their way” to the championship, but simple math makes that nearly impossible. If a driver happens to get into the playoffs via a fluke, while having what most would consider a crappy season, chances are really high that through the playoffs they will eliminate themselves. No need to have an arbitrary cutoff line. As a former racer, and still a huge fan of racing, I really don’t want to see someone be crowned champion, who just got lucky or ran good once or twice. NASCAR instituted the playoffs because of Matt Kenseth’s 1 win championship season. But he was very competitive every week. How many top 10s did he have, something like 28 that season? Then contrast that with 2020. Harvick had what 9 wins, but couldn’t make the second round because of 1 bad race in the first round. So NASCAR can’t say it’s about the wins, when the winningest driver doesn’t even have a chance to compete for it over 1 bad race. This year Austin Dillon pretty much had a very forgettable season, except for 1 race before the end of the regular season. Well, what happened to him in the first round? He returned to having a crappy season, and was eliminated by a totally unnecessary cutoff line. I think it’s probably fair/safe to say, that without these arbitrary cutoff lines, he still would not become the champ this year. Set the playoff field, and let those 10 races decide the champ, and eliminate these silly cutoff lines. That way NASCAR still gets to have their playoffs, and the fans are much more likely to have a champ earn it.
Heck, I’d be happy if they did away with the playoffs, but kept the stage racing & points. It makes you want to watch the whole race, not just the beginning and end. Think about all of the airtime devoted only to the playoff drivers & their sponsors. Sponsors are hesitant to back a team/driver that can’t/won’t make the playoffs. They are losing the one thing that they want from their sponsorship dollars, TV exposure. Rarely do the commentators talk about all of these teams’ sponsors, unless they are beating the playoff drivers. Those drivers, teams & sponsors need exposure too.
I’m sure that there may be other ways to crown a champion that won’t feel so contrived, and I’m open to seeing/hearing that. I don’t think for 1 second that I have the only answer. I just don’t think what NASCAR has now is fair to the fans, the teams or the sponsors. The problem is, I think that they don’t think anybody not sitting in an office in Daytona Beach could possibly have a better idea than them. What a shame..
Awesome points Ron and I appreciate you taking time to share. Man you put a lot out there to consider. A few thoughts the 10 race playoff without eliminations with points resets was tried early on and JImmie Johnson and Chad Knaus made a mockery of things. By race three the already had a points lead that no one was going to overcome in the remainder of the season. A more acceptable way to crown a champ but not enough excitement and drama.
Not the look they wanted so reset after three to keep it artificially close, not unlike Stage Racing. Throw in a top finisher take all at the final race and you have eliminated deciding a champion before the final race-which was a major complaint to the previous season long system.
Matt Kenseth and company’s championship coupled with Ryan Newman’s eight win season started us down the path we’re on no matter what Daytona says. What is lost or not mentioned is Matt won the championship not by winning races but by week in and week out outrunning his nearest competitors. His 28 top 10s were impressive but no one looks to see how many times he outran his nearest competitors. They beat him maybe three times and when they did it wasn’t by much. As long as he outran them, wins weren’t really necessary.
The way this playoff is shaping up it’s starting to look like playoff contenders are revisiting Kenseth’s strategy as we aren’t seeing contenders winning Playoff races. Don’t have to-just outrun the bottom four and you can advance.
No one wants to talk about that.
Great points about sponsorship which has gone undiscussed. I remember drivers fearful when the playoffs were adopted that teams would not get sponsorship beyond the 26 regular season races. There was a major fear that drivers contracts would be for 26 races with a 10 race extension if they qualified. Luckily it hasn’t played out that way but getting canned at the end of the regular season and being replaced for the playoffs with next years driver was s huge fear. Luckily it hasn’t happened but just because it hasn’t doesn’t mean that it won’t.
These are weird times.
You are right about the TV coverage. It’s sad how the non-contenders are covered, but I love the way they are winning and forcing coverage.
You mentioned Stage Racing. We differ on that one- my main objection being that I have a hard time accepting a system if the race winner doesn’t leave the race with the most points. Plus I’ve heard drivers say depending on how they finish in the first two Stages sets their strategy for final (if we get enough points S1 and S2, we won’t take chances in S3).
I’m still pondering alternatives but my main objection is when we’ve got one thing but we’re told it’s something else. Don’t whiz on my leg and tell me it’s rain. We are getting that more and more and for some reason the Sanctioning Body believes that if they say it long enough, loud enough and with enough conviction… it makes it true.
We’ll see how that works for them.
Thanks again for stopping by and sharing. Much appreciated.
Have a great race weekend.
It’s easy to fix the stage winners out pointing the winner. Just give the winner 30 points for the win. Nobody is going to beat that with stage points. That way NASCAR can still say that winning matters, and it could then be believable.
I’m loving these non playoff drivers/teams winning. If they’re really still trying to hide that it’s still a points playoff system, these non playoff drivers are sure crapping on that notion. Myself, I was perfectly ok with a driver winning the championship that didn’t win 8 races. A championship is supposed to be the culmination of a great season, not a great 2-3 races. NASCAR, in their never ending search for that 9th inning walk off HR in the World Series, or last second winning field goal to win the Super Bowl, has forgot that. That’s a major reason they’ve lost sooo many fans in the last 15 years or so. I can deal with the lack of excitement of a driver winning the championship when they’ve earned it, and it doesn’t feel contrived.
It’s like the Clash this year at the LA Coliseum. We’ve been told what an absolute success this was, and the excitement it caused. So much so that they’re going to do it again. Plus, I’m certain that everybody wants to go to that race in beautiful downtown LA instead of crappy old Daytona Beach. I wonder how many of those “new” fans will be around in 3-5 years?? Unfortunately I can’t remember the $ amount that the city of LA spent to relocate all of the homeless that call that area home. But it was in the millions, and that was on top of the 3+ million for the police presence required. Remember, Calif Speedway had great support too, for about 3-5 years. Now they’re going to bulldoze it after the 2023 race. to build a half mile track. At least the place won’t look so empty with the 30k people around that 1/2 mile track. Anybody that’s ever watched a race at Bowman Gray Stadium knew what the Colliseum race would look like. And it did. Only 1 groove and dumping someone to pass isn’t racing. Chicagoland produced mostly fuel mileage races. That’s too boring, so hey “Let’s have a street race in downtown Chicago”!! I just hope that nobody gets killed in a drive by shooting. That idea is so bad that a city counsel member has already gotten an ordinance passed to prevent the mayor from allowing it, without unanimous council vote. So, will there be a second Chicago Street Race?? I’m all for trying things that might improve racing, whether that be the car, rules, or new venues. I just can’t figure out who all these fans are that keep coming up with some of these ideas for NASCAR, on how to make that happen. If this has all come from Daytona Beach, I don’t see anybody over the age 30 (maybe only 25 due to lack of attention span), staying a fan for very long.
I have loved this sport since the mid 60s, and have done so through the good and bad years. Not sure how long I will be able to say that anymore. The problem is, even if nobody wants to acknowledge it, losing NASCAR will have a major effect on Saturday night racing, and not in a good way. They are dependent each other whether we like it or not. NASCAR needs the driver pool of the weekend racer, to replenish their aging drivers. The weekend racer needs that trickle down money to the tracks, and the lure of sponsors to be involved. Most sponsors for a weekly racer falls into 2 basic categories. Family or friend of the racer, or a sponsor that wants to sponsor a NASCAR touring team but can’t afford it. I’ve seen it from 3 sides. I was a racer needing sponsorship dollars. I owned a business & knew several other business owners that were involved in sponsorship, and I had a good friend that won the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series championship 2 times in a row. Money is hard to come by even in good economic circumstances. I can also tell you that it is much easier to land a sponsor when you tell them that you race at a NASCAR sanctioned track. With the direction NASCAR seems to be going, I would almost be ok if they self destructed. But I know what that would do to weekend racers & tracks.
I don’t know what can save NASCAR, so trying to solve their points system might be a moot point. Couple that with the simple fact that the 15-25 year olds don’t seem to love the automobile the ways us older people might. That fact right there might be more detrimental to racing, then even the damage that NASCAR seems to be doing to itself. Time reveals all…