Championship Points System Edit
For points according to position, there are three different scales. First Place gets 180 points, with ten points separating first from second. It is impossible to win a race, without leading a lap, so the minimum for a winner to receive is 185 points. After second place (170 points), the first scale starts, with five points separating second through sixth place. After sixth place the second scale starts, separating drivers by four points for positions seven through eleven. After that, the third scale is in effect, separating the rest of the field by three points. (see chart on right) This is why cars will sometimes go back on track after a wreck, even if they have no chance of winning. By moving up three positions, they gain nine more points.
For points according to laps led, if a driver has led at least one lap in the race, they are awarded an extra 5 points on top of what they earned based on position. In addition, the driver who leads the most laps earns an additional 5 points, for a maximum of 10 points. Lap leadership is determined at the finish line on each lap. A driver cannot simply lead part of a lap on the back stretch; the driver must be the first across the line to be considered the leader for that lap, or is declared the leader by crossing the last scoring loop as the leader when a caution is signaled.
Drivers points are assigned to the driver who starts the race. It is legal (though rare) to change drivers during a race, but the replacement driver gets no points. When Martin Truex, Jr. replaced Dale Earnhardt, Jr. during a 2004 race at New Hampshire International Speedway (while Earnhardt was recovering from an injury), the points counted towards Earnhardt's total.
Points are also given to the owner of a car. For a car that makes the field, the owner points are the same as the driver points for that race. Cars that fail to qualify for a race gain owner points based on how well they qualified, continuing the 3 points per position so that the 44th car in qualifying gets 31 points, the 45th gets 28 points, and so forth.
Since 2005, the top teams in owner points (35 in Nextel Cup, 30 in Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series, must be full time teams) earn an exemption into the starting field. If weather conditions prevent qualifying from occurring, the starting order for the race is set using owner points (top 35/30), then former series champions, then the defending race winner, then current year race winners, and then by most qualifying attempts with owner points breaking ties. For the first five races in each year, the owner points from last year are used instead. Since the top drivers usually race the same car in every race, this has little effect on the championship, but this can affect the strategy of new or lower ranked teams.
For example, Hall of Fame Racing had Terry Labonte in their #96 car in the first five Sprint Cup races in 2006. As a former champion, Terry Labonte was entitled to start in each race, even if the car encountered a difficulty in qualifying. With five guarenteed starts, the #96 car was easily able to gain enough owner points to place it in the top 35 and thus give regular driver Tony Raines a guaranteed starting spot in each race when he took over the driver's seat for the rest of the year. Lower ranked teams sometimes use a road racing specialist when the race is one of the few each year held on a road course to maximize the owner points of the car, especially when they are near the top 35 exemption.
Development of NASCAR's Points System Edit
From the beginning of championship series until 1967 championship points were based on prize money purses. Races with lesser purses paid fewer points than races with bigger purses.
First NASCAR point system used for championship from 1949 till 1951 awarded points on basis 10 points for the 1st place, 9 pts for 2nd, 8 pts for 3rd and so on, multiplied by 0.05*race purse (Race worth $4000 paid 200 points to the winner, 180 for 2nd place...). No info about how many points were given to drivers finishing below 10th place.
From 1952 till 1967 NASCAR point system was based on linear scale for first 25 positions: 25-24-23-... Coefficients changed, but were always depending on prize money. From 25th place down there were awarded the same number of points.
In 1968 NASCAR started to award points depending on race distance, not prize money. Point system was 50-49-48-... multiplied by 1 for events to 249 miles, 2 for events 250-399 miles and 3 for events 400 miles and more. System stopped from 50th place. This system was in use until the end of 1971 season.
In 1972, together with shortening the schedule, point system was also modified. Basic points of 100-98-96-... were awarded for each race. Additionally, lap points were awarded for the number of laps completed. Tracks under 1 mile, 0.25 points a lap; 1-mile tracks, 0.50; 1.3-mile track (Darlington), 0.70; 1.5-mile tracks, 0.75; 2-mile tracks (Michigan), 1.00; tracks 2.5 miles and over, 1.25. This system was also used in 1973.
In 1974 points system was simple: Total money winnings from all track purses (qualifying and contingency awards did not count), in dollars, multiplied by the number of races started, and the resulting figure divided by 1,000 determined the number of points earned. By the end of the season Richard Petty had such a big lead in points, that he increased it even by finishing 30th while his main rival Cale Yarborough made a top-5 (Remember - the money was multiplied by the number of races started. Even if Cale made more money in one particular race, when the total money was multiplied by e. g. 27, the difference between the two leaders could also increase in comparison with situation after race 26).
Current NASCAR's points system was developed in 1975 following years of trouble in trying to develop a points system -- from 1949 until 1971, six different systems were used, and in 1972, NASCAR used a different system each year for the next three years.
That type of inconsistency, which included a system which rewarded most mileage for the entire season, and then another year where mileage and finishing positions were counted, favoured larger circuits, and some fans complained about a champion who only won one race. That resulted in a 1974 ill-fated attempt at basing the points system on money and starts. Even though one driver won consecutive races, his opponent who had won the big money races had scored more points.
Bob Latford, a former public relations official at Lowe's Motor Speedway, devised NASCAR's most popular points system, which was adopted in 1975, which NASCAR used two different versions for their series from 1982 until 1998. In the system, the winner received 175 points, second 170 points, and other positions exactly the same as the current points system.
Until 1998, the Busch Series points system offered 180 points for the winner, but no bonuses for leading laps. The same was true for the Craftsman Truck Series until the end of that season, when NASCAR decided to standardise the points system for their series.
One complaint about the points system was how a driver could finish second and receive an equal number of points as a race winner, which was possible if the driver who led the most laps finished second. NASCAR fixed the problem in 2004 by adding five points to the winner.
A drastic change was made in 2004, when Nextel starting sponsoring the Cup Series. They introduced the Race to the Chase and the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which is explained in depth by clicking on both of those links.
A Brief Overview:
After the 26th race with ten races to go, the Driver's Championship points are changed in accordance with the "Chase for the Cup", with the leader in championship points having their total altered to 5050 points, second place altered to 5045, and so on for all eligible drivers.
One important note is that the points system does not change after the 26th race. (during the "Chase for the Cup") While the only drivers eligible for the championship are those in the chase, all points are awarded in the same manner. Another important note is that only the NEXTEL Cup standings points are altered, not for any other series in NASCAR -- Busch, Craftsman Truck, or the regional series -- AutoZone Elite Division series (four, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, Midwest), Grand National Division series (two, North and West), or Whelen Modified Tours (two, North and South).