Checking in on new NASCAR point system


It’s a holiday weekend for the racing world as stock cars take a break from the action this Sunday, a chance for some to celebrate their strong start, and for others to make some adjustments.

NASCAR’s premier series is seven races into the 2017 season, and it’s still hard to make the “Monster Energy NASCAR Cup” roll off the tongue. But in this season of change, the series’ title sponsor is the least of the concerns for fans trying to adjust to the new stage/point system.

Coming out of Sunday’s race at Texas, Jimmie Johnson’s victory is one thing that NASCAR fans find familiar, as the seven-time cup champion continues to chase his record eighth title. But at the age of just 41, Johnson is among the oldest drivers in top third of the field.

Twenty-four-year old Kyle Larson, who finished just behind Johnson on Sunday, leads the point standings with one race win, one stage win and six playoff points, but Larson has been the best in the stage format, racking up 87 stage points.

Twenty-one-year old Chase Elliott, the youngest driver in the top ten, stands in second place in the standings, just ahead of Martin Truex Junior, whose four stage wins in the best so far this season. Brad Keselowski, the only driver with two wins this season stands in fourth place; Joey Logano rounds out the top five.

The new point system was designed to add interest for fans, dividing each race into three stages, and awarding points at the end of each stage. With breaks in the action, somewhat like football quarters or hockey periods, drivers get the benefit of two re-sets over the course of each contest, and additional chances to work their way up the standings.

The point system still emphasizes winning, awarding five playoff points per race victory, and incentivizing drivers to take risks and make moves toward the front of the field.

The series’ most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was off to a sluggish start, after spending much of the 2016 season recovering from concussion symptoms. But the 88 team may have overcome a huge hurdle last weekend. One of nine teams that failed to get through their pre-race tech inspection in time, Earnhardt started at the back of the field, but fought his way to a satisfying top-five finish and into the top twenty in the point standings.

After a week to rest and regroup, the series heads to Thunder Valley for another short-track outing a Bristol. The track which forces close-quarter racing is known for flaring tempers and rekindling rivalries. The addition of stage breaks and more points to capture could make it even more exciting. If fans are reserving judgment on the new point system, this one could convince them one way or another.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.