No sport enjoys messing with its points system more than NASCAR, and it reached new heights in confusion this time around.
Drivers don’t even know how it’s going to work. Something about stages and playoff points and more arbitrary phrases like “carryover to the Round of 8” are being tossed around all in the name of adding excitement to races.
Does Chris Buescher know how far regular-season wins or points carry into the playoff rounds?
I guess I’m one who is still in a little bit of confusion.
NASCAR driver Chris Buescher
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“I am not sure,” said Buescher, a Prosper native who made the playoffs last season with his first career Cup win at Pocono. “I talked about that with a couple other guys in the shop and we’re kind of not sure yet either. I’ve heard it both ways — that it’s only good through the first round, or good through the Round of 8, or it’s good all the way to the end. I don’t have a good answer for you there.
“I guess I’m one who is still in a little bit of confusion.”
You’re not alone, Chris.
Only the most rabid, diehard fans have the faintest idea of what this all means. In fairness, though, the premise makes sense.
NASCAR has been dogged for years that its races are too long and too boring. Adding “stages” in the early and middle part of the race should make the entire event more interesting and exciting. In theory, at least.
It brings a dimension that hasn’t been there before — the middle laps can impact a driver’s season just as much as the final laps.
The problem is putting it in layman’s terms where it’s easy to follow and understand. NASCAR did this with its “playoff” format, a simple formula where drivers are knocked out in each round of three races until it’s dwindled down to the “Final Four.”
Martin Truex Jr. tied for second with four wins last season but failed to make it to the Round of 8.
Each round saw drivers start with a clean slate. Just like in the NFL or March Madness, a great regular season doesn’t matter come tournament time. It’s a 0-0 ballgame.
It seemed to work out well with drama and intrigue. For whatever reason, NASCAR decided it needed to be tweaked.
Now, the playoffs will start with drivers having staggered points based on regular-season performance. Yes, it’s as confusing as it sounds.
For instance, NASCAR is going to award the top 10 drivers in the standings at the end of the season on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale. Those will be added to whatever “playoff points” drivers accumulated during the season.
That should eliminate a driver such as Martin Truex Jr., who had four wins last season, from being eliminated before the Round of 8.
But seeing favorites go down early in the playoffs is part of what makes sports great, right?
Not necessarily, as Buescher explained.
I think that our sport is different than other sports and I think that setting it to a clean slate is not necessarily the right thing for how we do it.
NASCAR driver Chris Buescher
“For me, I still love the old format for our racing and what we do. The first race matters just as much as the last and it’s an accumulation throughout the season,” Buescher said. “Obviously, times have changed and our format changed quite a few times since that. I think that our sport is different than other sports and I think that setting it to a clean slate is not necessarily the right thing for how we do it.
“We go out there and all 40 drivers race the other 39 drivers every single week. It’s not two teams playing each other and knocking one out in elimination. It’s a very different platform, so I think it should be rewarded. If you have a good season, you’re able to accumulate some extra points, some bonus points for a strong season.
“That way you can start with what you’ve rightfully earned through the season. I like the fact that you are going to be getting a little bit extra for a season well done.”
Time will tell whether this updated format resonates with fans or simply causes more confusion.
Regardless, NASCAR will change it up again in a couple years anyway.