Monday, August 26, 2013

NASCAR’s Chase Points System: Where Everything’s Made Up and the Bonus Points Don’t Matter

The media likes to make a big deal about how many wins drivers will have going into the Chase, because those wins equate to bonus points entering the final 10 races. That logic makes it easy to pick on somebody like Clint Bowyer who, despite being second in points, is presumably disadvantaged because he doesn’t have any wins yet. The conventional wisdom is that his lack of bonus points will hurt him in the Chase.

Continuing with that theme, another discussion point centers on drivers who get in through the wild card. If they finish in the top-10, their wins will count for bonus points, but not if they finish 11th.  Kasey Kahne, with his two wins and borderline top-10 position, is the prime example here.

Here’s the thing we all need to remember:

CHASE BONUS POINTS ARE MEANINGLESS. 
THEY HAVE NEVER ALTERED A CHAMPIONSHIP.

Look below at the entire history of the Chase.  I have recounted the points (and made new rankings) as if there had never been any bonus points awarded, and compared those rankings to the results that actually happened (with bonus points).

In 9 years of the Chase:

  • Zero titles were affected by bonus points entering the Chase
  • Only in 3 of the 9 years did any spot in the top 5 final standings change because of bonus points
  • Most of the changes in standings due to bonus points happened around 10th place


This means that everybody can relax. Teams should just focus on getting into the Chase, do their best in the final 10 races, and ignore everything else. In the past 9 years, NASCAR has changed the way they give out bonus points, but no matter these changes, one thing stays the same: the bonus points are too small to matter.

If NASCAR did want bonus points to have an impact, they should increase their value to levels with meaningful effect.  As the evidence shows, they are too small to make a difference. The only thing they do is create unnecessary discussion.

Or maybe this is exactly what NASCAR wants: a lot of discussion in the media without changing any of the on-track results.