Friday, January 21, 2011
Mike Helton waxes on competition
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR president Mike Helton strongly indicated the points system used since 1975 will be scrapped for a simpler scoring method.
"The goal for some time has been to create a points system that is easy to understand, easy to explain, easy to be talked about, but also be credible at the end of the season," Helton said Friday during a competition update at Daytona International Speedway.
The current system is a complicated formula that NASCAR says was drawn up on a napkin over drinks at a Daytona Beach bar in 1974. The Associated Press reported this week that NASCAR is informing teams it wants a system that would award points based on finishing position, from 43 points to the winner to one for last place.
"We're in the middle of the conversations, actually telling the competitors where our mind is," Helton said. "The main goal is to get one that's just easier to understand and simpler. And we're close. We're getting a lot of great input from the drivers about the tweaks that would go along with something like that."
NASCAR chairman Brian France is expected to announce any changes, including potential tweaks to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format, next Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C.
It appears that's the only unfinished business as NASCAR prepares for next month's season-opening Daytona 500. The brief offseason -- last year's finale was Nov. 20 -- ended this week when teams reported to the newly paved Daytona International Speedway for three days of testing.
But Helton defended NASCAR's credibility, which many fans are questioning because the changes are so close to the start of the season and how the championship will be won hasn't been formally announced. Because NASCAR officials want feedback from competitors, Helton said the rule-changing process takes time.
In the end, though, the approach legitimizes the changes, Helton said.
"I think the credibility of our final decision is actually better because of the collaborative effort that we put into it today," he said. "Our appetite and our desire is to do it correctly and have one that makes sense and not one just for the sake of changing things."
Even if fans, already weary of so many changes to NASCAR, have roughly three weeks to digest a massive points shake up?
"I think that our fans -- as long as we maintain the core elements of the sport, tweaking the points, tweaking the Chase, tweaking different components in the sport -- they're quick studies," Helton said.
With the scoring system undecided -- bonus points for wins appears to be one of the oscillating issues -- the competition group spent a good deal of time Friday discussing the new rule that will prevent drivers from racing for championships in more than one series.
The official license applications sent to drivers forced them to check the box next to the series in which they wished to race for the championship, a move NASCAR hopes will bolster the identity of its second-tier Nationwide Series.
The series is dominated by Cup stars, who have won the last five Nationwide titles. Only defending champion Brad Keselowski and 2007 champion Carl Edwards planned to race for the Nationwide title this year, but both drivers checked the Cup series as their championship choice.
Edwards said he'll still attempt to run the full 35-race Nationwide schedule, while Keselowski could drop a handful of races because of the new rule.
"The driving force behind this is to force more exposure and attention to drivers that are developing in that series," Helton said.
In other items, NASCAR is unlikely to use fuel injection in any points races this year, and Darby said the yearlong search for a new Cup Series director is still ongoing. NASCAR said last January it wanted to move Darby into an oversight role at its research and development center.
"[We] repeatedly said that the timeline wasn't as important as finding the right person and making that transition smoothly," Darby said. "I'm still happy doing what I'm doing, and I'll be happy to do the next step."