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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Sources: Taking points out of rainouts

By David Newton
ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The days of the starting order for NASCAR Sprint Cup being set by rank in points when qualifying is rained out might be coming to an end.

Multiple sources said after Monday meetings with NASCAR that plans are in place to set the qualifying order based on practice speeds, and the starting order based on practice speeds if qualifying is rained out.

The qualifying order currently is set by a draw, with the team whose owner has the most owner points picking first.

Under the proposed plan, which is expected to be announced Wednesday by chairman Brian France, the only way the starting order will be based on points is if both practice and qualifying are rained out.

Last year, Kevin Harvick won poles in the Martinsville spring race and the Daytona race in July as the points leader after qualifying for both was rained out. Eventual series champion Jimmie Johnson claimed the pole at the spring Talladega race, also because of inclement weather.

In 2009, the starting order of six races was set by points after qualifying was washed out. In 2008, there were 10.

The sources said NASCAR remains consistent with its plan to change the points structure to a 43-1 format, giving 43 points for first, 42 for second and one fewer point for each spot through 43rd.

Under the new plan, Johnson would have won his fifth straight title by one point over Harvick, who would have finished one ahead of Denny Hamlin. Under the old system, Johnson won by 39 points over Hamlin and 41 over Harvick.

NASCAR president Mike Helton acknowledged last week during testing at Daytona International Speedway that the governing body was looking at simplifying the points structure.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.