Points system penalizes Chase contenders
It is time for Chase drivers to have a separate points system.
This revelation was reached as 25 cars were turned to junkyard material on the final lap of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.
One mistake by a driver at Talladega -- even if the mistake is made by one of the 12 Chase drivers, as it was with Tony Stewart in this unbelievably wild finish -- shouldn't be so costly for the others battling for a championship.
One engine or parts failure or wreck in any Chase race shouldn't keep a driver from having a realistic chance to contend.
In professional baseball, basketball and hockey playoffs you can have one bad game in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series and recover. In NASCAR's 10-race playoff there are no guarantees that will happen.
Exhibit A: Jeff Gordon.
The four-time champion finished second to Matt Kenseth on Sunday for his third straight top-3. Yet in those three races he has made up only five points on the leader.
One stuck throttle that led to a 35th-place finish in the Chase opener at Chicagoland, a race in which he ran in the top five all day, is between Gordon and being a serious threat for the title.
Mark Garrow recaps how Matt Kenseth won at Talladega, avoiding the last-lap pileup that Tony Stewart took the blame for. Plus, Kurt Busch is involved in another controversy.
"After today, it's a little frustrating,'' Gordon told reporters in Talladega of not making up much ground by surviving the final-lap carnage. "Our team is doing a great job. We've been performing really, really well. We can sit there and really get mad about what happened in Chicago, but the reality of it is all we can do is go each and every week and keep trying to put ourselves in position to win and get top-5s.
"It's not over yet. It is certainly not over yet. So we'll see what happens. If we keep doing this, I really think we might have a shot at it.''
Go to a separate points system for Chase drivers and Gordon wouldn't have to think or hope or pray he has a shot. Go to a separate points system and he would be in contention today.
You can argue drivers have come back from big deficits before, but that was under the old system in which a bad finish wasn't as detrimental as it is under the current system.
Under the old points system, last place was worth about 17 percent of the winner's total. Under the new system it is worth 2 percent.
So a driver such as Gordon trying to dig out of a hole has a much smaller chance under this system than the old.
It's not impossible. Stewart was 24 points out of first with five races remaining a year ago and won the title on a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards. But Stewart had to win three of the final five races and record finishes of seventh and third in the other two to do that.
Gordon, 42 behind, might have to win every race -- and even that wouldn't be enough without poor finishes by each of the five drivers ahead of him.
The good news for Gordon is he has moved up six spots in the standings in three races. The bad news is the point spread is almost negligible.
Imagine if NASCAR went to a separate 1-12 point system where drivers were rewarded a point for each spot they finished in relation to the other Chase drivers. Gordon would be battling with Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson for the title, and the overall Chase would be much closer.
It would stay closer, too, adding even more drama to the finale.
And it wouldn't make drivers so nervous about going to Talladega, which on Sunday bordered on ridiculous at times. Some of them may actually take more chances throughout the race and not ride around at the back until the final 20 laps or so.
They may not find themselves apologizing profusely as Stewart did for ruining the day for so many when he blocked Michael Waltrip to ignite the "big one.''
They may not find themselves bashing a race that fans love.
"It's really not racing,'' Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after the race. "It's a little disappointing how that all went down. If this is how we are going to race, and that is how we are going to continue to race and nothing is going to change, NASCAR should build the cars.
"It would save us a lot of money."
Earnhardt finished 20th, leaving him 11th in points, 51 out of first and all but buried. If there were a 1-12 system for the Chasers, his situation wouldn't seem so dire, his demeanor about plate racing might not seem so hopeless.
"It's not safe,'' NASCAR's most popular driver said. "Wrecking like that is ridiculous. It's blood-thirsty if that is what people want. It's ridiculous."
And he doesn't expect it to change.
"The way we are going ain't the right direction,'' Earnhardt continued. "I mean, it's awesome in a word and everybody can get on the chip about it and get excited about all that just happened, but for the longevity of the sport that ain't healthy.
" For the long run that is not going to help the sport the way that race ended and the way the racing is. It's not going to be productive for years to come. I don't even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain't got much choice."
Go to a separate points system for Chasers, at least the sting isn't quite so harsh.
Exhibit B: Kenseth.
Winning still doesn't reward enough. Kenseth made up only 10 points on Keselowski, who finished seventh. He remains basically out of contention, 62 behind and in 12th place.
Under a separate scoring system even Kenseth would have a chance.
Not that this Chase won't be exciting. Keselowski, Johnson and Denny Hamlin remain only 23 points apart. But imagine how much more exciting it would be to bring more drivers into contention with six races remaining.
A separate points system would give us that.
Camping World Truck Series: Redemption for Kligerman
He wanted NASCAR to let everyone race to the finish despite carnage on the track, and said the governing body didn't know how to put on a show.
NASCAR has taken heat in the past for letting cars race to the finish line with a wreck happening on the final lap of a restrictor-plate track. One of the more memorable ones of late came in a 2007 Cup race when Kevin Harvick beat Mark Martin by .02 seconds with the field wrecking behind them.
It's a tough call for NASCAR. Damned if you call the caution, damned if you don't.
But for the most part, NASCAR errs on the side of caution, as they did in Sunday's Cup race, which is a good thing. Busch may not like that it cost him and dancing partner Jason White a chance to challenge Kligerman at the end, but it was the right call.
Besides, Busch doesn't need a win in the Truck series. Kligerman did. It wasn't that long ago after being released by Brad Keselowski Racing that his future was in limbo. A victory for Kligerman and Red Horse Racing was like redemption.
Nationwide Series: Charlotte on deck
The Nationwide Series took the weekend off, but resumes on Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racing Resources says
Sprint Cup Series
• Matt Kenseth won the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. It was his 23rd Cup series win in his 466th start and his first Talladega victory in 26 starts there. He'd last won at Daytona in February (28 starts between).
• Kenseth finished third or better in all four restrictor-plate races of 2012.
• Kenseth became the eighth repeat winner this season.
• Chasers have won only five of the nine Chase races at Talladega.
• Kenseth led eight times for 33 laps, including a last-lap pass. It marked the 21st last-lap pass at Talladega, including five of the past six races.
• Roush Fenway Racing posted its 129th career victory and 21st Chase win. RFR has four wins at Talladega and four wins overall this season.
• Ford posted only its third win at Talladega in the past 28 races. It has 19 wins overall at the Alabama track. Ford has five victories in 2012.
• Jeff Gordon (second) has finished in the top three in all but one of the past seven races, including four seconds.
• Kyle Busch (third) got his third top-5 finish in 16 races at Talladega. He finished in the top three in both races there this season.
• David Ragan (fourth) got his first top-5 finish since Richmond in September 2011.
• Regan Smith (fifth) got his first top-5 since finishing third at Indianapolis in July 2011.
• Greg Biffle (sixth) finished in the top six in three of the four races on restrictor-plate tracks in 2012.
Camping World Truck Series
• Parker Kligerman won the Fred's 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday. It was his first Truck series win in his 44th start. He'd finished second five times before getting his first win.
• Kligerman is the eighth first-time winner of 2012, a series record. He is the first driver to get his first win at Talladega.
• Kligerman's pit crew changed a battery during a Lap 79 stop. The driver restarted 21st on Lap 81.
• Kligerman led once for the final two laps, the fewest led by a winner at Talladega.
• Red Horse Racing posted its 10th victory in its 300th start and fourth win of 2012. It was RHR's first victory at Talladega.
• Toyota picked up its sixth win of 2012 and fifth victory overall at Talladega.
• Johnny Sauder (second) had his best Talladega finish in his fourth race. His previous best was third in 2010.
• James Beuscher (third) finished a career-best third at Talladega for the second straight year.
• Ty Dillon finished fourth in his first Talladega race, his sixth top-5 finish in 2012, including four in the past five races.
• Ryan Blaney finished fifth in his first Talladega race, his second top-5 finish in his fifth career Truck series start.
• German Quiroga finished eighth in his first Talladega start, his first career top-10 finish in his third Truck series start.
-- Racing Resources