Crunching the numbers: NASCAR's points system explained
Amanda Vincent is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
With the 2009 race season in the history books and the start of the 2010 season still about two months away, it may be time for NASCAR fans to brush up on their math skills just a little bit. The forthcoming "Crunching the Numbers" series here at Louisville NASCAR Examiner can help with that.
First, race fans should familiarize themselves with NASCAR's points system.
To begin with, there is a set number of points for each finishing position for every race (except for a few Sprint Cup Series non-points events like the Budweiser Shootout and the All-Star race).
Basically, a win brings with it a base of 185 points, while a second-place finish is good for 170 points. The second through sixth positions are separated by five points each. For example, a third-place finisher receives 165 points, while the fourth-place car receives 160.
From sixth position back to the 11th spot, each position is separated by four points. For instance, while the eighth-place driver/car is awarded 142 points, the ninth-place finisher gets 138.
Beyond the top-11, positions are separated by three points through the remainder of the field. In a full-field of 43 Sprint Cup Series cars, the last-place finisher would receive a minimum of 34 points. In the Camping World Truck Series, where a full field is comprised of 36 trucks, the last place driver/truck would get a minimum of 55 points.
There are also opportunities to earn additional points, 10 bonus points as a matter-of-fact. NASCAR awards bonus points for laps lead. Any driver across all three of NASCAR's national touring series are awarded five points in a race if he/she leads a lap. So even though the basic points system lists a win as being worth 185 points, it's impossible for a race winner to not accumulate at least 190 points. After all, you have to at least lead the final lap to win a race.
That 190 points isn't a glass ceiling, though. The maximum number of points available to a single driver/car is actually 195.
An additional five points is awarded to the driver who leads the most laps in a given race. If the race winner led the most laps during the duration of the event, he/she would receive that additional five points for a grand total of 195.
The Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series accumulate points under this system for the duration of their seasons -- 35 races for Nationwide and 25 for Camping World Truck.
The Sprint Cup Series, however, has a monkey wrench thrown into its points standings after 26th race of the 36-race schedule. After 26 races, the drivers who are, at that point, in the top-12 have their points totals reset to 5000 plus 10 additional points for each win they are credited with up to that point in the season. These drivers become the only 12 drivers who are eligible to compete for the Sprint Cup championship in the 10-race stretch that is referred to as the "Chase."
For the final 10 races, these 12 drivers, along with the rest of the competitors, add to their points totals the same way they did throughout the first 26 races.
What's the significance of 5000? It's a number NASCAR came up with when the Chase was created that was high enough to guarantee the the final Chase competitor had more points than and couldn't be caught and surpassed by the top driver outside the Chase.
The next installment of "Crunching the Numbers" will take a look at NASCAR's driver rating system.