Sprint Cup Reality 2012 Daytona Update

     The Coke Zero 400 at Daytona had plenty of on and off track drama to keep everyone entertained.  The off track suspension of A. J. Allmendinger is still playing out. An uncapped vent hose may or may not have been an unfair advantage for Tony Stewart.  He won the race, anyway. Just let everyone leave that vent uncapped. End of controversy. As for what happened on the track, People seem to like the “win or crash” ending, so that behavior coming to the finish line probably won’t stop, anytime soon. I’m going to run a simulation that rewards drivers for finishing races on the lead lap, without accident or equipment failure. May cooler heads prevail. The standings in the current simulation I’m running are interesting. After 18 races, 8 drivers are within reach of the points lead. I hope that carries all the way through, to the end of the season.

                                    CURRENT STANDINGS

                                              18 DAYTONA

Pos.      Driver                     Car #      PTS.

..1        Matt Kenseth            #17       741
..2        Tony Stewart            #14       719
..3        Dale Earnhardt Jr.   #88        717
..4        Jeff Gordon              #24       712
..5        Brad Keselowski      # 2        709
..6        Jimmie Johnson      #48        707
..7        Greg Biffle               #16        700
..8        Clint Bowyer            #15        698
..9        Kasey Kahne           # 5         686
10        Martin Truex Jr.      #56        682

11        Kevin Harvick          #29        681
12        Carl Edwards           #99        673
13        Ryan Newman          #39        663
14        Paul Menard             #27       659
15        Joey Logano            #20        659
16        Denny Hamlin           #11       654
17        Kyle Busch               #18       653
18        A J Allmendinger     #22        644
19        Aric Almirola             #43        633
20        David Ragan            #34        615
21        Mark Martin              #55        562

Sprint Cup Reality

                                       SPRINT CUP REALITY

     The reality of all forms of competition is overlayed with controversy and drama. The dry statistics and cold numbers can never be enough to satisfy the basic needs in human nature. Very often, the priority leans more toward excitement than truth. The reality is that competition can never be completely separated from entertainment. That’s fine, from a promotional and emotional standpoint. Let people have their entertainment. The credibility of the game demands a higher standard. In that interest, the structure of the contest must conform to the way that performance is described and presented to the public.

                                             QUALIFYING

     The beginning of this competition is the first glaring disconnect from reality. Sprint Cup time trials are completely different from race conditions. The car setup is completely different than the settings for the actual long distance race. The repetition of car after car circling the track, separated by a few tenths of a second, is boring and monotonous. The remedy is to actually race for the qualifying positions. The format must be flexible enough to allow for variations in field of entry. The pace of the events must be quick enough to hold viewing attention.

     I propose a qualifying structure of 8 lap races, consisting of 4 cars, each. Each driver would be required to complete a green flag pit stop to change a right rear tire. This stop would be completed after lap 2, and before lap 8. The winner of the quickest qualifying race wins the pole position and is awarded 2 points. The winners of the other races are placed in order of the elapsed time of their races.They are    awarded 1 point. All caution periods and race stoppages are included in the elapsed time of the race. Caution laps do not count. The remaining drivers are seeded in a qualifying race of reasonable distance, according to the order of finish in their qualifying races. Regardless of number of entries, points are awarded to the first 17 drivers in the race field. The final qualifying race fills out the field of 43 cars. Real racing would sell more tickets and advertising. That would keep focus on the purpose of the contest, winning. Closure in the qualifying system would add greatly to anticipation of the race

                                       POINT STRUCTURE

     The Standings, Race Results and Stats present Wins, Top 5s and Top 10s as though they were significant and important. Numerically, this is expressed only with a Win, being worth 5 points more than 2nd Place. I propose carrying that principle out into a sliding scale for 5th and 10th Places. 5th Place would be worth 4 points more than 6th Place. 10th Place would be worth 3 points more than 11th Place.  The point structure would then match up with the description of activity in the sport.

                      THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP

     Since the current format for selecting drivers to compete for the championship has created more controversy than resolution. While that may produce interest and media focus for promotional purposes, it does nothing for the integrity of the sport. There are far more real things that can be done. I propose a structure for this selection process that adds significance to each race. People should have something more significant to talk about, than celebrity gossip.

     One of my complaints about The Chase is that it would be possible for a driver to be in the Top 12 of the Points Standings for 25 races, and still and still not be in contention for the Championship.

     Credibility demands a more equitable system for selecting  contenders. I propose a system that makes each race significant in the process, and rewards sustained performance.

     I propose dividing the season into 3 segments. The first segment of 14 races, the second of 11 races, and concluded with The Chace. The segments are separated by points resets. A driver that is in the Top 10 for 7 of the first 14 races qualifies for the points reset. A restart after a caution period that includes lapped cars has a Lucky Dog. Any driver that fits that description would be a Lucky Dog for that segment of the season.  The same rule would apply for drivers in this category for 6 of the middle 11 races.

     Each race should also have a Lucky Dog. The driver with the best finish, who is not in the Top 10 going into that race, is the Lucky Dog for that race. At the point break, those drivers are sorted behind the Top 10, according to their points. As drivers are added to the eligible list for a points reset or The Chase, the choice of the Lucky Dog for each race is governed by that list. Basing eligibility for The Chase on performance in each race would add credibility to The Chase. The sport needs credibility in this critical area that is now dominated
by controversy.

                                HISTORY AND TRADITION

     For decades, people have asked for reasons why the Daytona 500 is the biggest race on the schedule. I propose settling the argument, once and for all. The reality is that the Daytona 500 is the start of a new season, following a comparatively long off – season. The fans become accustomed to waiting a week between races. They wait months for the Daytona 500. The race should have significance above the other races. I propose that the winner of the Daytona 500 be the Lucky Dog for the season. It would be the only race  of the season with that significance. That driver is in The Chase, for the rest of the season.

                                           COMMENTARY

     From my perspective, Joey Logano is one of the great stories of 2012. In the format that I’ve proposed, he wasn’t eligible for the 14th race points reset, until the last possible moment. That changed with a win that made him the Lucky Dog for that race. He did that as big as it can be done. He won the race from the pole. That is one of life’s great lessons. There is always something to be won. There is always hope, right to the end.

     Matt Kenseth would be a great story in the format I’ve proposed. I would like to see how a driver performs, knowing that he has secured a place in The Chase. Since the news from week to week points out those who are taking significant steps toward a championship, that motivation would still remain. It would be interesting to see how the elevated status affects race strategy, over the course of a season.

     I’ll close out with my list of the current Top 10 Standings for Sprint Cup 2012. Please note the records since the point reset going into Michigan It is certainly food for thought. A significant note here is that, after Race 17 at Kentucky, there are 11 drivers within numerical reach of the points lead. That can’t be said for the current points system. It remains to be seen how the comparison plays out after Race 25. The simulation of the 2011 says that the points should also be tighter, in this simulation.

    Comments are always welcome. I’m sure that there are ideas I haven’t thought of.

                CURRENT STANDINGS

Pos.       Driver                   Car #      TOT

1      Jimmie Johnson         #48        698
2      Matt Kenseth              #17        691
3      Dale Earnhardt Jr.     #88         688
4      Clint Bowyer              #15         681
5      Jeff Gordon               #24         680
6      Greg Biffle                 #16         675
7      Brad Keselowski       #  2         670
8      Tony Stewart             #14          667
9      Kevin Harvick           #29          659
10    Martin Truex Jr.        #56         654

11      Kasey Kahne            #  5         646
12      A J Allmendinger      #22         644
13      Denny Hamlin           #11         635
14      Carl Edwards            #99         632
15      Kyle Busch               #18         632
16      Paul Menard             #27         628
17      Ryan Newman          #39         618
18      Joey Logano            #20         614
19      Aric Almirola             #43         607
20      David Ragan            #34         597
21      Mark Martin             #55          562