02/26/11 01:48PM NASCAR, New Points System, Sprint Cup

New point system already on minds of drivers

By Jill Erwin, NASCAR.COM
February 26, 2011 2:33 PM, EST

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix may be considered the first "real" race of the 2011 season, but don't think it's too early for Sprint Cup Series drivers to be considering the ramifications of the new point system.

Five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson hasn't had much worry about points in his unprecedented title run. But following last week's 27th-place finish at Daytona, Johnson finds himself 25 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

Kevin Harvick (Autostock)

I think if you worry about it too much you just drive yourself crazy so you just go out and you race.


From what he can tell, it appears to Johnson the new point system will damage those with bad runs more than the old system ever did.

"It looks like that way," Johnson said. "The worse you finish, the bad days are going to be tougher to recover from, but luckily it's still early in the season and we know that people are going to have bad days. And I was one of 15 or 16 in that wreck that had a bad day."

Kyle Busch, who competes regularly in all three series, said it's far too early to worry about the points. He said it normally comes around late May, when the cars roll into Charlotte for the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600.

Of course, that's easy for him to say, considering he's seventh in the points. He's also just five points behind Edwards, but who's to say what that really means at all?

"Through the models that NASCAR said that they did and everything, it's still relative," Busch said. "I think it's definitely easier to figure out where you need to be. If you're 20 points behind a guy, that's 20 spots besides leading a lap and leading the most laps and winning and stuff like that. You can close the gap up faster by being able to do those things. To me, right now in the season, points don't mean anything."

Kevin Harvick, who finished third in the points behind Johnson and Denny Hamlin last season, took a hard hit when his engine blew up on Lap 29 at Daytona. He earned a whopping three points for that effort, and he trails Edwards by 39.

He pooh-poohed the focus on points this early in the season, saying he couldn't even name half the drivers who comprise the current top 10. So while he's well down the standings, he's not going to let it take him away from what he's trying to accomplish.

"I think if you worry about it too much you just drive yourself crazy so you just go out and you race and you take it on a week-to-week basis as far as how your car is running," Harvick said.

That's easier to say when you're a top team with proven results and one speed bump. For a driver like A.J. Allmendinger, his 11th-place run at Daytona can be the kind of performance that boosts a team to a strong season ... if those involved can build on it.

And that's exactly what Allmendinger wants.

"You have to have a good start to the season," Allmendinger said. "Last year, I felt like from mid-season on we were a solid, top-15 race team, but we started the season so bad -- I think five out of the first 10 races we finished outside the top 25 and you just can't do that. You're not gonna make up points, especially the way the points are now, you can't make that up and think you can make the Chase."

Edwards has the target on his back now, and he said bad luck at Phoenix could erase everything his team accomplished at Daytona. He said with the new points, the key is quite clear.

"The thing is at the end of the year we'll probably all have about the same number of bad days," Edwards said. "If you have a real bad day, if you have an engine blow up early, that does make it tougher the way the points are spread. One point, two points, three points, that's a pretty bad day, so you can't have too many of those."

Busch has had his own adjustment to make in the wake of the new points rollout. Friday night at Phoenix, Busch earned his first victory of the 2011 season in the Camping World Truck Series. Yet, when the points were released post-race, it was another eye-opener.

"It's kind of weird when you're now with the Truck points and the Nationwide points, you see zero," Busch said. "You're like 'What the hell? I just ran a race.'

"For the points, the way it is, it's definitely going to take some time for everyone to get used to it. It's going to be weird to see how we're only separated by four points, or we're tied, or we're separated by two points ... really how far apart or how close together that is, we all don't know yet."

NASCAR Point System