Contrast how two motorsports announce changes. NASCAR held a glitzy conference to announce the dumbest method to decide a champion since flipping a coin, whereas Indycar quietly announced this week that it would award double points to three ‘triple-crown’ races – Indy (obviously), Pocono and Fontana.
F1 has been taking heat and criticism for months now for its plans to award double points at the season finale, and perhaps the final three races. So why is Indycar’s announcement any different? Simple – there is a different philosophy at work. Indycar has proven that there is a right way and a wrong way to use double-points as a gimmick in the season.
F1 is using double-points to try and add spectacle to a tired season finale, a knee-jerk reaction to Vettel’s 2013 walkover. But double-points at the end of a season (and indeed, stupid eliminator rounds and points resets) just cripples the integrity and authenticity of a championship battle, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth when a driver is crowned champion purely by only performing well in a select handful of races. Fans and drivers don’t have a problem with being beaten fair and square by a superior driver – they would rather that than gimmicks which screw over one driver who has grafted for an entire season of success in favour of someone emerging from stage left at the last minute. It also makes the genuinely exciting championship battles more satisfying when they happen. Would Hunt vs Lauda in 1976 have gone down in history as much as if some arbitrary method to decide the champion had been used? Or what about the epic 2010 scrap, where Vettel won his first title in the very last race – having not lead the points standings at all during the season. For the last time – points gimmicks may be good to sucker in a few casual fans, but cause more damage long-term than it does benefit the given series.
However, Indycar is using double-points differently – to make individual races more important. Ironic given that NASCAR has been using the excuse of ‘rewarding wins’ for its godawful Chase changes, Indycar will now be doing just that using a much simpler method – increase the amount of points on offer for victory. It really is that simple, and I can’t believe that this has been staring NASCAR in the face for so long and somehow Brian France and co have missed it. Moreover, Indycar is now doing what NASCAR has neglected to do for many years – put emphasis and attention back on individual, crown-jewel races.
Motorsport is built on crown-jewel races, one-off events which drivers want to win almost as much as the entire championship. F1 has the Monaco GP. Sportscar racing has Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring. V8 Supercars has the mighty Bathurst 1000, and in recent years has succeeded in making the Sandown 500 and Gold Coast 600 into similar must-see events for fans and must-win races for drivers. The BTCC used to have the TOCA Shootout, similar in format to NASCAR’s All-Star Race, and last year Triple 8 UK team principal Ian Harrison called for the series to think outside the box and create its own ‘blue-ribbon’ event, noting that ‘If you lose the championship but win Bathurst you can almost stand it.’ (Source: Touring Car Times). And that’s the crucial thing about a major race: it’s one which everybody wants to win. Trevor Bayne may never win a Sprint Cup championship, but he has already banked a Daytona 500 victory – which means almost as much to him. Greg Murphy never won a V8 Supercar title in his career, but four Bathurst 1000 trophies means he won’t be regretting those missed championships too much.
Indycar understands this, hence why it is awarding double-points for the Indy 500 – its own crown jewel of motorsport. The idea of also awarding double points to the two other 500-mile events on the calendar is a good one too; reward drivers for the extra stamina needed to go the extra mile in the longest events of the season. The most direct comparison is with V8 Supercars, which awards 150 points to the winners at the Sandown 500 and Gold Coast 600, and a whopping 300 points to the Bathurst 1000 winner. Just for perspective, that’s worth FOUR regular-season race wins. The Pirtek Enduro Cup is also awarded to the best performer in these races, similar to the United Sportscar Championship’s North American Endurance Cup, awarded for performances in the Sebring 12 Hours, Daytona 24 Hours, Watkins Glen Six Hours and Petit Le Mans – the four biggest races on the schedule.
NASCAR could easily do this. Indeed, it used to have the Grand Slam (also known as the Winston Million), which rewarded drivers for winning the four premier races in the NASCAR season: the Daytona 500, the spring Talladega race, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500. With races slowly becoming more of a stepping stone to a Chase berth, individual races (with the exception of the Daytona 500) have lost their glamour in NASCAR, which is a shame. Hey, Mr France: if you’re really serious about rewarding winners and enticing in more fans, why not go the Indycar route? Double points for the Southern 500, the Coke 600 and perhaps the Brickyard 400. TRIPLE for the Daytona 500. The suggestion that drivers need more motivation to win races is laughable anyway, but doing this adds a bit more spice and lustre to already significant race weekends.
And Mr Ecclestone, if you’re going to introduce double points anywhere, make it at Monaco. If any track needs to give drivers more incentive to try bold overtaking moves, it’s that one.
Tags: Bathurst 1000 Beyond The Flag Chase For The Sprint Cup Daytona 500 Gold Coast 600 Indy 500 IndyCar IZOD IndyCar Series NASCAR NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sandown 500 V8 Supercars Verizon Indycar Series