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NASCAR open to rewarding regular season champions

For the fans — and competitors — that feel there hasn’t been enough of a premium awarded to the driver/team that accumulates the most points in the regular season be patient.

NASCAR open to rewarding regular season champions
Steve O'Donnell
Start: Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford leads
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing Ford
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Race action
(R-L) Mike Downey, Microsoft Principal Evangelist for Sports, and NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell
Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports Chevrolet
The Chase for the Sprint Cup field of drivers: Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford, Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing, Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford, Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Victory lane: race winner and 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota celebrates with wife Samantha

The point system could be changing again. 

NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Office Steve O’Donnell said Monday on Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio the possibility is under consideration. 

“One of the things we’re looking at is (in) the first 26 races, are there some additional things we could do for the winner of the regular season,” O’Donnell said. “I think that’s certainly fair for us to look at — and we are.”

No reward for being first after 26 races

After the first 26 Sprint Cup races in 2016, Kevin Harvick led the standings by 46 points over Brad Keselowski. Once the standings were reseeded for the Chase, Harvick was fourth behind Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, all of who had more regular-season wins than the 2014 series champion.

Keselowski, who led the points entering Dover, started from the pole when qualifying was rained out. But when the standings were reset after the Round of 16 on Sunday, even the 2012 NASCAR champ was confused by his seventh-place position.

 

Elliott Sadler, who led the points entering the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase, said it “stunk” to lose his advantage when the playoffs began. After Daniel Suarez won on Sunday, the No. 20 team has a two-point advantage over Sadler’s No. 1 JR Motorsports entry. 

Whether it’s bonus points or perhaps the first pit stall at every Chase race, Sadler would like some acknowledgement of what he and his team accomplished throughout the bulk of the season.

“I’ve heard guys say this in the past on the Cup side and I really didn’t buy it, but y’all should do something for the regular season champion,” Sadler said. “We need a trophy, a gift card or something. To take away 59 points — I think that’s what we lost after the (Chicagoland) race, that’s hard to swallow. That’s degrading. 

“But, looking at the bright side of that, if we’re good enough to keep (earning) those kind of points in the regular season, if we just keep doing those same kind of things, we’ll be fine in the Chase.”

The "beauty" of the Chase format

O’Donnell agrees. While starting fresh in each round feeds into the playoff atmosphere, it’s the fundamental strengths of each team that most often will carry the most deserving organization to the title.

“That’s the beauty of this format,” O’Donnell added. “You have to be on  top of your game. We feel like the first 26 (races) do matter in terms of what you’ve learned, are you carrying any momentum in, and then who can really get hot over the next six weeks and move on.”   

But that doesn’t mean NASCAR is opposed to rewarding the regular-season points leader.

“I’d say very serious consideration and it’s not just snapping your fingers,” O’Donnell said “There’s a lot of things that need to go into it but a lot of those things have already happened with conversations. Not there yet. Not ready to announce anything but certainly taking a strong look at that for all three series for next year as well.”

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Elliott Sadler , Brad Keselowski
Author Lee Spencer
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