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How the NASCAR Point System Works

Updated on December 10, 2014
Sprint Cup trophy for NASCAR
Sprint Cup trophy for NASCAR | Source

In 2011 NASCAR changed their points system after more than 30 years.

The new system helps to reward those drivers who consistently place in the top spots or win each week.

Those who score the most points at the end of the summer are eligible to compete for the championiship.

If you are new to NASCAR or a casual observer, the points system may seem a bit confusing.

Here is an easy breakdown of the points system, and how champions are determined.

Points for Racing and Winning

  • Every driver who gets a pole position for the race will get at least one point. There are also extra points awarded for leading the most laps.
  • Leading a lap will get a you a point and leading the most laps will also get you another point.
  • For winning, the points work in descending order. So first place gets 43 points, second place gets 42, third gets 41 and so on down to 1 point for the car that comes in last place.
  • Winning a race also gives the winning driver three extra points.
  • At the end of the season, leading up to the chase, the top ten drivers in points will get into the Chase. The other drivers who get into the chase are the wild card spots---the two drivers with the most wins who are in the top 20 but not in the top 10.

Confused yet?

What do you think about the current NASCAR points system?

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Problems With the NASCAR Points System

While the system is designed to reward good driving strategy, wins and consistency, technically, a driver who has never won a race all year could get into the Chase and win the championship.

While the system does motivate drivers to do well. Taking that extra push and risk to win a race may not be worth it to a driver who is doing well with points.

If you take the risk and wreck you may take a lower place finish, losing your valuable points.

The new points system is easier to calculate.
The new points system is easier to calculate. | Source

Easier to Calculate

Overall, though, the points are relatively easy for anyone to calculate.

Once you know what your driver's points are at the beginning of a race, you can quickly calculate how well they and their competitors have done as the official race results come in.

When Does The 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup Start?

For 2013, the Chase for the cup starts on September 15, 2013 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The top ten drivers plus to the two wild card drivers who are in the top twenty and have the most wins will have a chance to win the Sprint Cup.

The 10 race series will end in Homestead on November 17 2013. The driver with the most points at the end of the Homestead race will win the championship.

The Chase is designed to be like a playoff among other sports such as football. It lets the best of the best race for the top position.

The points accumulated for the Chase drivers are reset to zero at the Chicagoland race, meaning even a driver who barely made it into the Chase has a chance to win it all.

Once drivers are in the Chase, their points are reset to zero.
Once drivers are in the Chase, their points are reset to zero. | Source

Why Are Other Drivers Still Driving in the Chase if They Can't Win the Sprint Cup?

If you tune in to any Sprint Cup race after the Chase starts, you will see more than just the Chase drivers driving their cars?


In short, it's all about the money.

Winning or finishing a race earns the race team and owner money.

Sponsors pay the drivers to drive around with their logos so the drivers earn advertising dollars as well when they drive.

So in addition to the points and prestige of winning, there is money to be earned for winning and placing in each race.

Everyone who qualifies for the race will win some cash.

For example, at Daytona 2013 race, the total prize money for the race was over 19 million dollars.

The race winner, Jimmie Johnson, won about 1.5 million dollars for placing first. Joe Nemechek won 260,000 dollars for finishing last.

The money goes to the team owner and is then distributed; all drivers receive a salary for driving the race car for the season. (Starting salary for the Sprint Cup drivers is reportedly around 750,000 dollars.

Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series Points

The Nationwide and Camping World series use the same points system. However, there is no chase, so points accummulate throughout the season and the driver with the most points at the end of the last race wins.

One change that did occur with the Chase points changes in 2011---drivers who drive in more than one series, such as Kyle Busch, must declare which series they are vying for.

They are still allowed to drive for the other series but the points they earn don't actually count toward the championship cup in that race.

Winning is a great moment for any driver.  Carl Edwards always celebrates with a back flip.
Winning is a great moment for any driver. Carl Edwards always celebrates with a back flip. | Source

Take Aways

So, while the points system is not hard to calculate, it is not perfect.

The system was implemented to help with sagging ticket sales near the end of the season and to simplify the system for the fans.

Before the change, if a driver that was very far ahead in points, it was pretty hard for the other drivers to have a chance at the cup. Now there is a chance among all twelve drivers in the chase.

However, the way the system works now, the Sprint Cup winner may not be the winner of the Homestead Race, and may possibly not win any races in the Chase.

There are both fair and unfair aspects of the way the points system and the Chase work.

The best driver may not always win but one of the best drivers does.


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    • LCDWriter profile image

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Yes, I think that for the most part, the new points system encourages good driving but not great. If a win was worth a lot more, I think you would see more drivers pushing for that first place finish rather than sitting more comfortably with a top ten finish.

      If you know that a top ten finish is good enough to get into the chase, why push yourself too much?

    • profile image

      Ntcrawler 4 years ago

      Funny, as a very casual NASCAR fan I did lose interest in the standings when the scoring changed. But I never took the time to figure out what was involved. Very well written. Thank you. All my questions are no more.