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NASCAR Winston Cup (formerly Grand National) Series has used several point systems since its inception in 1949. Once Winston came on as the series sponsor and revamped the schedule for the 1972 season it was decided a new points system needed to be used. The new system awarded the race winner 100 points and each finishing position after that was reduced by two points. 100 for first, 98 for second, 96 for third and so on. In order to encourage teams to run the entire race, points were also awarded for each lap completed, regardless of postion. But life cannot be simple.The points awarded per lap depended on the track.

Tracks under 1 mile:
Tracks of 1 mile:
Tracks of 1.3 miles:
Tracks of 1.5 miles:
Tracks of 2 miles:
Tracks over 2.5 miles:
  0.25 points per lap
0.50 points per lap
0.70 points per lap (that would be Darlington)
0.75 points per lap
1.00 points per lap
1.25 points per lap

With the emphasis on completing laps to really rack up the points some non-winners did well in the points chase. Though in the end the battle was between the top winners of the season, Richard Petty and Boby Allison with Petty taking the crown. The same system was used in 1973, and Benny Parsons won one race and the championship over Cale Yarborough who won 4 races. Petty won 6 races and finished fifth.

NASCAR revamped the system again for 1974. Strangest points system ever. If you figure the teams are racing for the money, might as well make the points reflect the money. Thus was born the system used only for the 1974 season. It was simple, take the number of dollars won by a driver in race purses (qualifying and contingency money not included) and multiply that number by the number of races the driver has started, then divide that number by 1000 = the points a driver has. Richard and Cale finished first and second in the Daytona 500, the biggest money race of all, and the run for the crown was over. The problems of the system were dramatically illustrated in the fall of the season.

At Darlington in the Southern 500 Petty crashed early and ended up finishing 35th. Darell Waltrip on the other hand ran well and finished second, still Richard gained 65 points on Waltrip in the points race. As a matter of fact of the 34 drivers who finished ahead of Petty, 33 of them lost points to Richard in the standings. At Martinsville Petty again had problems and finished 29th, the closest in the points hunt, Cale, had some problems but finished much better in 11th. When the points were tallied up, Petty had gained 10 more points on Yarborough.

Bob Latford designed the current point system, which has been in place since the 1975 season. With one modification in 2004 – giving a race winner 180 points instead of the 175 previously awarded. NASCAR has now modified the point system 11 times since 1949. It has built-in incentives that reward teams for leading races and finishing near the front. The system also rewards consistency throughout the season by awarding points to every competitor in each race and awarding the same number of points at each event regardless of its length or venue.

In Nextel Cup racing, following the 26th race of the season, all drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 and any others within 400 points of the leader will earn a berth in the "Chase for the Championship." All drivers in the "chase" will have their point totals adjusted. The first-place driver in the standings will begin the chase with 5,050 points; the second-place driver will start with 5,045, etc. Incremental five-point drops will continue through the list of title contenders.

Owner Points:
Owner points are distributed in the same manner as driver points except that the owner receives points based on the performance of the car, regardless of who drives it. A new rule in 1997 awards all teams, who pass inspection and fail to make the race, owner points based on the quickest non-qualifier to the slowest earn the position/points immediately below the last car in the field. If an owner shows up with a pair of drivers, and one fails to qualify, the owner still receives points for the non-qualifying effort. These points will be included with those earned from the races to establish car/owner priority in gaining a provisional for the race. The fastest non-qualifier on race day earns 31 points for his owner, three down from the 43rd-place points. The scale continues downward from there for all non-qualifiers, with the lowest possible point(s) awarded being one. Owner point standings are used to determine starting lineups when qualifying is canceled, starting positions when identical qualifying times are posted, preference for provisional starting spots and the distribution of NASCAR plan money such as the "Winner's Circle."

Manufacturers Points:
The car maker who has a driver take first place in a race earns nine points for that race. Second-best performance by a manufacturer gets six points, third place earns four points and fourth place, three points.

In 1985, Bill Elliott had 11 victories but lost the championship to three-race winner Darrell Waltrip.

Chase For The Championship

NASCAR is changing the way its premier series champion is crowned to add excitement to every race and to provide a better balance between winning races and performing consistently. The new format will enhance competition – all season long. NASCAR changed its scoring system Tuesday by setting up a showdown for the Nextel Cup championship over the season's last 10 races. "I'm confident it is going to work and the drivers and teams are going to like it after they hear all the details," said NASCAR chairman Brian France.

Short track racing, the grassroots of NASCAR, began experimenting with ideas to help the entry-level racer. In 2001, the United Speed Alliance Racing organization, sanctioning body of the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, a short-track stock car touring series, devised a five-race playoff system where the top teams in their Hooters ProCup North and Hooters ProCup South divisions would participate in a five-race playoff, the Four Champions, named for the four Hooters Racing staff members (including 1992 NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki) and pilot killed in an April 1, 1993 plane crash in Blountville, Tennessee. The system organized the teams with starting points based on the team's performance in their division (division champions earn a bonus), and the teams would participate in a five-race playoff. The five races, added to the team's seeding points, would determine the winner. The 2001 version was four races, as one was canceled because of the September 11th terrorist attacks; however, NASCAR watched as the ProCup's Four Champions became a success and drivers from the series began looking at NASCAR rides.

When Nextel took over NASCAR's premier sponsorship for the 2004 season, they looked to USAR and the Hooters ProCup for two major changes in scoring. First, five additional points were added for a race win. Second, a new formula for declaring a series champion based on the ProCup system was devised. A cut was made after 26 races, with the high twelve drivers and teams plus ties placed in the Chase for the Championship (or simply "The Chase"). (Originally, the top ten teams plus any team within 400 points of the leader qualified; NASCAR changed this beginning with the 2007 season.) The Chase participants have their points increased to a level mathematically unattainable by anyone outside this field (roughly 1800 points ahead of the first driver outside of the Chase). From 2004 to 2006, the leader's total was set at 5,050 points, with other positions dropping by five points per position, with a limit of 5,000 points after ties and the 400 point cut. Starting in 2007, each driver who makes the Chase will receive 5,000 points, plus 10 additional points for each race he won during the first 26 races. Race layouts remain the same and points are scored the same way in the final 10 races. Whoever leads in points after the 36th race is declared the NEXTEL Cup champion. The champion will be guaranteed a minimum of $5 million, while each of the other drivers who finish in the top 10 will earn $1 million. The 11th-place finisher will get a $250,000 bonus.

While no one has ever come back from 400 points with 10 to go to win the championship, NASCAR recognizes the possibility of late-season comebacks that can land a driver in the final top 10. The 400-point cutoff was arrived at after extensive research and modeling. Additionally, race winners will receive 180 points instead of the 175 they earned previously. This will ensure that a race runner-up cannot earn the same number of points as a race winner. Five-point bonuses for leading a lap and leading the most laps remain, for a maximum of 190 points for race winners. "This new model will provide all title contenders an opportunity to compete and contend for the championship," said NASCAR president Mike Helton. "This is not a playoff. Every one of our events will continue to be a Super Bowl and all 43 drivers will be trying to win every race."

The highest finishing non-Chase driver is awarded a bonus (approximately one million dollars) and the final position on stage at the awards banquet, to encourage continued competition among all drivers. (There are awards at the Top 20 and 25 drivers and teams, and 35 teams at the end of the season.)

This playoff system was implemented primarily to make the points race more competitive late in the season, and indirectly, to increase television ratings during the NFL season, which starts around the same time as the Chase begins. Furthermore, the Chase also forces teams to perform at their best during all three stages of the season -- the first half of the regular season, the second half of the regular season, and the Chase. Previously, the Cup champion may have been decided before the last race (or even several races before the end of the season) because it was mathematically impossible for any other driver to gain enough points to overtake the leader.

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