By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on October 5, 2016 | 9:40 A.M. EST
The time to reward drivers leading the point standings at the end of the regular season, which Kevin Harvick did this year, appears near. (Photo: Getty Images)
The time to reward drivers leading the point standings at the end of the regular season appears near.
NASCAR officials have confirmed that the idea is beyond the discussion stage and under serious consideration. It’s encouraging that the sport is looking at ways to add more meaning and weight to being on top of the standings when the regular season comes to a close.
I’ve long been an advocate of the plan, but determining just what that reward is becomes a bit of a sticking point.
It’s simple. All NASCAR needs to do is give the regular-season leader three points or the equivalent to the bonus that goes with winning in the first 26 races of the schedule. That’s plenty of incentive and a substantial reward that would carry value into the Chase.
How valuable might an extra three points have been to Kevin Harvick in 2014, in his first-round Chase seeding, given the challenges he had during the opening three races? Or, for that matter, Busch last year when he squeaked into the third round?
The idea of a first-round bye comes from the NFL model, which allows teams winning divisions to sit out the opening set of playoff games. Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL have the ability to give teams home-field advantage in opening playoff rounds when divisions are won.
But since there is no such thing as a home-field advantage in NASCAR, the next-best thing is to provide teams with something tangible that can be of value in the Chase, such as the three-point bonus.
Imagine the possibilities of following an additional story line in the closing weeks of the regular season for the battle to simply make the Chase? Two or three drivers trying to end the regular schedule on top of the standings and, in the process, taking an extra three bonus points into the championship season would generate even more excitement and interest.
There’s nothing about the elimination-style Chase format that should be touched. But it’s time for NASCAR to add more significance and importance to the drivers trying to end up on top of the points mountain heading into the “playoffs.”
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.