Whitesburg KY

Playing the points game

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

Tony Stewart gave fans a big lesson on what racing for points is all about on Sunday at Dover. The defending Cup champion was caught up in the biggest wreck of the season on lap eight of the FedEx 400, and after a lengthy stay in the garage area he took his Chevrolet back on the track to accumulate as many points as he could.

It’s every driver’s nightmare when he has to come back on the track in a wrecked car that has no chance of winning, but Stewart and his team were able to take a little something out of the race as their effort resulted in a 25th-place finish. That gave the team 19 precious points toward the Chase, but the results could have been far worse.

The wreck that Stewart was caught up in on lap eight collected a dozen cars, with six of them damaged severely enough to have their day finished. If Stewart’s crew hadn’t been able to repair the damage on his car, he could have lost a dozen more points on the day.

Twelve points doesn’t sound like much, but when you look at the points standings after Dover, those dozen points kept Stewart in the highly coveted top 10. His efforts actually moved him up one position in the standings to eighth as he and Kyle Busch swapped positions after Busch had engine problems that forced him to finish the race in the garage. Tony took over the spot by the closest of margins as he holds a one-point cushion over Busch.

Only the top 10 are guaranteed a spot in the Chase after 26 races and, as we found out last season with the closest points race in the history of the sport, one point can sure make a difference. Stewart’s 19 points on the day not only moved him up one point ahead of Busch it also moved him up two points ahead of Clint Bowyer in the 10th position. That’s two points separating three drivers from eighth to 10th, proof enough that every point does count in this sport.

The point system that was introduced before last season rewards the winner of each race with 43 points and each position after that receives one less point with the last place finisher collecting only one point. The system makes it very difficult for a driver to overcome a large deficit when trying to move up in the points, but the system does reward those that run up front and win races.

A race winner collects three bonus points for making it to victory lane and that total is bumped to four points when you add the bonus point that is awarded to any driver that leads at least one lap. Jimmie Johnson has won two of the last three races on the schedule at Darlington and Dover (11th at Charlotte) and in those two wins he also led the most laps that gives him another bonus point.

By taking full advantage of the bonus points, Johnson was able to add five bonus points for each win giving him a bump of 10 points in the standings. So instead of being in fifth place in the standings, 43 points out of the top spot, thanks to the bonus points he now trails the leader Greg Biffle by 33.

This point system has done what it was intended and that is to keep the field close throughout the summer months leading up to the championship field being set. Remember the points only set the top 10 with the remaining two spots being filled by the two drivers with the most wins and still in the top 20.

Brad Keselowski now has a lock on one of those spots as he has two wins and is followed by Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne with one win each. Newman would get the nod for the 12th and final Chase position as he is one spot higher in 13th in the standings at this time.

PIT NOTES: In the 68 races held at Pocono prior to this weekend’s running of the Pocono 400, the winner has started on the front row 23 times. Further showing the importance of a good qualifying effort at Pocono is that drivers starting in the top 10 have won a total of 47 races.

Race Preview
Event: Pocono 400
Track: Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile
triangle, Turn 1-14 degrees, Turn
2-8 degrees, Turn 3-6 degrees)
Date: June10, 1 p.m.
Radio: MRN
Defending Champion: Jeff Gordon

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