CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - NASCAR’s simplified new points system turned out not to be so simple after the first full weekend of racing.
None of them won a single race last weekend.
So what gives?
NASCAR before the season made a series of tweaks to the scoring system, including a rule that drivers can only collect points in one series. Drivers can run in multiple series, but all had to check a box next to the one they wanted to race for the championship in on their annual NASCAR application.
So the three race winners at Daytona last weekend were all ineligible for points in the events they won.
Michael Waltrip kicked it off with a Friday night victory in the Trucks, and he’s collecting points in Cup. Same with Tony Stewart, who won the Nationwide race on Saturday. Then Trevor Bayne, who is slated to run for the Nationwide title, won the Daytona 500.
“Obviously this is an anomaly,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Tuesday. “But this change in allowing drivers to race for only one championship was the fan’s No. 1 favorite change of the offseason, hands down, not even close. I am sure over time everyone will appreciate this and see that it’s for the good of the sport.”
NASCAR made the one series rule to move along the development of younger drivers and stop established Cup veterans from dominating its two lower national series. Car owners and sponsors have been reluctant the past several years to invest in unproven drivers, and there’s very little turnover in the elite Cup Series.
Drivers have had to bounce around from ride to ride, including the 20-year-old Bayne, who on Sunday became the youngest Daytona 500 winner in race history. He left Michael Waltrip Racing late last season when that team had no sponsorship lined up for 2011, was snapped up by Roush Fenway Racing, and planned to run for the Nationwide title this year even though RFR has no sponsorship for him.
The sponsorship situation hadn’t changed Tuesday, a Roush spokesman said, and Bayne reiterated he has no plans to change series and instead race for the Cup title.
Poston said drivers are allowed to change their mind once during the season, but do not get retroactive points.
Poston said NASCAR believes the new guidelines will ultimately help younger drivers get exposure, and cited Cassill and Reed Sorenson as examples of drivers who benefited following the Nationwide race at Daytona. Cassill finished third and Sorenson finished fifth, but both had post-race news conferences because they were the highest-finishing drivers to collect points.
Cassill has a 1-point lead over Sorenson in the standings, but has no ride lined up for Phoenix. He used his news conference to lobby for a job.
“I had two or three full-time ride opportunities in the Trucks and Nationwide Series this year that were passed over for veteran drivers,” he said. “I want to be able to put myself in front of these sponsors and be like, `Guys, I bring energy, I bring fire. I’m talented. That’s why I’m here. ‘