Is It Time For Double-Points To Go?

First and foremost; I need to fess up. I made a mistake. I was wrong.

Before I sat down to write my race re-cap Sunday night, I did my usual scan through social media just to see what little tidbits were out there. In doing so, I came across what appeared to be a well thought-out nugget explaining that had there been no double-points awarded this season – Scott Dixon would have still won the championship. It sounded good, so I went with it. Besides; if it’s on the internet, it’s got too be true…right? Come to find out, the information was incorrect. Juan Montoya would have won by four points.

If you’ll recall, however – IndyCar decided not to award bonus points for the amended qualifying format that allowed only one attempt after all of the hoopla surrounding the Chevy aero kits. Based on their respective qualifying positions, had those points been awarded – Dixon would have come out the winner. Confused? You’re not the only one.

Most know that I’m a longtime fan of Team Penske. That doesn’t mean I was pulling for Montoya to win the championship. I wasn’t. Going back to his two seasons in CART, I’ve never been a Montoya fan. I’ve always considered him a talented driver and a self-centered jerk. His sour grapes demeanor after realizing he had just thrown away the championship did nothing to change my mind. He blamed his loss on IndyCar awarding double-points at the last race of the season just to create some false drama. Of course, he didn’t seem to mind collecting double-points at the only other race that offers them – the Indianapolis 500 in May.

But you know what, no matter what I think of Juan Montoya or how he acted immediately after the race – he and I agree on one thing. The double-points need to go.

Yes, the awarding of double-points creates more buzz leading into the last race, but is there not enough buzz already? Proponents of double-points will point out that the 2014 championship would have already been decided heading into the season finale at Fontana had there not been double points at stake in the final race. While race promoters want the buzz of a championship surrounding their race, it can’t always happen that way.

More times than not, the Super Bowl is a runaway for one of the two teams. The NFL doesn’t resort to making touchdowns in the final five minutes of a game count double. Can you imagine how NFL history would have been altered had they instituted such a rule? Ninth inning runs count just as much as those in the first inning, whether they take place in April or in the World Series. My busiest time of the year at work is in January and February. Do they pay me double? I wish.

The point is, drivers and teams should approach each race and qualifying session the same, regardless if it is Barber, Milwaukee or the Indianapolis 500. The points distribution should be identical for every event. The Indianapolis 500 gets all the hype and many teams focus more on it than any other race. But that’s due to its history and prestige. It is able to stand alone on that. It doesn’t need the manufactured drama that double-points bring. A newcomer to this sport would think that Sonoma is on the same level as the Indianapolis 500. It’s not.

While they’re at it, they should ditch the awarding of multiple points for Indianapolis 500 qualifying. The way it’s currently structured, the pole-winner gets about as much for winning the pole as a podium finish in most races. Very few drivers can explain the points system and format for Indianapolis 500 qualifying. If the drivers don’t understand it, do you think many fans can explain it fully? I can’t and I consider myself a pretty hard-core fan.

This all started in 2013, when the Triple Crown was reinstated. This was an incentive to win all three super-speedway races; Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana. Pocono was a 400-miler its first year, but it came close enough to the Triple Crown of the 1970’s – the Indianapolis 500, the Pocono 500 and the California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway over Labor Day weekend. In short, this incarnation of the Triple Crown fizzled after one year. But the awarding of double-points at the three races continued for 2014. This year, double-points were awarded for the Indianapolis 500 and Sonoma only.

As a fan, I always appreciated the fact that the Indianapolis 500 paid the same amount of points as Nazareth, Fontana or Barber. It’s the way it should be. That way, teams and drivers can’t relax one week because they know they have a double-points race coming up the next week. A good effort at Texas should count the same in points as a good effort at Indianapolis. Doing well at Mid-Ohio should count as much as doing well at Sonoma. Currently, it doesn’t.

To Montoya’s point – a mistake at one track should be an equal penalty in the points, no matter where the mistake took place. As it stands, you get penalized twice as much for spinning at Sonoma than you do at St. Petersburg. With no double-points or the screwy points system for Indianapolis 500 qualifying, Sunday’s contact with Will Power would not have cost Montoya the championship.

Racing is made up of “ifs” and “buts” already. It’s in the nature of the sport. I don’t think there needs to be any more unnecessary conjecture thrown into a discussion about championships.

Most regular readers of this site will not be surprised to learn that I’m opposed to double-points. To me – it’s contrived, manufactured and artificial drama; and completely unnecessary.

I’ve always thought that when it comes to points – the simpler, the better. In all honesty, CART had the best system. Twenty points for a win, sixteen for second, fourteen for third until it graduates down to a single point for twelfth place. Anyone placing lower than twelfth, received no points. After all, should a driver really receive points simply for showing up and starting a race? One point was awarded for the pole and another for leading the most laps. There was no point for simply leading a race. The maximum number of points in any weekend was twenty-two. That applied across the entire schedule. No one race was more important than the other.

An NFL team plays a sixteen-game schedule. Each game counts the same. Colt fans may prefer to beat New England more than any other team on their schedule, but beating the Titans counts just as much as beating the Patriots. That’s the way iit should be and that’s how it should be in racing also.

George Phillips

26 Responses to “Is It Time For Double-Points To Go?”

  1. Agree completely George…
    Double points and convoluted 500 qual points must go.
    Go back to CART point system…

  2. Br!an McKay Says:

    I agree.

  3. The other point to make is he did the same thing Helio did the last time he was in the lead for the championship: he decided to just coast and not try to win races. If you really want to be the IndyCar Champion, then drive like you want it! Don’t try to protect your lead by just making sure you get top ten finishes to protect your points lead.

    Montonya should be blaming himself. Instead of whining (or whinging, in Aussie-speak) about boohoohoo double points, my teammate cut me off, etc. he should be saying, what a horse’s ass I am! If I had tried harder and gotten just one more podium finish I would have won the championship. If only I hadn’t been such a lazy ass!

    I did like Robin Miller’s comment today about the Captain lining up all his drivers, walking down the line, and Moe slapping them, Three Stooges’ style.

  4. I find it odd that one would call Montoya a self-centered jerk for complaining about double points and then write a column advocating for getting rid of double points. I think we should allow the drivers to be human beings when they express their feelings immediately after a race and not be so judgemental.

    Having said that, I agree that double points for any race is a bad idea. And, as I have stated here previously, when you race not to lose, you lose.

    • My comment was that even though he acted like a jerk, I was agreeing with him regarding double-points.

      I agree that drivers shouldn’t be programmed robots in corporate-speak. But I also appreciate seeing drivers handle adversity with a little class and dignity. – GP

      • I just get more than weary of reading that this driver is a jerk, that driver is dull and boring, blah, blah, blah. Racing through the decades has had many drivers, many very good drivers who did not always handle losing to your standards. When you see the man after a race with his wife and holding his children, do you see a jerk?

      • Is Montoya a “jerk”, or is he just honest? A few years ago I was seated at a lunch table with JPM during an IndyCar pre-race presser. JPM is an easy going guy and it was a great lunch. He has a built-in BS detector and he is too honest for his own good. Does that make him a “jerk”, or just a guy who shoots too straight? He was right about double points at Sonoma; he probably could have delivered the message later in a more circumspect way.

  5. I agree, ditch the double points and the higher level calculus required to award points for the 500 qualifying. Leave the gimmicks to the taxicabs.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I think those drivers and fans decrying the Indy 500 qualifying points structure as difficult to understand are confusing the points structure with the qualifying procedure itself. While the qualifying procedure is fairly complicated, the points structure is pretty simple.
      The top first day qualifier earns 33 points, second 32 points, third 31 points, and so on down to the 33rd qualifier. The nine cars in the “Fast 9” shootout the next day, in similar fashion, earn 9 to 1 additional points inverse of their qualifying position.

  6. I would agree with eliminating double points. However I disagree about Indy Qualifying. Having attended 31 Pole Days at Indy I can tell you that Pole Day was once as amazing as race day. It would be again if they went back to the old qualifying rules and the cars were just fast enough that a new track record could possibly happen. As part of making Pole Day what it was I think extra points should be awarded for it. But they need to ditch the gimmicks.

  7. keep it simple.

  8. Gurney Eagle Says:

    Double points at Indy 500 only (qualifying and race).

  9. As much as I appreciated the drama that double points offered up on Sunday, I’m definitely not a fan of double points. As it sits now, I actually really like the “standard” IndyCar points system. A win pays the same, proportionally, over a 2nd place as the old CART system did (a 25% premium, 50 points to 40, vs. 20 points to 16 in CART), and I actually like that the positions behind 12th earn points, as those minor points actually allow the mid-pack and rear-of-the-pack teams to differentiate themselves in the final points standings, which they probably couldn’t do as well if they just scored a string of “zeroes” all season long.

    A bit of personal promotion here, but I really like (and I will admit to being totally biased) a system that I use for my All Racing Fantasy League. For finishing positions, it’s the exact same system as IndyCar uses: 50-40-35-32-30-28-26-24-22-20-19 and so on down by 1 point per position. But instead of one point for pole, I award three, encouraging folks to really roll the dice and go for it on Saturday. I also award two for leading the most laps and two for the fastest lap in the race, as those seven total potential bonus points provide incentive to, ahem…GO FAST. No points awarded for simply leading a lap. Anybody can do that, just by staying out during pit rotations. That’s lame. Also, no double points or super convoluted points for Indy qualifying, either. Sweeping all 57 total points for a weekend can really allow somebody to chase down the points leader down the stretch of the season (like Dixon did this year). Anyway, here’s how this year’s top-5 wound up using my system:

    1 – Scott Dixon
    2 – Juan Pablo Montoya – 1 point behind Dixon
    3 – Graham Rahal – 30 points behind Dixon
    4 – Will Power – 37 points behind Dixon
    5 – Helio Castroneves – 52 points behind Dixon

    I don’t have all the stats in front of me, but I’m pretty sure that Montoya, Graham and Dixon were the three in championship contention going into Sonoma (with Power and Helio also mathematically eligible, but well back). Dixon essentially won out due to scoring some 18 bonus points over the season versus Montoya’s eight or nine (I forget, but I think Dixon had the second most bonus points behind Power’s 30, and Montoya scored ten or so less than Dixon).

    Again, this is my nerdy take on things. I’d prefer if these few adjustments were made, but I’m pretty happy with the system as it sits now…preferably without the double points.

    • DZ-groundedeffects Says:

      I like it!

      I vote yes to proceed with it in 2016 and beyond.

      (that and $3.75 will get you coffee and a pastry at Dunkin)

  10. I hate to nitpick, but: A win over New England can indeed count for more than a win vs. Tennessee if the Patriots have a better record and the post season tiebreaker rules come into effect. So yes, one game can indeed count for more than others.

    That said, I don’t mean to detract from George’s point: In racing, the double-points races are annointed in advance, whereas in the NFL season, the win/loss record is earned. So it’s not quite the same thing, admittedly. It is true that NFL games are not necessarily all equal, but it’s also true that the inequality is not dictated by the league, but rather by play on the field.

  11. I wonder if the fans in the stands had a clue what was going on points-wise. Maybe they had giant tv screens somewhere or everyone spent the day with their heads buried in their smart phones. I’d be bewildered and would probably choose to watch on TV next year.

  12. I don’t mind the basic point structure used now (excluding double points) but I do prefer the CART structure. It could be worse, the top four in the standings could have a “winner” take all battle the last race.

  13. I agree. It seems contrived and more like manufactured drama to me.

  14. billytheskink Says:

    While I do prefer the CART top 12-position system and the concept of all races counting the same on the points table, I don’t mind if some races are worth more points than others… provided those races ask more of teams and drivers than others. This was the reasoning behind the longtime USAC points system and practically every Indycar points system used prior to 1983 (even CART’s), all of which awarded increasing levels of points based on increasing race distance. While the differences between a 500 mile race and a 200 mile race may not be as large as they once were, longer and higher-speed races do still require a bit more of drivers and teams than “typical” races do.

    This is also why I do not mind that extra points are awarded for Indy 500 qualifying (though I would argue too many are given), as it asks teams to do more than they would on a “typical” race weekend, especially with the current system that requires re-qualifying. I agreed with the decision to award points for the Iowa heat race “feature” in 2013 for these reasons as well. In a more ideal world, the extra competition Indycar asks of teams and drivers would be incentivized by prize money instead of points, much like the old Marlboro Challenge (or NASCAR’s “all-star” races). Given Indycar’s likely current financial position, points are a much more cost-effective currency to dole out.

    The current system’s double points, however, do not use this reasoning. Montoya is clearly chewing on sour grapes with his complaints about them, but I am in agreement that they should not be offered, at least not the way they were this season.

  15. David Rinehart Says:

    Really tired of the “Penske Whine” from Montoya, Power and Cindric every time things don’t go their way.

  16. I prefer the same points for every race. Since a week of practice goes into Indy 500 qualifying, I am OK with points for qualifying position.
    How about going back to the days when if it is necessary to throw a yellow, it is done, tems can decide whether or not to pit, and when. As soon as the need for the yellow is eliminated, the green is immediately displayed and racing resumes.

  17. I have a little bit different take… I will give you the double points on the final race is to manufacture drama and could understand abolishing going forward. However, I think Indy 500 should still be awarded double points for race and qualifying. The time and effort put into both throughout the two plus weeks (formerly the month of may) is so unique and different from any other race that Indy deserves more points related to its race and quals. All other races are qualified and ran in the matter of two days. I don’t need to tell you how special the Indianapolis 500 is and in my opinion that goes hand in hand with the entire series and points system.

    Great job as always and enjoy reading your blog each week.

  18. If points were not awarded for finishing P13 or lower…would there not be some sort of alternate/parallel system required to rank the top 20-24 teams for Leaders’ Circle shares in the next year?

  19. I like the standard Indycar point system but to be honest I enjoyed double points. It made Indy matter more and helped keep the title close. Typically Indycar hasn’t needed this… but if they want to end the season at Sonoma double points for the finale aren’t a bad idea. Further IF double points are given out earlier in the year, then the finale NEEDS to be double points or the odds of a title walk away go up by a lot. So either no double points or double points for Indy/Season finale at minimum. I enjoyed the double points for long oval system last year and I like points for Indy qualifying because it makes oval performance matter.

  20. I often wondered why only one point is awarded for pole. I think it should be a couple more. And why not only have bonus points for the driver who lead the most laps? I honestly don’t know the history here.

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