There is Still Some Good News Out There

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Just when you thought there was no good news to be found, we learned this little nugget – the NTT IndyCar Series will not be awarding double-points at the season-finale this year. Sine 2015, the series has awarded double-points for the Indianapolis 500 and the season-finale.

When the schedule was announced last September, Laguna Seca was scheduled to be the season-finale for the second season in a row. When the latter part of the schedule was shifted around last week for the re-scheduling of the Indianapolis 500, it was also announced as almost an afterthought that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would run after all. It would be rescheduled at a later date after the race at Laguna Seca, and instead of it serving as the traditional season-opener; it would close out the abbreviated 2020 season. What leaves some skeptical is that while it appears at the end of the schedule – its date is listed as TBD.

It really matters not where the season-finale takes place. At this point, I just hope there’s a season to finish. But wherever the season finishes up, there will be no double-points offered this season.

Most longtime readers know my stance on double-points. I don’t like them. I don’t like them for the Indianapolis 500 and I sure don’t like them for the season-finale. Most don’t agree with my reasoning on awarding double-points for the Indianapolis 500. They see it as a special race that should be given special treatment for winning it. I get that.

My reasons against it are rooted in the CART point system, which I always thought was the best overall points system of any racing series. In the old days of USAC, points were awarded on the basis of the length of the race. So a 500-mile race obviously paid a lot more than a 200-mile race. CART treated every race equally. It didn’t matter if you won the Indianapolis 500 or Belle Isle – you earned the same amount of points.

In those days, Formula One awarded points for only the Top-Six in each race. You could finish in the Top-Ten in every single race, but if you never placed higher than seventh – you didn’t score a single point for the season. That was just a little too restrictive. Today’s IndyCar point system awards points just for showing up. In my opinion, that’s a little too generous. The CART point system awarded points to the Top-Twelve finishers. That’s about right. If you finished thirteenth or worse in a race, do you really deserve points?

For a few years, the Indianapolis 500 didn’t even count toward the CART points battle. I believe 1984 was the first year that results in the USAC-sanctioned Indianapolis 500 counted toward the CART championship. But given the animosity between CART and USAC, CART was certainly not going to award more points for a USAC race than one of their own races.

I always liked that fact. I always felt like a series was going down a slippery slope when it publicly acknowledged that one race on a schedule was deemed more important than other races. I thought it helped promote the series to smaller tracks, such as Iowa or Barber, that theirs paid as many points as winning the Indianapolis 500. That went away in 2015, when they started doubling the points for drinking milk in May.

While most fans didn’t agree with my point of view on double-points for the Indianapolis 500, most were in agreement that it was wrong to pay double-points for the season-finale. I found it insulting that a boring race like Sonoma would pay double-points, simply because of its place on the schedule.

The only real reason this rule was put in place was because IndyCar CEO was fearful of the off-chance that the champion might be crowned before the series made it to the season-finale. The last time this happened was in 2004, when Tony Kanaan clinched the championship at Fontana, one race before the season-final at Texas. Is that really the worst thing that can happen?

It’s not like the NFL, when a team has a playoff berth clinched and they rest their starters for the last regular season game. Racers race, no matter where they are in the standings. Although Kanaan had already clinched the season championship and had nothing to race for, where do you think he finished that day? He finished second and the entire field put on a heck of a show.

There is just something about awarding double-points for the season-finale that feels slimy. There are kinder words than that, if you think that’s too harsh. Words like contrived, manufactured, artificial, fake and phony also come to mind and certainly apply.

When the 2020 schedule was announced, Roger Penske was not yet even entertaining buying the series from the Hulman-George family. Mark Miles was still completely in charge and he saw no reason to get rid of double-points for either race. On Monday, we were told that due to the abbreviated 2020 schedule, they would not be awarded at the season-finale this year. My guess is that Roger Penske never cared for the double-points to be awarded in the season – especially since they cost his driver, Juan Montoya, the championship in 2015.

So the coronavirus is being blamed for doing away with the season-ending double-points for this season. I’ll predict that they are now gone for good and will never return for any season-finale. They are unneeded. My guess is also that Roger Penske is in favor of double-points for the crown jewel of his series – the Indianapolis 500 and they will stay. I have no problem with that. If you are going to add more points for any race, that’s the one to do it with.

George Phillips

4 Responses to “There is Still Some Good News Out There”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    Indy does at least demand more from teams and drivers than the typical race in order to justify the double points. So too did the other 500 mile races when they were counted for double points in 2014. The issue with double points at the Sonoma and Laguna Seca finales that I always had was that they were typical IndyCar road races, around 200 miles with no special practice or qualifying schedules or even particularly special TV coverage (like Indy qualifying, which is practically its own race event due to the TV coverage). They did not demand any more than Barber or Mid-Ohio or any other natural terrain road course.

    Some historical point system notes:

    The Indy 500 did count for CART points in its first two seasons in 1979 and 1980 (part of the half-season CART/USAC union’s “Championship Racing League”), left the points-paying schedule in 1981 and 1982, and then returned in 1983.

    CART and USAC used the same point system in 1979 and 1980, which paid points to all entries and increased points available for longer race distances. So CART did award more points for Indy than the typical race during those years, though Indy wasn’t worth any more than any other 500 mile race.

    Systems paying points to only the top 12 predate CART and even the Formula 1 world championship. USAC paid points to only the top 12 from its inception until 1977 and the first such system was put in place by AAA in 1937. AAA point systems prior to 1937 typically paid points out to the top 10 with some paying only the top 5-8 in shorter races. All of these systems awarded more points for longer race distances.

  2. I am sure it’s been discussed previously however rather than pay double points for the 500 race results, what is the down side of paying points for qualifying results as qualifying is a big deal in its own self

  3. It’s good to see the IndyCar Series presented by Penske Entertainment doing away with double points for the final round of the season.
    I agree that Montoya really should have won the 2015 title. But I guess everybody had accepted double points for the season finale then, so he didn’t.

  4. discodavid26 Says:

    couldn’t agree with you any more on probably any other subject i,ve always believed you should have two “traditional championships 1 for drivers and one for teams like f1 with all events equal with points only for top 9-12 cars………. then have a engine cup and nations cup like indy had when mansell was over your side of the pond before finally also have two more”sponsored” “chase” style competitions e.g the coca cola drivers title and coca cola team championships these while sounding like the dreadful nascar knockout playoff format tournament would actually be identical to the normal traditional championships except the points awarded after each race would get “times-ed” x by the round number! so after the 1st race there would be no difference but the next race would be double points the triple etc etc … this means if somebody wins the traditional championship early they would still have a fight on to win the “chase style” equivalent as in a 20 round season the last race would be worth 20 times more points then the 1st race in a season and drivers and teams would have the special “double” seasons when they win both to aim for as do many europan soccer teams when they win both there domestic league and cups in the same season.

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