It’s Time for Double-Points to Go!

Mrs. Oilpressure and I are on our way to IMS this morning, to catch a day of practice today, Fast Friday tomorrow and then the Qualifying weekend. Since today is a travel day and we’re not real sure when we get to the track, we won’t start doing our posting from the track until Friday. The qualifying format has changed and I’ll get more into that in tomorrow’s post, also. But one of the changes dovetails into my topic today – double points.

Twelve points will be on the table for whoever wins the pole this weekend. That’s in addition to the 106 possible points available to the winner on Race Day – which is double of what is available on any other race weekend.

I’ve never been a fan of double-points.

When CART first came into existence, the Indianapolis 500 paid zero points toward the CART championship. It paid toward the USAC championship but not CART. I’m relying on my memory, which is a scary thing – but I believe CART started counting Indianapolis 500 finishes as a points paying race in 1982. What I always liked about the CART system was that it put no emphasis on one race. The Indianapolis 500 counted as much as Nazareth or Toronto.

The IRL/IndyCar points system did the same thing for years. Iowa and Barber counted as much as the Indianapolis 500. Every race counted the same. That all changed in 2015, when IndyCar decided that the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale at Sonoma needed to pay double-points.

When this was first announced, I disliked it immediately because it seemed like an unnecessary gimmick. I felt like the Indianapolis 500 needed no extra hype to make it relevant. It was strong enough as a stand-alone event. Double-points in the season finale cheapened the championship, in my opinion. A driver could do all the right things throughout the season, but if they had any type of problem – another driver could seemingly come out of nowhere and steal a championship. This was more reminiscent of something NASCAR would do than IndyCar.

Fast-forward to 2022. Double-points at the season finale have mercifully gone by the wayside, but they are still a thing for the Indianapolis 500 for some strange reason. Now that we’ve seen the double-points at work, I like them even less than before.

Aside from the gimmicky aspect, the double-points can really be harmful to a driver’s chances of winning the championship. Last year, Graham Rahal finished thirty-second in the Indianapolis 500, when his crew failed to tighten a wheel nut. As you can imagine, the wheel did not stay on the car for very long; causing Rahal to crash into the Turn Two wall.

Heading into the race, Rahal had a podium, two fifth-place finishes and a seventh to begin the season. He was comfortably in fifth place, and only thirty-nine points behind points leader Scott Dixon. After the Indianapolis 500, Rahal was in eighth and exactly 100 points behind new points leader Alex Palou. Rahal never really recovered from that deep hole that the 500 put him in. I know that some will say his team put him there, but the point is that with double-points – one mistake in the Indianapolis 500 can put you so far behind, you’ll never catch up. Rahal finished seventh in the final points standings.

Had Palou won instead of finishing second, you could add another twenty points to the difference between Palou and Rahal. Fortunately for Rahal and other series regulars that had poor finishes – the race was won by someone running a partial schedule and not a series regular front-runner.

I really don’t think that when the double-points concept was put into place, they did it with the idea of ruining a driver’s season early. But that has turned out to be the unintended consequence of that rule. Practically every season, there is a driver like Rahal that has had their season derailed by a bad finish in the Indianapolis 500. It’s bad enough when a driver wads up a car in the biggest race of the season, but when they realize they are about to lose a lot of ground to all of their competitors – the misery intensifies.

As Kevin Lee pointed out on Trackside last week, no driver goes into the Indianapolis 500 thinking of points. They have one thing on their mind – winning the Indianapolis 500. Do we really want points creeping into a driver’s mind as they are about to make a move that could launch them into immortality? In 1989, would Al Unser, Jr. have made the moves he did against Emerson Fittipaldi in the closing stages of the race if he was worried about throwing away double second-place points? Actually, he probably would have – but another driver may have been content with those ninety points and deprived fans of a legendary moment that is still talked about more than thirty years later.

The point is, let’s not confuse things. The Indianapolis 500 needs no gimmick. If they want to create an incentive – why don’t they double the purse instead of the points? Money is something we can all relate to. Make it big enough that drivers from all over the world might want to come and try this one race for the chance at a massive payday.

I am hopeful that this year will be the last season for double-points at the Indianapolis 500 or any other race. Make the points standard across the board. I’m not sure that anyone is really a big fan of double-points, but now that we’ve seen how they can have a detrimental effect on a driver’s season – I think their time has come and gone.

George Phillips

22 Responses to “It’s Time for Double-Points to Go!”

  1. Big Mac Says:

    George, for the most part, you’re attacking a strawman. The reason why the Indy 500 pays double points has nothing to do with giving it “extra hype to make it relevant.” Nor is there any reason to believe that the availability of double points is going to cause drivers to settle for second place instead of trying for first. If that was going to happen, you’d think it would have happened by now, as double points for the 500 have been around for quite some time. Nor is there any reason to think that someone would do so. Winning the 500 is at least as important as winning the championship, so why would a driver throw away an excellent chance at the 500 in order to lock in a few championship points that probably won’t even matter at the end of the year, since there are rarely more than two or three drivers who are close to the season championship at the end of the season, and in May, we don’t know who those drivers will be? (In fact, the logical conclusion of your argument here is that the 500 shouldn’t pay *any* points, in order to avoid tempting the drivers to lay up instead of going for the green, but I think that would be absurd.)

    As for your final argument—that awarding double points can ruin a driver’s season early: I think that argument is legitimate, but I also think it’s overstated. Plenty of drivers have two bad races in a row, which is equivalent to a bad finish in a double-points race, and do just fine. Alex Palou had a 27th place finish last place at the second IMS road course race followed by a 20th at Gateway, and he won the championship.

    The concept behind awarding double-points for the 500 is that the Indy 500 is more important than Barber or Road America, so the standings should reflect reality instead of pretending that all races are the same. That’s why I support double-points. If you have a bad day in a double-points race, and that has a bigger impact on your season than a bad day in another race, that’s fine. Having a bad day in the most important race *should* have a bigger impact on your chance at winning the season championship than having a bad day in an ordinary race. it’s like a team having a bad day in a playoff game: it has a greater effect on your chances of winning a championship than a bad day in the regular season because playoff games are more important.

    Double points for the last race in the season were a gimmick that was designed to ensure an artificially close finish in the seasonal championship. I opposed them and I’m happy that they’re gone. But double points for the Indy 500 should stay.

    • George, I usually agree with your comments but on this subject i must agree with Big Mac. The 500 is special and should be treated as so, if you screw up or are the victim of fate TS, I believe if you would ask most drivers they would much rather win the 500 then the championship

      • I agree they would all prefer to win the 500, but that doesn’t mean the 500 should count twice as much in the standings. F1 doesn’t give bonus points for Monaco and NASCAR keeps Daytona the same. Why should a driver be slammed into a hole for the season if a rookie takes him out at Indianapolis? Points and prestige/legacy are completely separate things.

        • billytheskink Says:

          NASCAR does offer additional points at Daytona by paying points in the Duel qualifying races. The 600 at Charlotte also pays additional points over a typical race as it has 4 stages to the typical race’s 3 stages. In both cases, only the top 10 in each Duel/the extra stage earn the additional points. Of course, these additional points are not on the level of double a typical race’s points.

    • billytheskink Says:

      You are not wrong that double points don’t generally ruin a driver’s season and they have never dramatically altered the final point standings. Graham Rahal would have finished 7th in the standings last season without double points as well and no driver who ran most of the races last season would have moved up or down more than 2 positions with the removal of double points.

  2. Hey George, I know you’re a huge Penske fans, but how about doing a column on the new “House of NO” at IMS?

    Here, I’ll list it all for you in no particular order:

    No CASH allowed at IMS
    No trees allowed at IMS Museum (which were there for 50 years)
    No Vintage cars on “Legend’s Day”
    No Collector’s Show on “Legend’s Day”
    No BALLOON RELEASE on Race Day!
    No Freedom 100
    No Two Seater program
    No Smoking (I don’t) in the largest outdoor stadium ever built!
    No affordable food and drink
    No 100 night out party
    No Bumping
    No new Track Records on Pole Day
    No affordable practice days ($20!)… whomever thinks raising prices
    will attract more people is an idiot.
    No 3rd OEM
    No Donald Davidson
    No Robin Miller

    I just started this list yesterday, I’m sure there are more. But damn! The place looks good. The restrooms have been painted and they have this huge useless video board behind the Pagoda!

    Whatever. This month the House of NO is open for business. Now, tell me again how Penske is going to improve my Hallowed Ground and its Month of May? Bueller? Bueller??

    Your buddy, Phil Kaiser

    PS: Check out my new single “Surveillance State” on my site!

    • This !

    • I’m not sure how much The Captain had to do with the loss of Robin Miller.

    • Alan Stewart Says:

      No CASH allowed at IMS — Welcome to 2022. If you insist on being archaic and bringing cash, use it to purchase a VISA card and whatever you don’t use at IMS you can use anywhere else that VISA is accepted.

      No trees allowed at IMS Museum (which were there for 50 years) — Doesn’t really matter.

      No Vintage cars on “Legend’s Day” — Interesting to see, but barely bumps the needle for most.

      No Collector’s Show on “Legend’s Day” — Go to Plainfield.

      No BALLOON RELEASE on Race Day! — They are still working on this and trying to find a viable option.

      No Freedom 100 — Understandable as to why.

      No Two Seater program — They still have it. Two days after the race is a session and there are others over the summer.

      No Smoking (I don’t) in the largest outdoor stadium ever built! — Not completely accurate. You can’t smoke in the stands (and I’m glad for that), but you can smoke elsewhere.

      No affordable food and drink — I don’t disagree with this one. BUT, you can bring your own food and drink, so this is kind of a moot point.

      No 100 night out party — They did have this. It was Feb. 18. Sorry you missed it. It’s not been held the previous two years for obvious reasons.

      No Bumping — This isn’t IMS’ fault.

      No new Track Records on Pole Day — You’re right. Again, not IMS’ fault.

      No affordable practice days ($20!)… whomever thinks raising prices will attract more people is an idiot. — Then don’t go. At it’s core, I disagree. $20 for all-day at IMS figures out to $3.33 an hour if you ONLY watch cars on track. A one-month pass for Peacock is about the price of a soft drink at IMS. Do whichever floats your boat.

      No 3rd OEM — Not IMS’ fault.

      No Donald Davidson — Not IMS’ fault.

      No Robin Miller — Not IMS’ fault.

      • Money is archaic? You have to be kidding. And a lot of people were furious over this at last years 500 after waiting in line for half an hour just to find out they wouldn’t take cash. Including me.

        No affordable practice days ($20!)… — Then don’t go. You realize a lot of people have quit going. Raising prices is insane.
        Do you work for Mr. Penske?

        Remember the league and the speedway are owned by the same group. The following are the fault of these groups for many reasons. A couple do predate the sale but it’s things they can do something about if they wanted to. Others belong completely to Roger Searle Penske. While you don’t care about many of these, others do:

        No CASH allowed at IMS
        No trees allowed at IMS Museum (which were there for 50 years)
        No Vintage cars on “Legend’s Day”
        No Collector’s Show on “Legend’s Day”
        No BALLOON RELEASE on Race Day!
        No Freedom 100
        No Bumping
        No new Track Records on Pole Day
        No affordable practice days ($20!)…
        No 3rd OEM

      • Man, you must be about 17….

        My Dollar says (paraphrasing) this bill is good for ALL debts, public AND PRIVATE. I’m not sure it’s legal for Penske to run it this way, but you check with the financial people and cash is a good way to go at the moment. And my wife’s Visa number was stolen by someone in California just last month. We use cash, and it’s our right, nee`, duty to do so nowadays.

        The trees around the Museum lot DID matter; you ever see how many people sat under those on hot May days? I did, because I was a Yellow Shirt at that little hut in front of the Museum for five years back in the ’90s. I know; before you were born….

        I don’t wanna go to Plainfield! I want our Legend’s Day Back!

        You cannot drive an Indy Car at The Track like one used to be able to; if they do still have the two seater program (which I’m dubious) it’s a well kept secret.

        You cannot smoke anywhere on the grounds. Period. Of course you can smoke in the middle of nowhere, but you’re not supposed to.

        Blah, blah, blah. You know, when I started going to IMS practices it was fifty damned cents. So get off my lawn, LOL!

  3. James T Suel Says:

    George I agree , I don’t like the double points at all. For me it’s just a gimmick! Yes iam old school, pure racing is all I care about. For me it’s simple, at the end of the season the driver with the most wins is the championship winner. I am also a fan of Roger Penske, but I tend to agree with Phil Kaiser . I think Penske is making some big mistakes. He has done a lot of good also.

  4. OliverW Says:

    I would get rid of the double points.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Money may be something we can all relate to, but points are a currency that Indycar can print.

    I agree that double points for the 500 are not necessary, but I don’t find them to be unjustified. The 500 really does ask quite a bit more of teams and drivers than any other race on the schedule.

  6. Yannick Says:

    If I remember correctly, the double-points were unnecessarily introduced to make the season finale more exciting after it had shifted from taking place on a superspeedway towards being held on a road course, and particularly one that was not known for close finishes, Sonoma. Also, F1 did it that year, too.

    It’s not like the double points were a prize for endurance unlike decades earlier when they were. Instead, in light of all those points mentioned above, they come across like more of a gimmick. Racing has been as close as ever in IndyCar, so the series clearly does not need any double points paying events.

    • billytheskink Says:

      The double points were introduced the year before the season finale moved to Sonoma, in 2014 (yes, the same year F1 tried it for their finale). Originally, they were offered for the “triple crown” of 500 mile races at Indy, Pocono, and Fontana, arguably to bring the amount of points offered at oval races closer to equal with the number of points offered at road/street races.

      With Fontana moved to the summer in 2015, Indycar then changed the system to award double points at just Indy and the finale, eventually dropping the double points for the finale during the reconfiguring of the 2020 season.

  7. agree with billytheskink:
    “Money may be something we can all relate to,
    but points are a currency that Indycar can print.”

  8. Mark Wick Says:

    Sometime in the last few days I heard a suggestion to drop double points for the race, but award points for each qualifying position with 33 points for pole, down to 1 for 33rd. Justification for this was that the time, effort, risk and expense put into qualifying almost equals another race.

    • billytheskink Says:

      That is somewhat similar to what Indycar did for Indy qualifying from 2014 to 2017 (the 2015 qualifying mess excluded), though Indycar added bonus points for the Fast 9 on top of that. I didn’t have a problem with it and would take it over double points.

  9. Britindycarfan26 Says:

    I’m on the fence on this generally I’m normally totally against double points … and think like f1 all races should be judged equal … unless shortened for weather and /or a serious red flag then half points is a good system if done with pre-set rules like f1 …… however I do have a bigger gribe with all the other indycar races awarding points to all cars in a 20-26 car field when it should only award points (note I said points not necessarily cash payments) to the top 9/10/12 cars maybe 15 at a push …… so once we get to Indy and especially an 33 car field Indy 500 (which in distance is over double most other races! … I do think the points being awarded do have to go deeper then normal … so while that still doesn’t mean the whole field get double points in order to go deeper I do think (un?) fortunately the race winner at least gets double with 2nd an 3rd being close to double too… but then with my metrics a driver going for a title in a two/three driver championship battle who had a poor Indy 500 would get “hit” a bit harder then just the current system off all cars getting double points so I can see why they have done it … but yes to summarise I hate double points but I hate the “points for all” system for all races FAR FAR more !

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