The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has used several point systems since its inception in 1949. NASCAR designed the current system, which is a slightly modified version of the one in place since the 1975 season. It has built-in incentives that reward teams for winning, leading laps and finishing near the front. The system also rewards consistency throughout the season by awarding points to every competitor in each race and awarding the same number of points at each event—regardless of its length or venue.
Given the fierce competition within the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the number of teams capable of winning on any given weekend, a finish in the top five or top 10 is regarded as an admirable effort. Therefore, the winner of each event is awarded 10 points more than the driver who finishes in second place. The remaining top-five finishers are rewarded with a five-point separation between themselves and the next-highest finisher. Positions six through 10 are awarded a four-point separation. Three points separate each finishing position from 11th through the end of the field, regardless of the number of starters. (See chart.) Rewarding the winner, top five and top 10 finishers in this manner promotes not just performance, but consistency as well.
The only way a driver can receive bonus points is to lead a race. Five points are awarded to any driver who leads at least one lap. An additional five points are awarded to the driver who leads the most laps during each event. Bonus points are an important part of the system because they give value to leading a race at any time. That creates good, hard racing throughout the event. The extra bonus for leading the most laps improves the race in two ways: It's an incentive to stay in the lead, even in the early or middle stages of the race, and it rewards those drivers who race hard all day but fail to finish due to an accident or mechanical problem.
CHASE FOR THE NASCAR NEXTEL CUP:
Before the first of the final 10 races of the season, the point totals for top 10 drivers in the standings (or any other driver within 400 points of the leader) are reassigned, with the driver in the first position receiving 5050 points and each subsequent driver receiving five points less per position than the driver ahead of him. Points for each of the final 10 events are then assigned according to finishing positions and leading laps exactly as described above.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points are awarded to the starting driver of each car, regardless of who is driving at the finish. The starting driver must take the green flag and complete at least one lap before turning the car over to a relief driver. Any qualified NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver may drive in relief. In some cases, a driver without a scheduled ride for a particular race may make practice laps in anticipation of driving in relief for someone during the race. Other times, starters who have fallen out of an event may make themselves available to take over another car if needed.
In cases where two or more drivers have the same number of points, the number of wins during the season is used to break the tie. Successive tiebreakers are the number of second-place finishes, third-place finishes and so on until the tie is broken.
Owner points are distributed in the same manner as driver points except that the owner receives points based on the performance of the car, regardless of who drives it. For example, the owner of a winning car would receive 180 points for the first-place finish and five bonus points for leading at least one lap for a total of 185 points. If that particular car happened to lead the most laps during the race, an additional five bonus points would be awarded, and the owner would receive 190 points. Owner point standings are used to determine starting lineups when qualifying is canceled, starting positions when identical qualifying times are posted, preference for provisional starting spots and the distribution of NASCAR plan money.