NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR officials may weigh 'regular season' bonus

LOUDON, N.H. - NASCAR is considering creating a reward for the winner of the "regular season" in response to the huge points lead Jeff Gordon built before the Chase for the championship.

NASCAR chairman Brian France said earlier this week he is willing to explore the idea of rewarding the driver who is leading the points at the end of the 26th race of the season. Gordon built a lead of more than 300 points, but lost all of it when the field was reset this week for the Chase for the championship.

Gordon will start the Chase in second place based on the new seeding process. Jimmie Johnson, his teammate, is the new leader based on his six regular season victories.

Gordon said Friday that he doesn't feel slighted, but would like to see NASCAR address it going forward.

"If I didn't know what the rules were going into the season, I'd say we got the shaft. But that's not the case," Gordon said.

"Ever since they've had the Chase, they've said what it is. But I do think they're going to have to revisit now.

"If you're going to have incentives for guys to win races, you have to have some kind of incentive for a guy to go out there and be the points leader at that point. I wouldn't be surprised if they revisit that a little bit."

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Friday that the sanctioning body would discuss the issue during the offseason. Among the ideas being kicked around: additional bonus points as part of a seeding formula, more prize money or a trophy - different from the Nextel Cup.

"I think there's some merit to what 'Four-Time' is saying," Hunter said. "We've already had some conversations and it will be a hot topic this winter."

France has been unafraid to tweak the Chase format, which he developed before the 2004 season. The original version saw the top-10 drivers after 26 races, and any driver within 400 points of the leader, advance to a 10-race title hunt.

But he widened the field to 12 this season, eliminated the 400-point qualifier and implemented a seeding system that awarded bonus points for wins. Gordon had four of them, good enough for second place in the initial seedings. He trails Johnson by 20 points.

Johnson, meanwhile, leads 12th-place driver Clint Bowyer by 60 points based on his wins.

Jeff Burton, who is starting the Chase in 10th, could sympathize for Gordon but said it's dangerous to continue tweaking the system.

"Everybody knew going in what the points were and that there's been a cry in the public and in the media about wins being more important than just finishing fifth," he said.

"That's what this point structure does. It's an example of `Be careful of what you ask for.'

"It's been a constant cry in the garage from fans and media about wins should mean more. Now they do, now the guy that led the points pretty much the whole time is second. There's always the other side of things."