No changes to the Chase format expected in 2005

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said he will not make any changes to the new points system and that it is doing exactly what its suppose to do.

Brian France says he will keep the new points system in place for 2005. He is satisfied that the closest championship race in NASCAR history is proof that the new system works.

The new points system has been wonderful, it's created interest and a scenario that was unthinkable under the old system," France told the media. "Obviously, we were hoping to create drama all the way down to the last lap of the last race. That was our preference under the old system, and it just wasn't happening.

The biggest complaint France said he heard when the new system was announced was that one bad finish would ruin a driver's title hopes. France said Jimmie Johnson has proved that wrong.

After dropping to ninth in the standings with six races left, Johnson has used four victories to pull into second place, 18 points behind leader Kurt Busch.

"Everybody thought Jimmie Johnson was out, he had three bad races and everybody said you couldn't have one," France said. "Well, nobody thought about the way to climb back into races. That is to win. That is exactly what we wanted."

France also said he is also not going to award extra points to a race winner or have a points system within a points system.

Under the current scoring system: A win earns 180 points, a last-place finish gets 34 points. Five-point bonuses are given to any driver who leads a lap, and an additional five-point bonus is awarded for leading the most laps in a race.

France is particularly pleased with what the Chase has done for television ratings. Part of the reason he wanted the new system was to create drama that could match up with the NFL and baseball playoffs.

Although NBC's ratings didn't move at first — the first race was down 8 percent from last year, and the third race was down 2 percent — it's been a steady climb since. The race in Atlanta three weeks ago was up 21 percent from last year, and NASCAR expects the Miami finale to post similar numbers now that there is a five-driver battle.

It couldn't come at a better time for France, who is just starting to renegotiated NASCAR's television package. He said he was impressed with the $8 billion extension the NFL worked out last week with CBS and Fox.

NASCAR has a $2.8 billion deal with NBC and Fox that they signed in 2001 and expires at the end of the 2006 season.

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