"Holy Toledo!"

January 10, 2008

NHRA Announces New Changes To The Countdown For 2008

Filed under: NHRA — Bill @ 11:32 pm

After much speculation the NHRA announced it’s changes for the upcoming 2008 POWERAde Countdown To The Championship. Unfortunately it was not the changes some had hoped for, but it does address key issues.

Based upon what I see there seems to be only four changes in the so-called playoff system.

Change #1- “Countdown To 10”
The biggest change is that the Countdown To Eight is no longer, it will now become the Countdown To Ten. The first 18 races (12 for Pro Stock Motorcycle), up to and including the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will determine which drivers move on to the “playoffs” (why they choose to use that word still baffles me). This year instead of 8 drivers moving on there will be 10 (Melanie Troxel sure wishes this rule was in affect last season).

Change #2- “18 Races”
Last year the first 17 races, not including the U.S. Nationals determined the top 8. This season it will take 18 races, including the U.S. Nationals to determine the top 10. I strongly agree with this decision. Don’t make the big boys play conservative at the biggest race of the year, this change allows everyone to run all out.

Change #3- “Point Leaders Bonus”
Point leaders will be given a 20 point bonus at the start of each of the three Countdown elimination phases.

Last season the driver who finished first in each of the Countdown phases started the next phase with only a 10 point advantage. This year they will start with a 30 point lead. Drivers 2 thru 10 will again have their points restructured by 10 points per order of finish.

Change #4- “Adding A Race”
The decision to include the U.S. Nationals in the first phase of the Countdown means that in order to have 6 races left after the Countdown To Ten is decided a new race had to be added to the schedule. NHRA has announce that there will be a new national event (location to be announced) two weeks after the race at Indy. Following the “T.B.A. race” will be Dallas, Memphis, & Richmond, finishing up with Las Vegas & Pomona.

In Review:
18 races determine the Top 10,
instead of 17 races to determine the Top 8
4 races determine the Top 4
2 races determine the Champion

Point leaders at the end of the Countdown To Ten, Countdown To Four, & Countdown To One will start with a 30 point lead (instead of 10).

Applying the new 2008 point system to last year’s results, the extra 20 pt. leaders bonus would have made Hot Rod Fuller the Top Fuel champion instead of Tony Schumacher. All the other professional categories would have remained the same.

One commonly discussed criticism of the Countdown plan is that only two races (Las Vegas & Pomona) ultimately determine a years worth of effort for the top four drivers. Many had hoped that the NHRA would alter the Countdown To One phase from two races to three. ESPN announcer Mike Dunn openly debated this issue on he air, he felt that this was the only flaw in the NHRA plan. As proof to his argument Tony Pedregon won one race (Vegas), and as a result won the Funny Car title (despite losing in the 1st round at Pomona).

Perhaps the new “Leaders Bonus” is the best the NHRA could do to address this issue at this time.

No matter where you stand on this issue all drag racing fans can rejoice in knowing that the first day of the 2008 season is only 27 days away!
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