Most sports are all or nothing endeavors. If you've played sports, you've probably heard the expression "There's no points for second place." That saying doesn't hold true in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series, where every car driver who starts a race is guaranteed at least 34 points for finishing last. In NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), points are compiled over a 36-race season, beginning in February and ending in November. The driver with the most points at the end of the season is declared the Winston Cup champion.

Winston Cup Points
Finish Points Finish Points
1 175 23 94
2 170 24 91
3 165 25 88
4 160 26 85
5 155 27 82
6 150 28 79
7 146 29 76
8 142 30 73
9 138 31 70
10 134 32 67
11 130 33 64
12 127 34 61
13 124 35 58
14 121 36 55
15 118 37 52
16 115 38 49
17 112 39 46
18 109 40 43
19 106 41 40
20 103 42 37
21 100 43 34
22 97 -- --

There are two basic ways to score points in a NASCAR Winston Cup race:

  • Finishing position
  • Bonus points

As if winning a race weren't enough incentive for a driver to do his best, the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit has a points system that rewards those who finish in the top 10 of each race. This means that consistency, not just winning the most races throughout a season, determines who becomes the Winston Cup champion for any given year. In 2000, Tony Stewart won six races, the most of any Winston Cup Driver, but he had only 12 top five finishes and 23 top 10 finishes. Stewart finished sixth in the points standings. Bobby Labonte, who won the 2000 points championship, took the checkered flag in four races, and had 19 top five finishes and 24 top 10 finishes.

The current point system has been in use since 1975. Under this system, the winner receives 175 points and the next four finishers are separated by five points each. Then, the sixth through tenth place finishers are separated by four points and everyone else is separated by three points thereafter. The table on the right shows how many points each finishing position is worth.

Drivers also receive five bonus points if they lead at least one lap during the race. Also, the driver that leads the most laps of a race receives another five points. So, under this system, a driver finishing in second place could receive just as many points as the winner. For instance, a race winner receives 175 points plus five points for leading a lap, which equals 180 points. The second place driver receives 170 points, plus five for leading a lap and another five points if he led the most laps, which equals 180 points. This shows how important it is for drivers to get to the front of the pack during a race. Of course, the winner will get a much bigger payday then the second place finisher.

At the end of the season, if two drivers have the same number of points, the driver who has won the most races that season wins the tiebreaker. If the drivers are still tied, they are separated by second place, third place, fourth place finishes, etc. until the tie is broken.

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