To keep motorsport events fair and consistent, most race series implement a standard points-scoring system that remains the same throughout every race. But some races are anomalies. IndyCar, for example, offers double points for the Indianapolis 500 and used to offer double points for the season finale. But should it stay that way?
Jack Benyon over at The Race has argued that, no, the Indy 500 shouldn’t be worth double points. I get where he’s coming from: a bad race at Indy can easily cost you a championship, which then costs us fans the excitement of a close title fight. Benyon also quotes Josef Newgarden, who would be much closer to the title had the 500 been worth the regular amount of points, who says that he’s not a fan of the 500 double points rule. Benyon goes one step further and advocates for getting rid of qualifying points.
I’m going to be honest here: I’ve always been on the fence about double points, but at the Indy 500, it makes sense. While it does hearken back to the days when points were awarded based on the length — and, by that thinking, the difficulty — of a race, something like the 500 merited a larger number of points than a normal race at, say, Road America, the rule stuck around.
There are a lot of traditions that circulate the 500, but this is one that I still agree with. The Indy 500 is a race that exists almost outside of the IndyCar championship as a whole. It’s often longer. It generally has a significantly bigger field than the rest of the season. Practice, qualifying, and the race are stretched out over the period of weeks, not a single weekend. If teams are going to be spending a serious portion of the season preparing for one race, that race better be damn well worth it.
In that context, I think double points for that race is totally fine. But, like Fred Smith from Road & Track noted, the whole “double points at the 500" thing could be emphasized a little greater. The gravitas of the 500 itself tends to overshadow the rest of the IndyCar championship, but we could definitely do to point out that this race not only creates history but is going to completely change the complexion of the championship somewhere down the road.
The 2021 IndyCar championship could have been a lot closer, but it’s also closer than many championships we race fans watch on a regular basis. It’s great when it happens, but fans aren’t owed a nail-biter of a championship, one that comes down to the final corner of the final race. Sometimes, shit happens. Sometimes, one bad race is really all it takes to blow a championship. That’s what racing is all about.