SPEEDWAY, Ind. The man who invented the current points system for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series was buried Wednesday.
But his legacy, warts and all, will survive as long as the sport continues to place a greater value on consistency than performance.
Bob Latford, one of racing's true pioneers, died last week in his Concord, N.C., home after a lengthy illness. Gone is his walking knowledge of the sport and his trademark handlebar mustache.
But he left behind a sport that, with his help, found its way into America's consciousness.
Although his point structure doesn't put a lot of weight on winning races and offers no bonus for winning a pole position it emphasizes consistency throughout the 10-month seas-on.
To be a series champion in NASCAR, a driver doesn't necessarily have to win the most races. He just needs to avoid the most problems.
Matt Kenseth has finished every race this year. More important, he's finished on the lead lap in 18 of the first 20 races, including last Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono, Pa. That's why he has a 232-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the series standings.
That lead means he could skip this Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and still would likely have a three-digit lead.
Latford wanted to reward the race team that shows up every week and is the best prepared week after week. Kenseth fits that definition to the letter.
Kenseth has won just one race this year. Nonetheless, he has the biggest points lead after 20 races in the sport's history.
PIT STOPS: Mike Skinner will drive the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac for MB2 Motorsports for the next month. He will replace Mike Wallace, who was driving in relief of Jerry Nadeau, who was injured in a crash May 2. Skinner will debut with the team this week at Indianapolis and will drive until the Southern 500 later this month. Boris Said, a road-racing specialist, will drive the car next week at Watkins Glen, N.Y. UAW became the newest sponsor to announceit won't return in 2004. Theunion joined Pennzoil, Citgo and Sirius Satellite Radios as sponsors ending their deals in racing.
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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