By admin | September 13, 2010
By Richard Allen
There has never been a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ranks to win a championship without winning at least one race during the course of a season. Benny Parsons won once in 1973 while Matt Kenseth took only one checkered flag in his title season of 2003. Those were the closest instances of drivers almost going winless but still taking the championship.
This year’s Chase for the Championship offers one of the best opportunities for that phenomenon to happen since the modern era of NASCAR began in 1972.
Of the twelve drivers involved in the Chase five of them are winless to date. Those five drivers comprise nearly half the field and also represent five previous championships between Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.
Aside from Kenseth and Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer will be a part of the championship playoff despite not having won a single race.
But consider this, winning a championship over the course of the ten race playoff is certainly within the realm of possibility. Last year, Jimmie Johnson took the title with an average finish of 7.9 over the course of those final ten events. He scored four wins in that time to achieve that average. However, he also had a 38th place result mixed in with those wins.
While winning the championship without a win would seem highly unlikely, if one of these above mentioned drivers could eliminate the 38th place type finishes he could outpoint the competition with a string of steady results.
Jeff Gordon has had the type of season in 2010 that could potentially end with a championship without a single victory. His ten top-5s and thirteen top-10s show that he can run at the front. Should he find a way to add several top-5s to his totals without any finishes in the 30s there is no reason to believe he couldn’t win the big prize.
Carl Edwards has also shown some recent strength which could allow him to acquire his first title without a win. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton have not necessarily shown the speed to win a title in 2010 but their steady natures could give them a chance. Clint Bowyer would need a bit more consistency but he is in the Chase, so he has a chance.
The obvious problems for each of these drivers is that they are starting in a bit of a hole since they have not accumulated any bonus points. And, if any of these drivers is to win the title they do not have the luxury of a so called ‘Mulligan’ because of the fact that they are starting in that hole.
The odds are not in favor of a driver winning a championship without a win. But this year, the odds of such a thing happening are better than usual.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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