By admin | May 19, 2011
By Richard Allen
As NASCAR approaches its Sprint All Star Challenge weekend and the stretch drive toward the cutoff for the Chase for the Championship there are a number of the sport’s biggest names and organizations who find themselves on the outside looking in on the all important top-10 of the standings.
Drivers from teams such as Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and Team Red Bull each have cars outside the top-15 and in serious jeopardy of being out of contention for the 2011 title.
Paul Menard(17th) and Jeff Burton(23rd) of RCR, Kasey Kahne(18th) and Brian Vickers(27th) of Team Red Bull, Martin Truex(19th) and David Reutimann(26th) of Michael Waltrip Racing, David Ragan(21st) of Roush Fenway Racing, Joey Logano(28th) of Joe Gibbs Racing and Jamie McMurray(22nd) of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing are among those floundering well out of championship contention after eleven points paying Sprint Cup races.
With the re-working of the points system which locks in only ten positions after the 26th race while leaving two spots open to drivers outside the top-10 who have accrued the most wins, being so far back at this stage of the season is cause for more than a little concern. The system being as it is, there are always going to be high profile drivers and teams to not make the Chase. Still, that will no doubt fail to soothe sponsors who have funneled millions of dollars into an effort that has come up short.
In regard to sponsors, it has been discussed in the past that the Chase for the Championship may actually be costing teams funding. Dropping millions of dollars into a race team only to have that team fail to be one of the ten competing for a championship at the end of the year would be more than a little discouraging for a company, especially considering that so much of the media focus during those final ten races is on the title contenders. And corporations considering sponsorship must consider that the odds are better of their team not making the Chase than they are of making the title run.
Fortunately, there is a way for those lagging drivers and teams to salvage their seasons. This year is the first in which a wild card possibility of making the Chase has been offered.
The two drivers outside the top-10 at the time of the cutoff with the most race wins will be invited to take part in the championship stretch run. If one or two of the drivers mentioned can string a couple of wins together they might just have a chance to come from way behind to win the big trophy(which to me shows the folly of this system but that’s a discussion for another time).
However, the downside of that potential saving grace is that if these teams were running well enough to win races they wouldn’t be where they are in the standings right now.
The bottom line is that some high profile drivers and some heavily financed teams are struggling this season. And, the time will run out to revive their season sooner rather than later.
I will be doing live updates from the Southern All Stars dirt late model race from the Cleveland(TN) Speedway Saturday night on TennesseeRacer.com. http://tennesseeracer.com/
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