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Which is more valuable: A Daytona 500 Win or a Championship?

By admin | March 5, 2014

By Richard Allen

The title of this piece may sound ridiculous. After all, isn’t the Sprint Cup championship the ultimate prize in NASCAR? Surely it is valued more highly than any race win, even the Daytona 500. But before making a definitive decision on the matter, hear out the reasoning.

During one of the pre-race shows for last week’s Sprint Cup race in Phoenix, the very question posed in the title of this column was asked. Since Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. does not have a championship trophy, it was considered that his two victories in the sport’s most prestigious race might suffice as legacy achievements.

I have always weighted race wins, particularly crown jewel wins, very heavily when considering the accomplishments of any driver. But even with that said, I would have considered a season-long championship to be the most important prize in the sport. However, I may be in the process of changing my mind on the subject.

Now, however, is winning a championship worth more than simply winning a race at Homestead?

NASCAR championships used to be determined by compiling points over the course of an entire season. Then when it was decided that such a system was not good enough to keep the attention of a newfound TV audience, a change was made. From 2004 to 2013, the champion was decided by compiling points over a 26 race “regular” season used to trim the field which was followed by a ten race playoff to decide the victor. That system was updated numerous times during its existence to increase the number of drivers and make allowances for race wins.

But again during the 2013-2014 off season, NASCAR officials instituted a change. Under the new system, 16 drivers will make the 10 race playoff with the herd being thinned after three, six and nine races within the Chase. Ultimately, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion will be decided among four drivers in a one race shootout at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

If you think about it, the ”season” championship could be won by just having four good races out of a 36 event schedule.

One win during the regular season would most likely get a driver into the Chase. The other 25 races could be an inconsistent roller coaster ride, but that doesn’t matter.  After making the Chase, the driver could win one race in the first three to move on to the next round, even if his other two races were 43rd place finishes. That process could be repeated two more times until said driver found himself in the finale as one of those four remaining contestants. At that point, a win in the 36th race could earn the driver a championship.

So again, a championship could be “earned” by having a topsy-turvy season in which the driver just happened to have good races at the right times.

Since it’s basically all about one race now, I would value crown jewel wins such as the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Brickyard 400 and the Southern 500 just as much as a championship. The Sprint Cup title, in my opinion, was devalued when the Chase system was instituted. That devaluation was accelerated this past off season.

This ought to make for a really interesting debate if/when Jimmie Johnson wins a seventh title to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. on the all-time list.

What are your thoughts?

Topics: Articles |

12 Responses to “Which is more valuable: A Daytona 500 Win or a Championship?”

  1. Tony Geinzer Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 4:51 am

    I think that it would go both ways, as a lot of Great Drivers who neither enjoyed a Daytona 500 or a Championship (Mark Martin), who had title but no Daytona 500 (Rusty Wallace), or Multiple Daytona 500s but no title (Michael Waltrip, Dale Jr.). To me, wins are a good start, but, deleting the Chase is so necessary and even though I’d favor an SCCA Styled Runoff, but, having it be a replacement would add nothing without a President’s Trophy Styled Points Reference.

  2. NASCARJeff Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Trever Bayne… nuff said!

  3. Chuck Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Derrike cope

  4. Al Torney Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Good article as usual. In reality Brian has created a system that removes a lot of the drama in the sport. As a driver gets a win he removes any doubt about making the chase. So what interest will there be if he most popular drivers win early in the season. None. Already the next 24 races, except for personal pride, have very little meaning to Junior and Harvick. If it is all about making the chase these two can put it in cruise control. And with 16 spots in the chase just about everyone who counts popularity wise wil be in the chase. And that’s the bottom line to the whole deal.That’s why they increased to 12 because a couple of popular guys didn’t make it.

    TV ratings were down for the first two races. Any wonder?

  5. midasmicah Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Hell, most racing fans know by now that nas$car’s rules are written in pencil. That way they can continue to “fix” what not broken again. The nas$car championship has become an afterthought. And one article I read stated that Dale Jr. is a shoo in for the sport’s hall of fame. With 20 wins? The sad part is that it will probably happen. I’m trying very hard to stay a nas$car fan, but ” smoke & mirrors” game gets old.

  6. j m droke Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    A champion should be the driver with the most wins over the season. A contrived set of rules will be manipulated by the smartest team to produce a championship or worst yet, a lucky break determining the championship within the complicated rules. Daytona 500 is just a big PR gambit by the track/series owner, France family. It not even decent racing, just a bid demo derby to be enjoyed by fans of demo derby. (35 cars wrecked, and that was before the 500’s green flag waved!). regards, Micael

  7. Betty Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I love Cup racing. Yup, RACING. Each and every race I want my driver to win. He doesn’t. Some days his car isn’t good enough. Sometimes he’s in a wreck. (I don’t cheer for wrecks). But lordy, I do love watching races. Each race has a champion.
    Talking about the Chase, which starts before Daytona, is fruitless and yet they do it every year.! Actually, it is a deterrent to good race coverage methinks.
    A championship cannot be determined by a single race Case in point… the last Super Bowl. That wasn’t even a game, let alone a championship game.

  8. Brian Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I for one cannot wait until the “season” championship is awarded to a driver that finished 30th at Homestead and has the lead in top 10 finishes but no wins.

    This would be a perfect scenario to maybe get BrianFart to realize how stupid his dear and precious chase fiasco has actually been. TV and attendance has been in overall decline for about 8-9 years now and oh look it coincides with the stupid Chase. Yes BrianFart fans what wins to be worth more than just a few extra points but not be the end all be all of the championship. Think about the actual scenario, I feel most fans would actually want:

    Driver A wins 4-6 races over the course of the year, is top 5 in Top 10’s and only has a couple of DNF’s over the course of the 36 races. Wins the season championship by say 15-20 points but fans are excited because he/she earned it by beating out drivers B and C who may have 6-8 wins as well but are 10-15th in top 10 ranking thus not being as successful over the course of the year.

    Wins still meant the championship is still fairly close but does not overrule being a whole lot better over the course of the season. This rewards the work of the team as well.

  9. NaBUru38 Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Daytona doesn’t really reward the best Nascar driver. See the winners list: Derrik Cope, Ward Burton, Trevor Bayne, John Andretti, Michael Waltrip, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan.

  10. Offkilter Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    The championship will always be king to the competitors. The new system definately brings on an entire new set of strategies that I’m curious about as the season progresses. I want to believe that this new elimination system is still going to play out pretty much the same way that it has in the past since the inception of the chase. However, Rich, like you stated, there is that outside chance of someone having only 3 or 4 good races out of the year and taking home the trophy. The self sponsored 41 team immediately comes to mind. Kurt can’t bring in the big sponsor money anymore and i firmly believe that sets the pecking order on the cars at SHR. My point being that an r & d driver and team could hoist the trophy making my head explode. Then you could write that ” told ya so” article.

  11. loose nut Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Rich, I have to admit that to me, championships are not what they were when Petty and Dale won theirs. Most fans could care less about it anyway until last quarter of the season. I would rather have my driver win races.

  12. Bill B Says:
    March 6th, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Last year I’d probably would have said the Championship without much hesitation. Now I’m not so sure because I feel they have de-valued the championship with the new rules. It just doesn’t have the same meaning anymore.

    On the other hand I could probably list the champions back to the early 90’s with a 95% accuracy. No way I could list the winners of the Daytona 500 back that far.

    Much like Al, I also have some problems with the win one race and your in the playoffs rule. As much as I want winning to be important, I can’t think of one sport where someone knows they’ve made the playoffs after the first game. When you think about it, it’s a very strange concept.