By admin | March 19, 2014
By Richard Allen
Under the original model of NASCAR points, Kevin Harvick would have dug himself into a bit of a hole by now. After four points paying Sprint Cup races, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has posted a win in Phoenix along with a 13th in Daytona and two other disastrous finishes of 41st and 39th in Las Vegas and Bristol respectively. Those results have him currently sitting in the 21st overall position of the NASCAR standings.
In years past, Harvick’s current ranking would be a deficit that could have been difficult to overcome. However, in 2004 NASCAR instituted the Chase for the Sprint Cup system in which a 10 race playoff would take place among ten(later 12) drivers so a bad early start would be problematic but could still be overcome with a string of consistently good finishes.
Now, all of that consistency stuff can be thrown out the window. With one win in the bank, Harvick is virtually assured of making the Chase. As a result, he can continue to post finishes outside the top-30 on a regular basis but could still wind up as the sport’s champion if he simply races well in only four other outings among the 32 remaining races this year.
Under this new system, drivers who win a race will make the field of 16 who will compete for the championship over the final ten races. The likelihood of more than 16 drivers winning a race within the first 26 events is not high, thus Harvick’s one win should qualify him for title contention. Once the Chase begins, there will be three cutoffs to occur. After the third, sixth and ninth events the field will be narrowed until there are four left to race for the championship in the season’s final race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Harvick would only need to be good enough to remain in the top-12 of the standings to make the first Chase cut. The, just good enough to stay within the top-8 for the second cut. After that, a win in one of the next three races and a win in Miami would net him the big trophy at the end of the year.
Such a season would be so contrary to what has been required to win a championship previously in this sport that it renders the Sprint Cup title unrecognizable from anything in the history of NASCAR.
Kevin Harvick may go on to have a remarkable season with multiple wins and solid finishes. However, he and his team have begun the year by providing a model of inconsistency. Should a scenario such as the one I have laid out above actually play out, it would seem more than a little difficult to take a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship seriously.
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