By admin | August 6, 2014
By Richard Allen
The word “deserve” is probably my least favorite word in the English language. People misuse it far too frequently with little understanding of what it means. But in our modern society, we all tend to think that our mere existence entitles us, or makes us “deserving”, of whatever it is that we want.
To deserve something means to earn it. In other words, you don’t just get something for free without having achieved something first.
So to bring this lecture into a NASCAR related context, no driver ”deserves” to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup based on a single performance in one particular race. To this point, I recently posted a piece on this site stating that either Tony Stewart or Marcos Ambrose could make the NASCAR playoff by winning this weekend at Watkins Glen.
And make no mistake, both are entirely capable of winning the Sprint Cup race in upstate New York this weekend. To this point, labeling either of their seasons as mediocre would be as big of a misuse of the term mediocre as it would be a misuse of the word deserve to say that winning one race makes them “deserving” of a Chase berth.
There is no way two drivers who currently sit 17th and 19th in the standings should even be mentioned as Chase contenders. Some may read this and want to point out examples of times in which NFL teams or NBA teams have made the playoffs with less than sparkling records then gone on to win championships. My simple answer to that argument is that this is not the NFL or the NBA. Auto racing has always tried to separate itself from so called ’stick and ball’ sports so no one “deserves” to use that comparison to legitimize a system that allows one good race to negate an entire season of poor results.
And not just to use the hypothetical possibility of either Stewart or Ambrose making the Chase with a win in Watkins Glen, let’s look at some of the drivers already essentially locked in.
Kurt Busch is virtually a lock to make the Chase. He currently sits 23rd in the Sprint Cup standings. And no, that’s not a misprint. He is 23rd in the standings and is pretty much guaranteed a spot in the playoff. He has four top-10s this season compared to Jeff Gordon’s 15, but soon they will basically be on equal footing racing for the same championship.
According to the new system, Busch “deserves” to be in the Chase because he won earlier this season in Martinsville. He has also finished outside the top-20 eleven times, but who’s counting? Conceivably, he could be the Sprint Cup champion having finished outside the top-20 more than a third of the times he has started a race.
At least Busch has been consistent this season. Consistently bad.
Aric Almirola provides a similar example.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad a guy driving for the man I’m named after is making the Chase. But it would be much better if he “deserved” it.
Like Busch, Almirola has only four top-10s all season. But his win in a rain-shortened restrictor plate race in Daytona makes him eligible to race for a championship despite his eleven finishes outside the top-20.
Denny Hamlin ranks 21st in the standings. However, his nine top-10 results are more than those of Busch and Almirola combined. But keep in mind that one of the No. 11 team’s good finishes was achieved with a car deemed so illegal that its crew chief and car chief were suspended for six weeks. Also, Hamlin missed one race this season altogether and has finished outside the top-20 five times with three 19th places thrown in for good measure.
Hamlin scored his lone win in a plate race at Talladega to “deserve” entry into the Chase.
It’s not very likely that either of these three drivers will win the Sprint Cup title in 2014, but the notion that they will receive a Chase berth is ridiculous. None of them “deserve” to be there, but they will be.
I have always maintained that winning a NASCAR race should mean more than it once did. Simply scoring five points more than the guy who ran second was not enough of a reward for winning. However, this new system has gone to the extreme in the other direction.
In my perfect world, there would be no Chase at all. Instead, the entire season would play out as it did for decades in this sport with the winner being crowned at the end of the season. To reward winning, the victor could be awarded 25 points more than the runner-up.
Championships were always regarded as important in NASCAR but they were never the total focal point of a racing season until the big TV contracts of 2001 went into effect.
But alas, my perfect only exists in my mind.
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