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« Now or never for Stewart and Ambrose at Watkins Glen? | Main | Jeff Gordon doing well is good for NASCAR »

A single race win is not “deserving” of a Chase berth

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.

Topics: Articles |

10 Responses to “A single race win is not “deserving” of a Chase berth”

  1. Russ Says:
    August 6th, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    IMHO, if you have to have a playoff system, and evidently the power brokers do think so, then so be it.
    And given that premise the elimination system actually makes sense. Where it goes sideways is having all this go on while the remaining 27 cars ride around taking up space and burning gasoline. Makes no sense. I know sponsors, fans, blah, blah….

  2. JudyB24 Says:
    August 6th, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    My least favorite words in NASCAR are “chase” & “BZF.” (ok, I’ve taken license using initials, sue me lol)

    I’ve hated the stupid chase since the day it was announced, have hated every “tweak” (there’s a word BZF doesn’t understand at all) & my hatred of it grows every season. Never mind that certain “darling” drivers would have half the championships, never mind that others have been cheated out of championships they actually DID deserve, what’s most important is that a playoff does not fi auto racing. PERIOD.

    Proof has never been so apparent as following The Brickyard. Hamlin’s 75 point penalty would be devastating (as it should be). But is it? Nope. It means nothing. He has a win, he’s in. Points reset for the stupid chase so the penalty is wiped out. NASCAR has become auto racing’s Whose Line Is It, Anyway where everything is made up & the points don’t matter.

    Now this newest version is the most idiotic yet. I do like Jr. but I would love to see him “eliminated” in race 1 of the stupid chase, preferably by a start-and-park type driver who is 5 laps down. Let the wrath of Junior Nation be cast upon BZF’s head. I would love to see a storming of the palace ending with BZF being dragged from his throne & put in the stocks. Maybe then NASCAR would finally admit they made a mistake & put things right.

    We can only hope.

  3. Bill B Says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Articles like this just get me re-pissed off all over again at the concept of the chase. IMO with each change it has gotten progressively worse and increasingly less valid for determining a champion in this type of sport. In fact all of the changes BF has made have increased “the crapshoot factor” of the sport.

    If we must have a chase (playoff) format then I could buy into it if only the top 5 in points were part of it. Award whatever points you want for a win and continue to award points for consistency and good finishes. Usually, the top 5 have had good finishes over the entire season where you could say they’ve earned the right for a shot at the championship.

    Thank Rich, now I’ve got a bad attitude for the rest of the day.
    Stupid XXXX-in’ chase.
    Stupid XXXX-in’ Brian France.

  4. H.R. Says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Yes. Lets go back to the perfect world where the champion was often decided a month before seasons end. Should the other 42 cars not have bothered to show up then either?
    I agree its not a perfect system, but then again, nothings perfect. Winning SHOULD matter most. If its a fluke like you claim the #43 or #41 to be, then they won’t make it past the first round of eliminations … your problem with lack of consistency thereby fixes itself. BUT …. if someone like Busch (either one) or Hamlin or any of the other single win teams pulls something together in the latter third of the season and outperforms the others contenders, are they then not worthy of the championship?
    Nobody has ever been “cheated” out of a championship. The same rules apply to all drivers from Daytona to Miami no matter if it was the classic points system or any version of the chase.
    And regardless of said point system, even if you’re not in the chase, teams are still fighting for point placement, money and sponsorship coverage (all of which impact the NEXT years title run).
    If you don’t like the sport any more, by all means, you have the freedom to go enjoy something else. But if you’re a fan of the series (whether it be Trucks, Nationwide or Cup), quit your complaining, go to the racetrack and support your team.
    I spend hundreds of hours every year behind the wheel, in the pits or in the stands and I’ve rarely (if ever) hear the participants complain about the points system.
    You want to hear complaints, ask them about the equipment rules package!
    Have a great day everyone.

  5. Brian Says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Rich, The TV types were focused on the season long championship long before 2001. Now it was not the end all be all of the telecasts and such but they did focus, in my opinion too much on it too early in the season.
    The races were actually the important part and somewhere along the line the races became less important and the championship became too important. I think it all started too much money paid at the end of the season which much of that should have been allocated to race purses instead.
    This likely happened in the mid90’s as the sport really started growing and culminated with the 2001 TV contracts which f’d up the whole thing. The Chase just finished it off after the first couple of years of curiosity, newbieness, wore off.
    If this part of your article is true (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.) then why does Sprint Cup and the NHRA have stick and ball sport type playoff now?

    The other part of the say football playoffs is that is is standard practice and it has been that way since the beginning of the sport when the playoffs were developed. There has been no change in the basicness of the NFL, NBA, or MLB playoffs since they began. beat the team you are playing against via the rules and move on. These sports while making changes to the structure and layout of the playoffs have maintained the most basic and important essence of what it means. beat the other team or your done. Racing does not and cannot truly do this and as such having a playoff makes no sense. It would take a major mind shift for racing to have a true playoff. It also would likely kill the sport as sponsorships which are completely a different animal in racing than in any other form of sport would dry up overnight.

    To be truly radical and seem what happens take the NCAA basketball tourney’s third set of games and start from there. Top 32 in points (why is there driver and owner standings anyway? It should just be team.) Start the eliminations based on seeding 1 vs 32, 2 vs 31, etc and if you beat that specific opponent you move on to the next race. Have the last race be the 4 teams left winner take all. That is a true playoff.

  6. Steven Says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Sorry to bore everyone but the driver who gets the most points in the course of the year DESERVES to be Champion. Maybe BZF would like a 5 lap restart at Homestead to determine the “champion”.

  7. Tony Geinzer Says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Rich, I’d think Matt Kenseth would have been perennially sour if he had points, but, got hustled by some character. And,too, as the days get shorter, the animated spat of No Practice No Qualifying would get hot, and with Ambrose going home to Austrailia, you’d have to think some of these rides had purpose (Hamlin,Danica, Kurt Busch) or Purpose Out to A Different Owner.

  8. Jim R Says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    All the “tweaking” has brought us to this: Win and your in. I can’t determine if the tweaking caused the decline of the sport or if the decline of the sport caused the tweaking. I just know that champions in the past got to be champions because they had the best year….not because they had the best selected races. I still watch but not with the same passion as I once did. Bring back the old days when the team leading the points at the end of the season became that years champion. I would even agree with having a win count more than just five extra points but I think making it an arbitrary number like 25 isn’t the best solution. With timing and scoring what it is today, why not award the winner based on margin of victory. Example: less than one second margin; 5 points. One second to two seconds; 6 points. Two seconds to three seconds; 7 points etc. to a max. of 25 points. Doing it this way also rewards the 2nd place car, who can minimize the number of points the first place car receives.

  9. Overra88ed Says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Yes it is deserving of a chase berth, just as much as Dale Jr. finishing 39th at Miami and winning this mockery of a championship. BZF will tell you so.

  10. The Mad Man Says:
    August 8th, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Had NASCAR’s fearless leader taken the Hooter’s Pro Cup play-off system instead of just cherry picking the parts he liked, things would be a lot more interesting. However, the failure that is the play-off system we must suffer through has done more harm than good.

    When the play-off system was first announced, 85% of the fans were against it. The last figures I saw, probably 2 years ago, showed that 80% of the fans were against it. They wanted to go back to the old system where it was a season-long points battle. But like a spoiled brat, rather than admit he has made some massive mistakes, Brain France pulled the old “It’s mine and I’ll do what I want with it” routine. Not to mention he has yet to admit that the play-off system has been one colossal fiasco. I know he’ll never admit to that.

    In a true play-off system, the teams you beat go home. And so it should be. But as we know, that won’t happen with the amounts of money involved.

    Having been a racing fan for over 50 years, I’ve seen numerous changes to the point system. The system that existed before Bill Jr passed the baton to his son seemed to work the best. It did have some shortcomings but it wasn’t a cluster like the current system is. Reducing the points for laps led and leading the most laps wasn’t a bad idea. However, the one thing that the old points system was to reward winning more. So a boost of 25-50 points for a win would definitely have drivers working harder to get a win rather than just riding around for a points finish.

    We can write and complain all we want to. In the end, the current regime has shown they don’t give a plugged nickel about what we the ticket buyers think or want. They only see the almighty dollar and as long as there are companies out there that are willing to spend mega-bucks to get TV contracts and sponsor races, the relative pittance we fans spend won’t influence diddly squat. However, our absence at the tracks will eventually have an influence with the high dollar sponsors and advertisers.

    Besides, I’d rather see some real knock down drag out racing at my local track than watch a 490 mile parade followed by a 10 lap race to the finish. So my local track will be getting more and more of my hard earned cash.