By admin | September 10, 2008
By Richard Allen
After reading the title of this article you might be thinking you did not know of any driver in the Sprint Cup Series named Mulligan. Well, you are right. There are no drivers in the series named Mulligan.
Those who play golf probably recognized the term immediately. In golfing lingo the term “Mulligan” means that a player who has hit a bad shot gets a second chance without losing anything. Simply, it is a do-over.
The term “Mulligan” crept into NASCAR vocabulary when the Chase for the Championship came on the scene in 2004.
Over the ten race playoff format it has been believed that a driver could still win the championship even with one poor finish. In other words, a driver could be afforded one throw away race.
In 2008, most of the twelve drivers to have qualified for the Chase will not have the luxury of a “Mulligan”.
Kyle Busch has the lead with eight wins which will give him 80 bonus points going into New Hampshire and the first Chase race.
Carl Edwards has six wins, but one of those wins does not count toward bonus points due to an infraction found in post race inspection after his Las Vegas victory. Edwards will start the Chase 30 points behind Busch. He is the closest driver to the early leader.
Jimmie Johnson’s four wins will also allow him to stay within shouting distance of Busch.
Kyle Busch definitely has the luxury of a “Mulligan” during the 10 race playoff. Edwards probably has that luxury unless Busch starts off on a hot streak. Johnson, too, could afford one slip up provided Busch does not win the first couple of races within the Chase.
No one else beyond those three drivers can go into the Chase thinking they might be able to have even one bad race.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer have one win each. They are currently 70 points behind Busch. One bad race within the first couple of Chase races could put these drivers out of contention early.
Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick each made the Chase without winning a single event. They are 80 points in the hole to begin with. Considering how well Busch and Edwards have been running it will be an uphill struggle, even if these five drivers run well over the next ten races.
In 2007, the Hendrick Motorsports teams of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon did not have nearly so commanding of a lead going into the Chase. Still, they wound up burying the competition within the playoff.
The drivers with one or no victories this season could find themselves buried very early on.
One criticism of NASCAR has been that winning races is not valued enough in the standings. This season could very well offer proof that winning is indeed critical to keeping drivers in contention, even before the Chase for the Championship starts.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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