By admin | January 27, 2009
By Richard Allen
Since NASCAR adopted the Chase for the Championship playoff format, the stock car racing organization has become somewhat like the NFL in at least one sense. By that, I mean that in both leagues a team who would have virtually no chance to win a championship under a previously used system may do so under a new system.
In 2004, the first year the Chase format was used, Kurt Busch sat in the 7th position of the overall standings after the 26th race cutoff. Under the old scoring system he would have started the 27th race of the season more than 300 points behind the leader, Jeff Gordon.
With only ten races remaining and six other drivers to jump over, it would have been a nearly impossible task for him to win the championship. However, the Chase system essentially erased the points deficit and leveled the field. Busch was able to get hot at the right time, out score everyone in the playoff and win the title.
On two separate occasions, Jimmie Johnson has been given new life by NASCARâ€™s playoff. In each of the last two seasons Johnson has trailed the points leader by a significant amount after the 26th race.
In 2007, Johnson would have gone into the 27th race in 6th place in the standings more than 400 points behind leader Jeff Gordon. He would not have won a championship that year under the old scoring system but the Chase allowed him back in the game. As a matter of fact, he actually went into the 27th race with a slight points lead due to a change in the seeding procedure.
Again in 2008 the Chase allowed Johnson to overcome a seemingly insurmountable deficit. He would have entered race number 27 in 3rd place more than 300 points behind Kyle Busch and almost 100 points behind 2nd place Carl Edwards. Buschâ€™s late season collapse may have allowed Johnson a chance under the old format, but strategies would have played out differently under the old system so it is hard to say what might have actually happened.
This NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals were an afterthought for much of the year. They won a weak division with only a 9-7 record. There were five teams in the NFC to manage a better record than the eventual conference champs.
Years ago when not so many teams were allowed in the playoffs, the Cardinals would not have even qualified. But under the current system, they made it in and took advantage of the opportunity.
Itâ€™s now Super Bowl week so most of the sporting worldâ€™s attention will be focused on Tampa for the game. It could be that the team who winds up hoisting the big trophy at the end of the night may be one that under a previously used system would not have been given any chance for a title. Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson can relate to that.
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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