Posted on

‘Chase for the Cup’ is working

Second place is first loser, right?
Not this year in NASCAR’s first ever ‘Chase For The Cup.’
In past seasons, only a couple of drivers have had a shot at earning the season championship this late in the season.
With the advent of the new scoring system in NASCAR, all of a sudden at least 10 drivers have a legitimate shot to win the Cup title with just 10 races to go in the season.
While more than a few drivers grumbled about NASCAR tinkering with the old scoring system (including Mark Martin, who is now in the Chase), I believe at some point those folks will become believers in the revised format.
Prior to this year, most racing fans could probably name the driver in the lead in the points battle, then maybe second and third (or wherever their favorite driver may have been). This year, there was actually interest in who was sitting ‘on the bubble’ as the deadline approached to separate the top 10 drivers.
Owensboro’s Jeremy Mayfield won Saturday’s Chevy Rock’n Roll race at Richmond to lock himself into the mix. Coming into the race, he was on the outside looking in. After the race, he switched roles with the likes of Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray, who are now left to look to play the role of spoiler on an individual level.
(Regarding McMurray, does anyone not now believe punishing drivers points for on-the-track scuffles or out-of-spec cars doesn’t hurt them?
Rewind back to Bristol, when McMurray was docked 25 points for having a car specification violation. It really didn’t seem that big then, but it does now that the youngster was beat out of the final Chase position by Ryan Newman by just 15 points.)
The new system breathes life into the stretch run of the championship campaign. All that means is that not only will race fans keep up with how their favorite driver is doing, but how the 10 drivers in the Chase are doing as well.
Crew chiefs will walk a tight rope over the final run: do they run a slightly higher gear for more pop off the corners, or do they play it safe and go for gas mileage? ‘Two tires or four’ went from being a simple roll of the dice to being an even bigger chance to take, with so much at stake.
Over the next several weeks, it will be a real treat to watch the likes of Mayfield, Martin, Jeff Gordon (points leader), Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., defending champion Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Elliott Sadler and Kurt Busch slug it out on the asphalt.
The only change I would make to the format would be to change some of the tracks the final run is made on.
Dover, Talladega, Kansas, Lowe’s, Martinsville, Atlanta, Darlington and Homestead are fine by me and are deserving of the final run for the championship.
Racing at New Hampshire has improved, but most races are still a 42-car parade. It’s pretty much the same story at Phoenix.
If I were Mike Helton-for-a-day, I would substitute one of those races for the Bristol night race, which was held just a few weeks ago.
No race is as exciting and no ticket is as hard to get as that one.
As for the second date, I would give it to Kentucky Speedway. It’s a great facility and the folks up there have done everything right: parking, concessions, sight lines, interstate access…everything.
Since that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon, I would simply swap the Phoenix date with the one at Sears Point in California.
Racing shouldn’t be only about left turns.