After unveiling the new format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it became immediately obvious that wins were going to be a key in 2014 and in making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. For all intents and purposes, a win should guarantee a driver one of the sixteen seeds in the new Chase format later this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has done just that. In dominant fashion, Earnhardt started 2014 off immediately with a victory that should seal the deal and lock him into the Chase. It’s his second Daytona 500 victory, and in his final season with crew chief Steve Letarte, it was an emotional victory too.
So with a victory under his belt, it’s time for Earnhardt and Letarte to change their focus. Yes, it’s just the second week of the season. No, I’m not saying they shouldn’t go for wins. In fact, they should be.
With a win, Junior is more than likely locked into the Chase. The stress of having to make the Chase is definitely not going to be weighing on his shoulders either. Seeding won’t play a huge role in the new Chase format, but in the event we have more than 16 winners this season – odds aren’t that won’t happen – the more points Earnhardt can earn the better off he will be when the field is reset and should their be a tie for a spot in the Chase.
While consistency may play a role in the Chase this year, wins are evermore important in the Chase this season. The more wins you have, the more points you have and the higher you will be seeded into the Chase. Of course that will be huge in terms of the elimination rounds that are now apart of the Chase. Consistency won’t allow you to just cruise into the post-season “playoffs” anymore, because you will have to earn your rewards in 2014.
All the more reason, Junior and Letarte can and should take more risks on strategy and getting wins this seasons.