The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has been sensational through the first eight races. Weather aside; exciting finishes, intense racing and seven different winners has given NASCAR fans a lot to cheer about. Some of the great racing could be contributed to the change in the rules for the chase.
Prior to the start of the season NASCAR revamped the chase. They not only expanded the chase field from 12 drivers to 16, but they also placed a major emphasis on winning. The first 15 spots in the chase will be awarded to those with the most wins. Given the fact that there are only 26 races before the chase begins, winning a race will almost lock you into the chase. Although the emphasis has been placed on winning, there is still room for consistency over wins.
The 16th and final spot in the chase is reserved for the point’s leader after the first 26 races. This is assuming that the point’s leader doesn’t have a victory under his belt. After eight races the current points leader is Jeff Gordon, he also happens to not have a victory. If this were to be the case after the 26th race of the season, Gordon would make the chase. If this happens to be the case after 26 races and there are more than 15 drivers with wins, Gordon makes the chase and at least one driver with a win won’t.
If a driver makes the chase without a win, can they actually contend to win a championship?
Obviously prior to the invention of the chase this was very possible, just ask Matt Kenseth. Since the inception of the chase this hasn’t really been feasible. Even a consistent driver over the final 10 races would struggle because there would be drivers like Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart winning multiple races. It’s hard to climb to the top in the points when you’re running 5th or 6th and the guys ahead of you are winning.
However that was then and this is now.
2014 will see a final race in which there will be four drivers contending for a championship. When the final race at Homestead comes around there will be four drivers entering that race tied for the championship. Of those four drivers, whoever runs the best will be the 2014 NASCAR Champion. With this new system a driver only has to be as high as fourth in the chase standings come the final race.
It’s very plausible for a driver like Jeff Gordon to not have a win but still be in the top-four in the standings heading into Homestead. If this were to happen a driver like Gordon or anyone else in that position could win the championship without having won a race the entire season. If this were to happen you would have to imagine that a lot of people would upset. After all, these changes were made in an effort to make winning matter more in the sport. If the end result was a driver without a win being crowned champion wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?
I could understand a fans initial anger over this situation but I would then ask those fans to step back and appreciate the situation. First off, the odds of this happening are still unlikely. If a driver like Gordon or anyone else is finishing that consistently, they are bound to win a race at some point. Secondly, if this were too happen it would most likely be something that is outside of the normal. Sports are filled with a couple of those accomplishments that are the exception if you will. Every NFL season 32 teams have an equal chance to win every game but it’s only happened once.
However, if this scenario were to play out fans should celebrate it and understand how much of an accomplishment it would be. Think about this, Gordon leads the points and doesn’t have a win. Kevin Harvick has two wins but sits 111 points behind Gordon in the season standings. Two wins are very impressive but there is also something that should be said for a driver like Gordon who in 2014 has yet to have a bad week. If Gordon goes 36 races without really having a bad week and that results in a championship, it’s an accomplishment that deserves to be respected.