The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series headed into Richmond with the top 10 cemented into the final ten races for the championship. Only Greg Biffle and Clint bowyer weren’t sure. It didn’t take either one long to cement their place. So we ended the final race of the “regular season” with little or no excitement. Denny Hamlin dominated the race, as he sometimes does, and the usual suspects will all chase Jimmie Johnson for the big trophy. NASCAR created a monster.
I cannot remember a time when so many folks have jumped on the ABJ (anybody but Johnson) bandwagon. After four straight championships, fans are eager for a new face to win, but all the crying for making wins more important, leave Johnson just ten points behind Hamlin as we head to New Hampshire. With tracks that favor the No. 48’s style, the Chase is almost loaded for a fifth straight championship for Johnson. A couple of early wins or good finishes coupled with a couple of rivals faltering, and fans will be tuning the NFL in and forgetting NASCAR. It didn’t have to be this way.
By my last count, and being math challenged is an understatement, 42% of the Chase field will have not won a race in 2010. It doesn’t take much of an argumet to realize that Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, and Clint Bowyer could steal the crown without a win this year if the top seven have problems. Stranger things have happened. Isn’t that what NASCAR was trying to avoid after Matt Kenseth’s championship way back in 2002? Kenseth won one race that year. And by placing so much emphasis on that fact, they forgot to change the point system leading up to the Chase. It’s based on consistency, as it always has been. The “playoff” was supposed to add excitement to the final run, but it has artificially created a situation whereby conisistency doesn’t really matter if you win. What a revolting development this is. It’s flawed.
Football fans love the NFL system and baseball fans love the playoffs, but both are stick and ball sports n which such things are natural. A playoff for the Sprint Cup championship is so wrong on many levels. The reason many state for this was that NASCAR was trying to take fans from the NFL and MLB when they are deciding their champions. That’s a really futile dream. Not going to happen. In the meantime, many hard-core NASCAR fans just look the other way. When will we learn that NASCAR is NASCAR and the NFL and MLB are different? Maybe never, but the sanctioning body in Daytona Beach continues to reach for that dream in this day of smaller crowds, lower TV ratings, and fan protests.
So we head to New England to begin our quest to crown a champion. Kevin Harvick led most of the season, but he starts third in the Chase field. Carl Edwards was fourth, but he sits way back because neither won during the year. It’s time for NASCAR to make up its mind. Is it consistency or wins? Or do we need a ten-race playoff? In my mind, I know the answer.