If 'winning is everything,' odd that two drivers with six wins are out, two with no wins are in...
Well, that was a weird, tense Talladega race. Actually, they are all tense, but that’s usually because we are waiting on The Big One. This time, we were waiting on the NASCAR accountants to figure out whose season was effectively over, who would live to Chase another day.
But the GEICO 500 delivered what NASCAR wanted, right? For us to worry more about the championship than the race itself? Hasn’t that been the point of all these changes in the points system?
But I have to think the multiple scenarios NASCAR executives plotted pre-season likely did not include losing three of the four Hendrick cars in one fell swoop, plus the at-least always-interesting Kyle Busch. Especially since Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne had competitive, contending seasons, though certainly Kahne pulled a rabbit out of the hat for his last-minute win.
We expected one-shot drivers like Aric Almirola and A.J. Allmendinger to get in the Chase, and promptly be eliminated, but in this format, which supposedly is all about winning, Johnson and Earnhardt have won six races, which is six more than Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, who remain in contention.
Nobody gets everything
Of course, even NASCAR doesn’t always get what it wants. The NFL and Major League Baseball, as well as the TV networks that carry the games, will tell you in private that they would always prefer a World Series or a Super Bowl featuring a New York vs. Los Angeles team, because those are the two most important markets. If they have to settle for Phoenix or Green Bay or St. Louis, so be it.
Certainly NASCAR would prefer to we go to the Homestead-Miami finale with, say, Earnhardt, Johnson, Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart as the Final Four, because that quartet would conceivably pull the biggest ratings. But they could end up with Kenseth and Newman – who could still be winless this season by then – and maybe Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. Is that going to move the needle?
NASCAR is good at gerrymandering the sport to draw the most attention, but they conceived this plan, and they’ll have to live by it, but there are some big names, and big sponsors, suddenly relegated to also-ran status that may not be pleased.
If it sounds like I don’t like the new format, that’s not entirely true: I think it’s pretty interesting. But to me, a championship in automobile racing is won over a season, by the whole team. At the end of 2014, I know NASCAR will crown a champion, but to me, there will always be a mental asterisk by that name that means, “Finished best of four cars at Homestead-Miami Speedway.” And not, “Whipped all comers over a brutal 10-month season.”