These two continue to upset the apple cart in this new Chase format.
When NASCAR introduced the Chase back in 2004, it was because they wanted a tighter championship and more of an emphasis on winning. They added 'wild cards' in 2007 to put more of an emphasis on winning. In 2011, they modified the points system to put more of an emphasis on winning. In 2014, they threw in the win-and-your're-in concept to put more of an emphasis on winning.
Now here we are past the halfway point of the 2014 Chase. Half the field has been put on the chopping block and only eight drivers remain in contention. The battles for the win have been intense, racers have been pushed past their breaking point; all they care about is that 'W' .... But there's a problem.
Consistency is his strategy
This problem goes by the name of Ryan Newman. Despite all NASCAR has done to emphasize winning, even putting little stickers on the cars for every victory attained, winless Ryan Newman continues to escape elimination. Consistency has been his strategy and it continues to work, and always will work.
Newman has failed to be a threat for the win in most races this season, only posting three top five finishes and leading 41 laps. As titans of the sport fall all around him, he continues to keep that No. 31 RCR machine in the running. He's suffered just one DNF in 32 races and that was due to a wreck not of his own doing.
Newman isn't championship material in 2014, but he is playing this new system perfectly and could potentially steal this right out from under the top dogs, but will need luck on his side to do it. He squeaked into the Chase on points and now, he needs to have three more solid races and he may actually have a shot at it in Homestead. Just one mistake by others will suddenly give him the edge, as it already has.
Big guns fall to the wayside
Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, A.J. Allmendinger, and Aric Almirola are out of it. Together, they've won 11 races this year, but none of that matters now.
Irony at its best
Newman isn't alone either. He has a friend and his name is Matt Kenseth. The irony of these two contradicting everything this Chase is about can't be understated. The Chase was originally created as a direct result of these two. Kenseth won the 2003 title after winning a single race back in March while Newman ended the year sixth in the championship with eight victories. People didn't like that.
Is the format working?
So does this mean NASCAR's new format isn't working? Not exactly. Leaving my personal opinion of this system out of it (which isn't entirely positive), the elimination-style Chase has been everything NASCAR has wanted it to be so far (minus Dale Jr. being voted off the island).
However, you can never stop consistent drivers from prevailing in a points-based championship unless you outright penalized those who fail to win a race, which is ludicrous and will never happen.
These two continue to show that consistency still pays dividends in this era of 'win-and-you're-in.' Play it smart, be careful, and consequently, reap the rewards.