5-hour Energy 400: Win, Lose or Draw

 

(Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

(Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

When does 1+1 not equal 2?

The 2014 Sprint Cup season is 15 races away from possibly providing an answer. Thank Jeff Gordon’s Kansas win for bringing forward a scenario that might rethink how drivers race over the next three months.

Win: Jeff Gordon

Gordon led the points but didn’t have that win under his belt. Gordon is Chase safe for now and doesn’t have to worry about any bad luck or late push to get playoff ready. With his experience and the 20-year narrative on his side, Gordon could be quite an interesting name come the Chase.

Lose: Roush Fenway Racing

Kansas is one of the team’s best tracks. Ricky Stenhouse didn’t finish in the top 20. Greg Biffle didn’t finish in the top 10. Carl Edwards didn’t finish in the top 5.

The results off the track were just as odd. Biffle and Edwards have expiring contracts. Biffle said he wanted to return but wasn’t sure if that was going to happen. Edwards got irked by a question about Roush being a championship caliber team, then blew up the internet about this being his last chance at Roush.

The only thing keeping Joe Gibbs Racing from a fourth team in sponsorship. Edwards would bring that and saw how Matt Kenseth has done over at JGR. Biffle is 44. Stenhouse hasn’t emerged in his second full year on the Sprint Cup. Seeing the Roush lineup now and a year from now could get quite jarring.

Draw: NASACR

Win a a race; make the Chase. This has been a major Sprint Cup branding point all year. Most headlines stress how a win virtually assures drivers of a Chase spot.

What if that’s not accurate? Eleven races into the 2014 Sprint Cup season, there have been nine different winners. Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson will surely win a race. Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart are usually good for wins. That gets you to 15. Let’s assume there is one wild-card winner who gambles on strategy. That’s 16.

There were 17 different race winners in 2011, 15 in 2012 and 16 last year. What if we get to 17 after the second Richmond  race?  More importantly, how does the threat of 17 winners in 26 races impact teams who try crazy strategies to prep for the Chase after assuming the Chase was a mere formality?

One and one might not equal a trip the playoffs. That potential merits review as teams get into the heart of the 2014 Sprint Cup summer season.