We’re not in Kansas anymore.
After Kevin Harvick’s win Sunday, the contender pool may be a bit deeper. The quality of that pool may not be as high. When in doubt, let’s break down the weekend Bert Convy style:
Win: Tony Stewart
Stewart didn’t run a single lap Sunday. His one new driver next year ran a whole bunch of laps and won the race. His other new driver finished second with an underfunded team. Danica Patrick is a non-factor on the track but generates money like crazy off the track. Stewart has done amazing things as a driver. His work as an owner this quickly out of the gates might be the highlight of his career.
Lose: Kyle Busch
Busch had a bad record at Kansas before Sunday. Now, Busch is looking at a 30-point hole and dealing with an angry Brad Keselowski as the 2013 Sprint Cup season heads to Charlotte and Talladega. Busch never has issues in the regular season. The playoffs have been another story. Kansas might be the beginning of another bad chapter.
There are now four drivers within 40 points of Matt Kenseth. Jimmie Johnson isn’t going away. The more them merrier especially as a brand tries to define itself during football season and baseball playoffs.
But should one bad race DQ a team from the Sprint Cup title? Should Kyle Busch get a mulligan? With Talladega on the Chase list, isn’t it reasonable to think that one contender is going to get lumped into a wreck, ruining that team’s Chase chances?
The sport seems to penalize poor finishes more than rewarding good ones. And while it’s great to see names like Gordon and Johnson near the top, it’s tough to see names like Edwards and Earnhardt Jr. a non-factor, with Busch one race away from joining them.
We’re not in Kansas or Fantasyland anymore. There has to be a better way to create competition, reward success and create some wiggle room for teams with bad luck. Fans won’t find that in Charlotte Saturday night, though they will see more title contenders now than prior to Kansas.