Really, winning doesn’t matter all that much. If it did, Joey Logano would be leading the way; Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth would be in the mix, and so would Kyle Busch. Instead, two of the top four drivers in the final four have one lone victory on the year, and then you have Kevin Harvick- who has mixed wins and consistency, and Kyle Busch- whose four victories are especially impressive, because they came with 11 fewer opportunities.
As far as I’m concerned, you can this piece “Why the Chase doesn’t work- Exhibit B.” You can win a truckload of races, but because of the elimination format, one driver can have one really bad day, and it’s over. Sure, the NFL has a single elimination format, but let’s face it, luck is a far bigger factor in racing than it is in any other sport. You can have one bad break in a football game, but you have time to make it up. In NASCAR, you can get a flat tire from a piece of debris, get caught up in another driver’s mess, or have some malady that will ruin it all.
When the Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated from the NBA playoffs last spring, they forfeited their right to impact the playoffs. God bless him, Jimmie Johnson- already eliminated from the Chase- impacted the playoffs. There’s nothing wrong with that; the rules allow him and the 35 other drivers not in the Chase to continue competing, and he’s supposed to try to win. With that said, those with no stake in the Chase get to affect it. That’s a flaw in the system.
According to a chart at jayski.com, this is what the standings would look like today if we were running with the same points system as what was used from 1975-2003. Now I get why NASCAR wanted to change the system that they had. Matt Kenseth won the 2003 championship with one lonely little win. It does seem a wee bit empty, but consider this: as it stands right now, we have a driver with just one victory in 2015 who is now in a position to win it all. Granted, a Jeff Gordon championship in his swan song would be a great story. Quite possibly, Martin Truex Jr.- who is in the same boat- may well be in that same position. The Truex and Furniture Row story is a compelling one. While that’s the case, we all know good and well this is what NASCAR was hoping to avoid when all this changed.
A confession from me, fan to fan. Though I am politically conservative, and I am not a sports traditionalist. I like the designated hitter, I like the NFL rules that opened up the passing game, and I like the three-point rule in hoops. By same token, I look at the old points system, and I see a model that rewards wins AND consistency. That’s the way it should be.
You would think the current Chase model would favor winning. It hasn’t helped NASCAR’s top winning drivers this year. To some degree, we’re roughly in the same place we would be with the old points system that a vast majority of fans favor. Wasn’t winning supposed to matter more? It was supposed to, but to many other variables have affected it.