We’re only three races into the new NASCAR Sprint Cup season, so there’s still a lot yet to be determined. It’s still too early to establish which are bone fide trends and mirages. For example, Junior Nation is hoping hoping his current is a trend, while Smoke fans are praying Tony Stewart’s present woes are a quickly fading mirage. While those issues remain a bit unclear, one thing seems undeniable: the new Chase qualification system has created a desired effect among the drivers.
You see, essentially clinching a Chase berth by virtue of a win does not put a driver on cruise control, it feeds an addiction. If you’ve ever competed and won, you know as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski do, you want to win more. When you want to win more (and don’t have to worry about points), you race harder. When you race harder, you put on a better show. When you put on a better show, you make fans happier. When you make fans happier, you have a better sport. Going “all in” by Team 88 made for a better race than it otherwise would have been, and they darn near pulled it off.
Did you notice what Junior said after the race “It sucks losing like this.” He finished second!!! You’ll notice what he didn’t say: “We had a good points day.” After an exhilarating win at Daytona, the man clearly wants more; racing with a confidence he’s not had in ten years. How about Harvick or Bad Brad? Are you expecting either of those two to ease off the pedal? Me neither.
If YOUR driver isn’t one of these three, no worries; under this system, there’s still ample time to right the ship. There’s no need for panic if your guy is Stewart or Clint Bowyer. If you really think about it, the way this system is constructed, it is far more likely an unlucky good driver gets into the Chase by virtue of a win, then a back marker who steals a victory at a plate track. It’s not like you can be 31st in the standings and by winning at Talladega, presto, you qualify for the Chase. With that said, it seems more fitting that a top 15th place driver who wins a race is more deserving than an 8th place driver who hasn’t. The logic ay seem convoluted, but ponder that for a few moments. The season where Kyle Busch won four races yet missed the Chase comes to mind, not to mention the small army of drivers who got in, primarily on the “strength”(?) of running top 15 nearly every week.
Any points system that rewards winning is a good points system. This system, as its constructed now, seems a lot closer to achieving that…..based on what we see so far.