Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Clinches, Schminches…. How Long Until Richmond?

It doesn’t matter how new or revamped this new Chase system is, there will always be one word that crops up no matter how many revisions the points system goes through: clinch.

Ah, yes. The dreaded “clinch” scenario. A complicated system of mathematics and statistics churned through a grinder and spit out through NASCAR press releases and databases. We know well before the Chase starts who is in and who is out because, inevitably, several drivers will mathematically clinch a Chase spot before it ever begins. Of course, we know realistically who could make the Chase, but now it’s set in stone.

As of now, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski are locked into the Chase, so long as they attempt to qualify for the remaining seven races. However, this year’s clinching scenario is a bit different. In order to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the drivers must be locked into the top 30 in points and have multiple wins. Jeff Gordon is locked into the top 30 in points but has only one race win to his credit. So if Gordon wins at Indy, there will be three clinchers.

Ok, so in all honesty, it’s not that complicated. Even with the new points system, figuring out who will and won’t make the Chase or clinch a spot is pretty simple. And, honestly, did anyone actually think Earnhardt, Keselowski, or Gordon would miss the Chase? If anything, it’s solidifying what we already knew.

With that said, you know it’s getting to crunch time when these clinch scenarios turn from possibility into reality. This season has flown by and I know Homestead will be here before we know it and I’m getting more and more excited to see what the new postseason will bring. Honestly, I’m not sure I could be disappointed. At this point, I just want to know.

Because, who knows? NASCAR may just decide to change it again if they don’t like it.

Now onto the mailbox:

“I keep hearing about tracks losing their tax breaks but haven’t seen anything come of it. I don’t even know what it all means. Does that mean the tracks would close down? Or would this be a huge financial burden? I don’t understand how it all works.” Shayla

Basically, what happened was the tax treatment of motorsports facilities (a tax break for racetracks) ended last year because they were not extended by Congress. How it worked was racetracks or anyone contributing to the renovation of the track would be eligible for a small tax benefit through a system known as accelerated depreciation. Basically, the cost of renovations on a track (such as repaving, for instance) can be depreciated over a shorter amount of time than what most other businesses get. It’s a tax break many racetracks around the country use, not necessarily just tracks that host NASCAR races.

If these tax breaks aren’t extended (and several NASCAR track owners are actively lobbying for Congress to do so), I don’t think the lack of a tax break will cause many racetracks to shut down, even the smaller ones. Of course it’s an attractive tax break and one that tracks want to have, but there isn’t much support for it in the House of Representatives because of the financial burden of extending this tax break and many similar ones that were also cut. Yes, strangely enough, it is the Democrats trying to gather a vote to extend the 50 or so tax breaks that have been cut recently, one of which includes a bill that would help NASCAR racetracks. Don’t tell anyone in the mainstream media, though. It might hurt their narrative of painting NASCAR with such a broad, political brush.

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about this one. I would love for tracks around the country to have a financial incentive to stick around and improve their facilities, but I also know there are much more pressing concerns regarding the financial integrity of this country. Frankly, I don’t know enough about tax codes and whatnot to say for sure, but, overall, I don’t feel like this will be a huge blow to the motorsports industry.

“Does NASCAR actually have a maximum age? I don’t necessarily have a problem with Morgan Shepherd, per se, but if a 99-year-old attempted to enter the race at Indianapolis, would NASCAR let him? The idea that there might not be a limit seems silly to me. You would think there would be SOME kind of maximum imposed.” Julissa

Why? Why does it matter?

The only age limit NASCAR has is a minimum age, and a driver must be 18 years or older to compete in any of NASCAR’s top three series. Every driver does have to take and pass a physical examination at the end of the year, and Morgan Shepherd passed his, therefore he is cleared to race. If a 99-year-old was able to pass a physical (doubtful, borderline impossible), I’m sure NASCAR would allow him to race too.

I don’t see why an older driver is causing so many people to freak out. I can somewhat attribute Logano’s comment being heat of the moment. But why does a 72-year-old driver send everyone into a tizzy? It is because you would never see that happen in other sports? Is it because he is supposedly taking a seat away from younger up-and-coming drivers? Is it because he hasn’t won a race in NASCAR competition since 1993?

Honestly, I don’t understand. If anything, my frustration with the incident was that a slower car impacted the competition up front, a personal pet peeve of mine when it comes to motorsports racing. I agree with Jeff Gordon’s comments where he says a car that slow shouldn’t be on the track, especially at this level of competition. It’s one thing for drivers to overcome genuine obstacles throughout the course of the race, their own competition being one of them. But is a car drastically slower than themselves and most of the rest of the field really “competition”? At that point, they are just a hazard.

That’s an honest and real debate that needs to happen, and has happened even on this very site. But if Shepherd meets NASCAR’s physical requirements to get behind the wheel of a racecar, then his age need not be an issue.

“I’m a little bit intrigued that the two drivers with the most wins are the two drivers who were fighting each other for the championship only a couple years ago. What I don’t get is why no one is talking about it. Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t nearly as poised to win a title as Keselowski is his second but you would think Earnhardt is all but guaranteed to win his second with the way some people are talking! Please tell me you agree that Keselowski is severely underrated…” Trisha


I don’t think Keselowski is underrated. He missed last year’s Chase after all, despite the fact that he won the championship in 2012. Also, his consistency has left a little to be desired at times. For instance, even though he was three wins this season, he also has six finishes outside of the top 15. So even though Penske Racing is very strong this year, they haven’t been dominant all season.


Also, I don’t see where Keselowski isn’t getting the attention he deserves, as opposed to Earnhardt. Earnhardt is having his best year in a long time and I think that deserves some recognition. Similarly, Keselowski has gotten the deserved attention for each of his wins this season and rightfully so. Plus, I know several people, myself included, who have said they wouldn’t be surprised to see Keselowski win the championship. They’ve said the same about Earnhardt, of course, but if anything the two of them have had equal amounts of coverage.


Maybe that’s your problem. I don’t know. But for once, the coverage and attention Earnhardt is getting is warranted. But I don’t think that has contributed to Keselowski (or anyone who has been competitive this year) being overshadowed. If Keselowski (or Harvick, or Busch, or whoever) is one of the final four drivers at Homestead, and Earnhardt isn’t, I guarantee you won’t be hearing about the 88 team anymore.


My goodness, I never thought I’d see a Keselowski fan get frustrated because Earnhardt is getting more coverage. Aren’t you guys default fans of each other’s drivers, generally speaking? Keselowski isn’t Keselowski without Earnhardt, at least not the way the cards fell for him in his career.

About the author

Promoted to editor in 2013, Summer is one of Frontstretch’s fast-rising young talents. While contributing to social media efforts, she also writes the weekly "Up To Speed" column. A Kansas native, Summer graduated with a Bachelor's in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2015. She also contributes to other media outlets such as Kickin' The Tires.

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Trisha needs to catch up, Jr has to win his first one before he can go for a second one. He’s having a good year, but the road to the championship goes through Jimmie, Brad, Kevin, and ?. Plus, since it’s 4 drivers in one race for the final, it comes down to having a great car, and a ton of luck with fuel mileage, tires, other drivers, and pit crews. It all has to come together for one last race.


To use just ONE example, lf the current administration hadn’t given billions to solar energy companies that are now bankrupt, that alone would cover the tax breaks for Nascar tracks.

Fed Up

You may want to review accelerated depreciation before you call it a “small tax break”. The sports millionaires who own stadiums and tracks are bleeding the taxpayers for these additions.


Summer, things are different here in the physical world, as opposed to the PC world where reality is just another form of prejudice. I’m 60 and like it or not my reflexes are not close to what they were in my 20’s and 30’s. There is nothing wrong with NASCAR keeping a closer eye on drivers as they age. I speak from experience here,aging is a fact of life not necessarily a form of discrimination.

Carl D.

Well said. Unfortunately, the PC world is the one that makes the rules these days and the physical world just gets to pay the consequences. I’ve always been a big fan of Morgan Shepherd but there’s just no rgood eason for him to strap into an uncompetitive Sprint Cup car at 72.

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