Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Wild-Card Weekend, Mr. Consistency & Busch’s Waiver

Wild Card Weekend

Three words perhaps best sum up this weekend’s 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway: Anyone can win. The waning laps of the four restrictor-plate races are often among the most exciting of the season, as the snarling pack of drivers jockey for glory and the checkered flag on the high banks of the largest track in the sport. This, then, is very much a wild card weekend as one completely unexpected driver might just punch their ticket to the playoffs. And that’s the beauty of the plate tracks: current form and average finish go out of the window and terms like dance partners, that made up word “co-opetition” and drafting come to the fore. Now I know there are plenty of fans who abhor plate racing, considering it is almost a mockery of the sport in the sense that winning is defined as much by other drivers as it is yourself, but I have always found it to be absolutely mesmerizing to watch. Here’s hoping for a classic last-lap finish and every driver making it home safely.

Mr. Consistency

For the eighth time in nine races in the 2015 Sprint Cup season, Mr. Consistency himself, Martin Truex Jr., finished the race with yet another top 10. Truex has already eclipsed his top-10 total for the entirety of last season; he picked up just five in 36 races in 2014. The New Jersey native encountered late-race issues at Richmond International Raceway but still managed to battle his way to a very respectable finish. “We’ve made some late-race charges a few times this season and it’s a good feeling to know that we have the ability to overcome these issues,” said Truex. “Once again I am proud of this team for bringing fast cars to the track.”

Fast cars have been very much a theme of the season for Truex, who is quietly putting himself into Chase contention with a high points finish even if he doesn’t capture a win. Truex sits third in the overall rankings, 42 markers behind Kevin Harvick and just nine behind second-place Joey Logano. His winless streak now stands at 65 races – his second of just two career victories coming at Sonoma Raceway in 2013. At the rate he’s going in 2015, win number three looks like being in the not too distant future. And how great would it be to see the 12-year, 342-race veteran back in Victory Lane once more?

Kyle’s Chase Eligibility

In an interview prior to the Richmond race, Brian France spoke about the Kyle Busch injury situation and whether or not he would still be Chase eligible once he returns behind the wheel. “Depends on when he comes back of course, but it’ll be more likely than not that we’re going to try to figure out how to accommodate him, which is the beauty of our playoff system,” said France. Now while that does sound positive for Busch, to me this should be a no-brainer. Provided he picks up a win before the Chase begins, assuming a return sometime in July, Busch has to be eligible for the playoffs. If he wins, he should be in: simple as that. The injury he suffered at Daytona International Speedway was certainly a freak occurrence and one that France pointed out “what happened to him was on us.” The NASCAR chief went on to note, “We’ll balance a lot of things at that point when we have to make a decision, but we’re inclined to want to figure that out for sure.” So whilst this opens the door, you can also argue that it gives NASCAR a way out too. But like I say, if and when Busch returns the only criteria there should be is win and you’re in. What do you all think? Let me know below.

Importance of Kansas

After three weeks on the two short tracks of Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway and this weekend’s tilt at Talladega Superspeedway, we will be back to the bread and butter of Cup racing, the mile-and-a-half cookie-cutter circuits. First up under the lights next Saturday night is Kansas Speedway, followed by the All-Star Race and the 600-mile Memorial Day Sunday classic at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With the regular season fast approaching the halfway mark, Kansas will be a critical marker for the teams chasing the lightning fast Chevys of Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. “I’m actually looking forward to getting to Kansas in May,” said David Wilson, the President and General Manager of Toyota Racing Development in an interview with Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer. “We’ve actually been working on some stuff targeted for Kansas and that will be a real indicator of how strong we’ll be through the middle of the season. The real test, though, will be whether or not Wilson is smiling late Saturday evening. If there’s a frown on his face, it promises to be a long, hard season for the Toyota wheelmen.

RIP Steve Byrnes

And finally this week, I wanted to take a minute and pass on my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the friends and, in particular, family of Steve Byrnes. The veteran NASCAR broadcaster passed away last Thursday at just 56 years of age, following a long and courageous battle with cancer and his loss is keenly felt. There’s something so very appropriate about his final tweet, in response to a fan: “I went the distance.” Yes you did, Steve, and you will be greatly missed. Rest in peace. God bless you.

About the author

Danny starts his 12th year with Frontstretch in 2018, writing the Tuesday signature column 5 Points To Ponder. An English transplant living in San Francisco, by way of New York City, he’s had an award-winning marketing career with some of the biggest companies sponsoring sports. Working with racers all over the country, his freelance writing has even reached outside the world of racing to include movie screenplays.

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I prefer the old system of adding up the points after 36 races and declaring a Champion. To me it’s the only legitimate way. Plus, it lets you compare the other drivers to see how well their season went. Now, it’s just a big mess.

To me, it’s just a cheap way to try and generate interest. It’s NASCAR trying to convert non-race fans into fans. Just turns off the core fans and the non-race fans will drift away. They need to fix the racing. Not creating a system where they end up with a Champ that didn’t deserve the crown.



Bill B

Yep. That about says it all.

This former sport has really lost it’s way.

So will they waive the top 30 rule for Kyle as well?


We all talk about it here for something to do. Really though I doubt many of us really care how they determine who is Chase eligible as most of us view the format to be illegitimate anyway. What the hell, add bathing suit and talent components, it would be no less of a farce.


Great comments! IMO the whole chase/championship boondoggle is a farce and no I don’t think Kyle should get a waiver. If Daytona had ponied up the $ for the walls to have been properly protected then he probably wouldn’t have been injured. If he hadn’t been racing in the lower series, he also wouldn’t have been injured.

I’m sorry that it happened since having a driver injured bothers me just because I don’t ever like to see it happen, but as kb said, sometimes you just have a bad season.

I realize that BZF won’t ever let the sport be “normal” again as in making the championship play out over a full season, but then again, after this season, I won’t care what nonsense the emperor and his minions come up with to win the mirror ball trophy.


++++++++++Chase Spoiler Alert+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

No wonder why NASCAR gets snickers from the sporting world, the world Brian covets so much to be like. The law of unintended consequences is on display for all to see for starters. “The win your in” bologna. Kyle has missed 9 races and is going to miss a lot more. Yes, yes I know that is the rule, but like most NASCAR rules and formats, it reeks of stupidity. Things happen in peoples careers and sometimes you just have a bad year. This is a bad year for Kyle and he does not deserve to even be in the company of those who are getting it done week in and out. Again the consistency of good runs every week is made a mockery of. Why doesn’t Castle Daytona see this obvious fact? So we can have Kyle show up at week 26…get that win..and he is in? So he raced for a total of 10 races and logically by this insane format (at the very least) he can finish 4 in overall season points???? That he was the 4th best all year! Nah, the folly of the format has NASCAR history recording tall tales and lies. Starting big time with the one race..ahem..”Champ” last year. How patently pathetic.

Ron Schwalbe

Old Latford graduated point system – then, just count your best 32 finishes of the 36 races !
SOO SIMPLE and- helps to solve some issues such as injuries, unusual mechanical failures, plate “races”, etc. !
Exisiting system makes it possible to win THIRTY FIVE races in a row, and then finsh Second at Homstead -( evidently the ONLY race that matters anymore) – and still NOT———– be Champion.????
Never happen but, according to the “rules”– it COULD in this Musical Chairs farce !


The main problem I have with the Latford system was the total lack of significance it placed on winning races. The difference between first and second is much greater than the difference between 4th and 5th in significance to the drivers, fans, and sponsors. Yet Latford considered first to be simply another finishing position. Use the Latford system, but add bonus points for winning. Leading a single lap during caution or green flag pit stops is rewarded under Latford more than winning the race and is truly BS.

Carl D.

I have no problem with a waiver for Kyle. The whole point of the rule requiring drivers to compete in all of the races is to make sure Junior and Danica don’t decide to skip a race and go deep sea fishing or bungee jumping. If a driver misses races due to illness, injury, or a knee-jerk reaction to a Delaware family court’s speculation, that’s really not the driver’s fault. A win and Kyle is in.

Carl D.

P.S… Provided he’s in the Top 30.

Bill B

The math…
Right now Tony Stewart is 3th with 148 points after 9 races. That is about 16 points per race (148 ÷ 9).
Over 26 races that results in a total of 416 points (26 x 16).
If Kyle comes back at Daytona he will have 10 races before the chase starts.
That means Kyle would have to accumulate 41 points per race (416 ÷ 10) plus win a race to qualify.

41 points equate to a 3rd place finish. Very highly unlikely to think anyone will average a 3rd place finish over 10 races. Especially coming back from an injury.

So unless they waive the top 30 rule, it probably isn’t going to be an issue.


Correct. It just amazes this man who is the head of a billion dollar corporation would even consider and has implemented rule changes as he “sees fit”. Those actions are not a ringing endorsement regarding confidence of product or the structure you implemented. I heard another change is in the wind for the “rules package” next year. I wish some teams would give him the one finger salute!


unfortunately, it his bat, ball and field so the teams are stuck. I had a shortlived hope that maybe the RTA would push back against some of these expensive for the teams initiatives but the owners are in it for the $ just as much as the France family so I have no true expectation there. Bruton probably would mainly because he’s curmudgeonly enough to do it just for spite, but he’s also got skin in the game and no one wants to upset the status quo.

so in the end, it is the fans and the drivers who get screwed the most in the never ending merry go round that is NASCAR’s “rules”.

Bill B

I tell you, I am so glad Jeff is retiring and I can wipe caring about NASCAR from the bottom of my shoe. I’m not saying I will turn my back on NASCAR (I was going to say “the sport” LOL) but I swear I will not care what stupid rules Brian comes up with. It’s pretty sad when something you love causes you such aggravation. For me Brian has taken the fun out of being a fan.


Correct again Bill. We love(loved) this sport and want it to get better. We complain because we care. I hope somebody at some point reads something and has a light bulb go off!


Me, too, Bill. The relief of not being invested in NASCAR will be wonderful, sort of like a monkey off my back. LOL

I’m sure I’ll follow along to some degree but not having to care about any of the dumb ideas that France comes up will be great.


The trouble with France’s statement is that it was so vague on the issue of requiring a top-30 in points for Kyle to be eligible for a waiver. He says the severity of the injuries was “on us,” which seems to imply that he might waive the top-30 rule as well as the rule requiring a driver to start all 26 races. If he does this, he will probably have to add Kyle as a 17th Chaser, much the way Jeff Gordon was added as an “extra” a couple years ago. Then NASCAR would have to decide if the extra position gets eliminated in Round 1 or later. It is logistically workable. The NCAA BB tournament has worked around extra teams beyond the normal 64-tournament eligible and no one seems to pitch a hissy fit over that.

For myself, I don’t care about waiver or no waiver. I am one of those who believes the Chase is bogus, so who cares if it has 16 or 17 drivers? I just want to Kyle back in a race car and soon! The are simply not worth watching without him.


NASCAR openly engages in “in race manipulation” to make the “show” more interesting. It should surprise no one that they would manipulate the for entertainment purposes only Chase. NASCAR has never been about fair competition. What would lead anyone to believe that now after more than half a century that would become a concern. If MLB or the NFL pulled this kind of crap the sporting press would go nuts. The racing press are for the most part apologists .

J. Smith

I gave up on the credibility of the championship when the Chase first began so I could care less who’s in and how/why. Last year it did seem to make the last few races more interesting to me but that intensity and drama has not carried over to this year’s regular season. I DVR the races so I can condense them to about an hour of my time and due to weather and DVR, missed Bristol and Richmond. I don’t really care that I missed them.

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