Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2015 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

Who’s in the headline – Racing can involve a myriad of strategies on a normal weekend. On a road course, the options become even more diverse. After three different fuel strategies had all played out, a late-race caution resulted in a majority of the field coming onto pit road with 10 laps to go. Kyle Busch was the second car off pit lane with four fresh tires. Then he drove it like he stole it at the drop of the green and muscled his way to the lead with less than five laps to go. He held off Clint Bowyer and then his brother Kurt Busch to score the victory that now has him possibly positioned to make the Chase.

What happenedAJ Allmendinger started on the pole and hoped to capture lightning in a bottle for the second year in a row for his single-car team. Kurt Busch grabbed the lead at the drop of the green and led the first 22 laps. Kyle Busch took the lead from Bowyer one lap after the restart following the first caution of the race. The elder Busch regained the lead on lap 40, then lost it to Jimmie Johnson, who looked to be poised for most of the second half of the race. Kurt Busch and Johnson swapped the lead two more times before Casey Mears lost his right-rear tire and most of the rear housing with 10 laps to go. When the pits opened, Johnson elected to stay out, and all but four other lead lap cars dove into the pits. On the restart, Johnson had a cushion with the four cars behind him, but the newer tires were too much to overcome, and Kyle Busch powered past him with five laps to go. Bowyer looked like he was a faster car as the laps wound down, but shortly after he got close to the younger Busch, older brother Kurt caught up and pushed his way into second. Fortunately for Kyle Busch, it was with just over a lap to go and the older Busch could not get to the rear bumper to make it interesting going into the final turn.

Why you should care – The discussion has been going on since Charlotte. Kyle Busch returned to the Cup Series and was told, if he could meet the necessary criteria, he would be eligible for the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The biggest challenge, at least initially was to win a race. Unfortunately for Busch, two poor finishes, including last-place at Michigan, has made the obstacle of making the top 30 in points appear to be the bigger struggle. The victory gives all four of Joe Gibbs Racing’s team a win in 2015, and if Busch can make it to the Chase, will give all four teams a shot at the title. Hendrick Motorsports has two teams and two satellite teams poised for the Chase along with Team Penske having both of their teams in line for the playoffs. With 11 winners now in the books, half of the remaining 10 races before Chicagoland have to be won by drivers who already have wins, or someone with a victory will be on the outside looking in come Chase time.

What your friends are talking about

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had Windows 10 on the hood of his car this weekend. The simple fact that HMS secured a sponsorship deal from one of the biggest software companies on the planet is not that newsworthy. The two underlying facts that make it far more interesting are the location of the race and the timing in general. Microsoft is based in Redmond, Washington, so Sonoma is the closest race course to their headquarters. However, the technology giant that IS close to Sonoma is Apple, which is just an hour-and-a-half down the road in Cupertino. Don’t think for a second that the choice of Sonoma for a Microsoft sponsorship wasn’t intentional.

Secondly, the title sponsorship of NASCAR’s premier series is open for 2017 and beyond. There hasn’t been much discussion about who is going to slot into the space that Sprint is vacating after the checkered flag drops at Homestead next year. Microsoft certainly has the financial strength to pay the price for the sponsorship. This race very well could be a trial balloon by Bill Gates and his minions to see if the nearly $1 billion that NASCAR is talking about would be worth it in the pantheon of operating system marketing.

Speaking of sponsorship, I wonder if Xfinity is looking for a refund after last weekend’s race in Chicago was postponed and televised on FOX Sports 2, as a reported 377,000 people watched the race. That is a fantastic number of fans in attendance at a race. Unfortunately that wasn’t the attendance, that was the total TV audience. A rain delay and a lightly subscribed television channel didn’t help the situation but that is still the smallest TV audience in decades for an NXS race.

Another classic failure of NASCAR to use the red flag. They did implement it when Martin Truex Jr. knocked over the concrete barrier, but when Carl Edwards wrecked himself and David Ragan into the concrete barrier hard enough that it had to be pushed back in place by a forklift, they left the cars circulating the racetrack. They like to pontificate about trying to bring the fans a complete event, but there are many times they waste way too many laps performing incident cleanup that would be best served by throwing the red flag to tidy up the racing surface.

One of the throwback aspects of Sunday’s race was the use of tires that meant something but also could be nursed if they needed to be. It was a bit disturbing to see some chunks of rubber coming out of them, but in the end it was refreshing to see tires come into play as part of the strategy. The hope is that the folks at Goodyear are taking notice that it isn’t a bad thing to have tires give up and even have problems during a race.

Jeff Gordon spoke at a fan event this weekend in Sonoma and was asked about how his children felt about his retirement. He said his daughter Ella is worried she won’t be famous once her dad is not famous. He also said that Ella wants to be the next Danica Patrick. As admirable as that hope is, she’d be better served to try and be the next Gordon.

Who is mad – Starting on the pole, Allmendinger was looking to recapture the miracle from Watkins Glen last season and make the Chase again this year. He was in contention early and was just letting the race play out before the excitement of the final 30 laps. Unfortunately for Allmendinger, his car didn’t last that long. A fuel-pressure issue was the culprit that ended his day and eliminated one of his two legitimate chances to make the Chase.

Truex Jr. was looking to set a new top-10 record to start a season heading into Sonoma. That dream was shattered early on when Ragan turned the second-place points driver into the tire barrier starting into the esses. The Mayetta, N.J. driver admitted he got into the side of Ragan, but said it was an accident. Truex’s team built a brand new car for the road course this weekend, and it was badly torn up when it came to a rapid halt against the tire barrier, knocking over the concrete barrier behind the tires. With a win in his pocket already this year, it doesn’t make much difference for Truex’s title hopes but it does set up potential shenanigans going forward between Truex and Ragan.

Brad Keselowski has finished second at Watkins Glen three of the last four years. Sonoma has been a completely different story for the 2012 champion. Keselowski has one top 10 finish in six career starts in wine country. Sunday he and his crew chief Paul Wolfe were out to lunch for most of the race and barely sniffed the top 10 all day. Fortunately for Keselowski there are no road courses in the Chase so once the final 10 races get here today will be a distant memory.

Who is happy – Since the spin affair at Richmond in 2013, Bowyer has been swimming upstream against karma. After making the Chase in 2012 and 2013, Bowyer only scored five top fives in 2014. The beginning of 2015 has not been any better for Bowyer. MWR has been struggling to be competitive this year and just made a crew chief swap to try and mix things up. Bowyer’s run at Sonoma may be a blip on the radar or it may be the beginning of the momentum swing for the No. 15 team.

Sam Hornish Jr. hasn’t had a top 10 on a non-plate track since 2012. Granted that is only 35 races ago for Hornish since he is just back to full-time this season but it is still a huge positive for the No. 9 team. Hornish was not in the top 10 before the run to the finish after the final restart, but took advantage of his fresh tires and aggressive driving to make it to 10th when the checkered flag flew.

Tony Stewart has been in the mad category throughout the season due to the struggles he has had adapting to the new rules package. Sunday he was in the top 10 multiple times throughout the event and he made a strategy play at the end of the race that had him in contention for the win. He ended up slipping back to the 12th position when the checkered flag flew, but it was a positive run for the three-time series champion. With the series heading to Daytona, Stewart has to feel good about his potential for continued improvement, since he has four wins in the July race at the World Center of Speed.

When the checkered flag flew

Kyle Busch’s victory at Sonoma is his 30th of his career in his 370th career start. The win is Busch’s second career win at Sonoma. Busch is tied with Kevin Harvick for 23rd on the all-time wins list. They are tied for fifth on the active driver list. This was Busch’s fourth career road-course triumph, which ties him with Mark Martin and David Pearson for 10th on the all-time road-course win list.

Kurt Busch came home second on Sunday for his third top-two run of the season. This is Busch’s second career top-two at Sonoma. This is the first time in their careers that Kyle and Kurt Busch have finished first and second in a race.

Bowyer crossed the line in third for the first top five of his season and the first top five for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2015. This is Bowyer’s second career podium finish at Sonoma.

Alex Kennedy finished 25th to claim the Rookie of the Race award.

Harvick, Logano, Keselowski, Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Earnhardt Jr., Edwards, Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch all have wins in 2015. Kyle Busch is not in the top 30 in points, so he will have to race his way into that point position before he’ll be eligible for the Chase. He is currently 37th, 136 points behind 30th-place Cole Whitt. Harvick, Johnson and Kurt Busch are locked into the Chase assuming they attempt the rest of the races or receive an exemption should they miss any events thanks to multiple wins.

The drivers who are currently eligible for the Chase after 15 races without wins and their standing in points:

7) Jamie McMurray

8) Kasey Kahne

11) Jeff Gordon

12) Paul Menard

14) Ryan Newman

15) Aric Almirola

Takin’ it to the Bank

With 16 races in the books, Cup winners this year have pocketed $6,016,925, while the last-place finisher has taken home $1,361,687.

In the Xfinity Series, it has been $1,098,711 for the winners and $207,938 for last place after 14 races.

After nine Truck races, the winner has $495,832 and the last loser has banked $92,195.

What is in the cooler – To say there were comers and goers on Sunday at Sonoma is an understatement. There were five leaders during the race who exchanged the lead nine times. With the different strategies at play drivers were moving from the back to the front with regularity. The passing took place throughout the event and was not concentrated in the five laps after restarts. As a result, this was an above average race that was on the verge of being a classic if there had been one more lap for Kurt Busch to get to the bumper of his brother Kyle. We’ll give this one five cold glasses of Amphora Winery Merlot because it was in wine country afterall.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The Firecracker 400, in its reincarnated version of the Coke Zero 400 will take place Sunday night at 7:45 p.m. ET. For whatever reason, the series actually had the chance to run the race on the 4th for the first time since 2009, but chose to run it on Sunday night instead. The race will be broadcast on NBC. It can also be heard live on MRN affiliate stations and Sirius/XM NASCAR Channel 90.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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I am a little concerned although not surprised that Martin Truex Jr. who FINALLY WON A RACE a couple of races ago thinks now he can DO NO WRONG. What the hell is up with that? Seems even Mad Marty is believing his own press. Thats what his “longtime girlfriend” must do for a living, check the Martin stories. Sorry, that looked like a “racing incident” to me with the onus of error leaning heavily on Martin. Regardless of what happened to David Regan the rest of the race. And I am no fan of DR. I think both he and Martin have been around a very long time and the press has been extremely easy on those two for some reason, compared to others with much better stats.

I am also saddened the way this insane Chase format works, a guy can miss 11 races and now is eligible for the Chase. Sad indeed. I see the unfair shades of last year rearing its ugly head already.

Bill B

I love watching the road course races.
It was also nice to see new tires trump track position for a change.
I thought Fox’s coverage was still lacking. Things happened in the pits that they didn’t seem to cover. Drivers lost 5-10 positions at different points in the race during a pit cycle and nothing was mentioned.

Yeah, I agree kb, missing 11 races and still being in contention for the championship really drives home one of the many problems with the chase. I will be glad when I no longer care next year (in fact, I am kind of already there).


I’ve always liked the road courses as well, something different to watch and they always seemed to be just a lot of fun. Yes Goodyear brought a tire that wore out! How shocking was that? I know I was surprised but happy to see it. IMO having to manage your tires, not just the fuel adds another interesting element to racing.

I have come to like KyBu, although am still not a fan of older brother but I do think that missing the number of races he did, no matter what the reason, should disallow his participation in the chase, but since nothing matters but the crapshoot these days, my lack of interest says “whatever” with a shrug. The trophy awarded at the end of the season doesn’t mean what it did when it was awarded because of the teams performance over a full season of races.

I’m sure that I would be far more interested in all of this if Gordon was having a reasonably decent season but he isn’t, obviously hates the 2015 version of the car and Alan can’t seem to find his posterior with both hands. For them to get penalized for something so stupid as tossing a spring rubber instead of carrying it over the wall just amazed me. One – it seems like a stupid rule (just my opinion) – I mean does a spring rubber pose that much danger? and two – for AG to not make sure that the pit crew did their job right, well that’s stupid on another level altogether especially when it is two weeks of racing in a row – the race before this, they didn’t get all the lug nuts tight on one tire. Geez did they really rely on the officials to make sure they had them tight so much? Just careless IMO — sorry, I’m ranting I know.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m in the I no longer care category but based on how ticked off I was at a 16th place finish for JG at a track where he has always raced so well, well I know I’m not – even if it would be better for my blood pressure if I was.

I find it interesting that I’ve had phone calls from several tracks where we usually go to races talking about ticket deals — Martinsville, Dover & last week Charlotte. Normally I’d be in for Martinsville but they keep screwing around with that date — this year it is November 1st and the tv people will insist on starting that race at 2 p.m. or something dumb and I hate to tell them but 500 laps at M’ville can take a while and I hate having to rush to make my flight out.

Bill B

Well, it pains me to see Jeff struggling and makes me think he is making the right decision with his retirement (I think Stewart should follow). It is obvious that there is a law of diminishing returns as a driver gets past a certain age. I’d rather see a driver retire than become a joke (see D. Waltrip’s last 5 years).

My apathy with NASCAR runs so deep that, while I would like to see Jeff make the chase just for the record books, the truth is that I really don’t care. Especially since I don’t see him going very far into the chase with the way he’s been running (although with the crapshoot nature of the “new and disproved chase” anything could happen, look at Newman and Hamlin last year).

Like I said earlier in the year, the most important thing to me is that he doesn’t get seriously injured being so close to the end.


I’m with ya Bill. And it’s going to be pretty embarrassing for Gordon if Kyle Bucsh makes the Chase and he doesn’t.


Yes, I have to agree with you that Gordon isn’t running well enough to be competitive if he does make the chase. That really hurts because I’m sure this is not what he wanted for his final season. I agree though that I’m glad he is retiring rather than doing what DW did for too many years.

Like you, I want him to come out of this season w/o being injured. If he doesn’t make the chase, I would actually hope that he wouldn’t race at Dega and risk the mayhem (although who knows considering how boring (until the big one) RP racing has become.


gina – did they put lights up at martinsville? 2 pm start on 11/1? sun will be going down by 4.

oh well, i’m not the brain trust of na$car.

i’m really waiting to see how they’ll enforce no confederate flags on track property. yeah right, tell that to the folks at ‘dega.

Bill B

Me too Janice. The first thing that came to mind was Talladega.

NASCAR better be careful, there are already a lot of fans on the fence with regards to spending money on NASCAR, additional alienation will not make things better.


Janice, no, there aren’t lights there and yes the sun is definitely going down by the time they finish the race. The only reason it works at all is because the gov’t moved the time change date so it is still daylight savings. I still wish they would start the “chase” races at the normal starting time. Moving it an hour does nothing for TV (if people are watching the NFL games, they aren’t going to stop & tune in for a race they weren’t going to watch anyway) and it really screws things up for fans going to and coming home from the race.

I have no idea how NASCAR plans to enforce banning the confederate flag. I was a Martinsville the year that the tv people planted people dressed in muslim garb to try and get an adverse reaction they could use to demonstrate how biased NASCAR fans are. It was pretty amusing to watch all the race fans just keep on going about their business and totally ignoring it all. No issues for the TV to report, they must have been so disappointed.


didn’t watch much of it. saw the edwards/mears caution. i guarantee you they didn’t throw the red flag for the barrier wall repair cause foxsports1 had a soccer game slated to air at 7 pm.

no more waltrip brothers til feb. i tell you dw had it out for michael this year. loved it when they were talking about so many people in the driver’s ear during the races and dw said, it’s ok mikey has lots of voices in his head all the time to listen to.

have a safe 4th. hopefully there won’t be a rain deal next sunday night, since majority of people will have go to back to work on monday after the long holiday. yeah i know nbc has some fireworks show on the tube on saturday night.


Janice, I thought the same thing — they threw the red flag earlier then the race was going long, so they didn’t bother. That always bugs me because I feel like they used up laps that could have been used for actual racing. My brother called me and asked if this was the “endless” race? LOL I told him not to forget that it was in California and didn’t start until after 3 p.m. ET.

Ha, I’m sorry I missed DW’s line with Mikey but since I keep the TV on mute because there are too many babbling voices on Fox that I refuse to listen to. Far better to have the scanner/radio feed coming thru the computer – they make sense to listen to.

Yes, Happy 4th to everyone. I think its a dumb decision not to have the race on Saturday as well, but maybe they figure people will be busy doing other fun things that day and not bother to watch the race. Then again, many people will be headed home from wherever they have been and may still not watch the race. I have to go to work on Monday so I won’t be up late to watch it and let’s face it – how many times in recent years has this race been delayed due to rain? I’ve lost count. There is a reason why it used to be run in the morning on the 4th so it wasn’t stupid hot AND before the afternoon/evening thunderstorms came in.

Carl D.

I have a little different opinion than some of the other readers about Kyle being eligible for the chase. Kyle may have missed 11 races but if he can manage to be in the top 30 after missing those races and score a win, I see that as quite an accoplishment and I have no problem with him being chase-eliglible. On the one hand, Kyle’s leg and foot injuries could be attributed to the lack of safer barriers where Kyle hit the wall at Daytona, and that’s not Kyle’s fault. On the other hand, if Kyle hadn’t been running in an Xfinity race he wouldn’t have been injured in the first place. So I’m okay if Kyle makes the chase and I’m okay if he doesn’t. I’m not a Kyle Busch fan but I will admit that I missed seeing him on the track during the first part of the season.

Darrell Waltrip said Kyle Busch won that race because he had heart. I guess the other 42 drivers were heartless losers. Thank goodness the Waltrip clowns are done for the season.

Bill B

Carl D,
I guess as long as you totally abandon/forget the traditional season long championship format and embrace the chase format, then yeah, why not.
For many of us, it just piles illegitimacy (missing a third of the season) on top of illegitimacy (having a bracket style elimination) on top of illegitimacy (resetting the points and taking away points someone earned or giving someone points they didn’t earn).

Carl D.

I can definitely see it from your perspective. I guess if finishing dead last cost a driver more than not competing at all, I would feel differently, but there’s no advantage to missing races. I guess I see it more like a 3 day bass tournament… if you come out on the last day and catch more big fish in one day than everybody else does in three, you should win the tournament. Apples and oranges, yeah, but as you pointed out, the whole system is a joke anyway.


heh. given this format of determining a “champion” I personally couldn’t care less who wins it. To me it has about as much relevancy as a fan vote would. I do agree with Carl D that it would be a pretty astounding accomplishment should KB make it into the top 30 in points.. but then again we don’t make the rules so it doesn’t actually matter. I’m more interested in what the France family does if Gordon doesn’t make the chase…. again.


I’m also interested in seeing what happens if Gordon doesn’t make the Chase but is close. As a Gordon fan I remember taking a lot of grief after the Richmond fiasco and rightly so. Didn’t feel he should have been in the Chase then. Did agree with the fate of the others. Even though Truex was the one thrown under the bus by MWR. Bowyer is the one who should have paid.


I agree with Carl D, if he makes in the Top 30 in points, he should be Chase eligible if you are using this ridiculous Chase format. My question is, what happens if he wins 2 or 3 races but does not make it into the Top 30 in points. Does Nascar change the rules again to let him in?


If you miss 11 races, there is no way you should have any chance at being the “season champion”. But then, really, the season is only 10 races long anyway.

And, as far as the Truex/Ragan deal goes, there’s a difference between rubbing someone and just flat out wrecking someone. I would think Ragan has one coming to him.

JD in NC

The road course races have become my favorites over the last several years. So nice to have a race where you don’t hear the phrases “aero push”, or “out front in the clean air” mentioned over and over. Of all of NASCAR’s myriads of problems, the aero one is killing the racing. Oh yeah, and I still think the new crapshoot chase is inconceivably stupid.

Carl D.

That pretty much sums up how I feel as well.


Good race, what I’ve come to expect on road courses. Like many, nice to see tires matter in the end (compare with the Dover race). I don’t think Kurt would have hesitated to give the bumper to Kyle. Good win for Kyle, but I still don’t agree with him having a shot at the Chase. Man so disappointed in the 24. They look out to lunch right now. Gordon sounds like he’s already starting to mentally check out. This looks a lot like the 2012-13 seasons for the 24. They might seek a win and get in the Chase, but probably not do too much.


Everyone may be taking about Ragan and Truex but what I want to know is how does a sweeper truck end up spinning out a race car on pit road? Having ridden around in one of those things extensively (long story) the ones I was in had two steering wheels and sets of pedals so the operator could work from either side of the rig. Did two people forget where the brake pedal was?

And I’ve been beating this drum a long time but during their bi-annual trips to the road courses NASCAR needs to figure out this whole “localized yellow” thing. Some incidents just do not warrant a full course yellow. (Of course it would be nice if Indy car figured out how to clean up debris in less than 14 laps too.)

Carl D.

The Warden is a Long Island native who knew nothing about Nascar until she met me about 15 years ago. She asked me yesterday “What is a sweeper truck doing on pit road while it’s open for cars to pit?”. I couldn’t give her a reasonable answer.


MPM – from what i saw of indy this weekend, looks like a funeral is on the horizon. those cars don’t belong in packs.


Janice, I watched that Indy car race Saturday, and after that, the Cup race Sunday seemed so mundane. If there was ever a race that defined “on the edge of your seat”, that was it. Yes, it was scary, considering they were averaging well over 200-miles-per-hour for most of the green flag laps, but it was also exciting. Those Indy guys went at it right from the drop of the green, and nobody let up. Pack racing? Well, if they are that scared, then back off! Nothing says that you have to hold your right foot down. And Montoya isn’t one to talk. He has driven in restrictor plate races, the epitome of pack racing/follow the leader, and even took out a jet dryer. Which brings me to NASCAR. After the Fontana Indy car race, Sonoma looked like a leisurely Sunday drive. And wait until Sunday night at Daytona. If it’s any thing like the last Talladega race, which was all follow the leader/nobody take a chance and stay in line, then I’ll skip it. I know you don’t agree, but, I want to see racing, not what aero-push/follow the leader NASCAR has. And that race at Fontana defined racing! Just my opinion.

Bill B

Come on Matt, NASCAR will never miss an opportunity to throw a caution to bunch them up and manufacture excitement with a double file restart. It’s their bread and butter these days. Localized caution…. LOL… what the hell are you thinking?


double file restarts & green white checker finishes, the two things that NASCAR has had to rely on the put “excitement” back into the end of the races in the hope that fans will forget they were bored for the majority of the race (although I like road course races, so I did enjoy watching Sonoma).

I agree that NASCAR will never figure out the local yellow concept.

Apparently I missed the sweeper taking out a car on pit road — who did they hit? And yes, it is stupid that it was on pit road when cars were pitting.


Best parts of the race IMO: the leaders pitting and JJ still on the track; the last 10 laps; the last cup race we hear DW and MW (at least for now)


The whole reason for the Chase is the absurdity of non-winners being in contention for the championship. Don’t blame NASCAR; blame Alan Kulwicki and Matt Kenseth for winning championships with NO EFFORT to win races. Those two “drivers” cruised to their championships by points racing in a system that put as much emphasis on 5th over 6th as first over second. No other sport would allow a season-long non-winner to win a championship by some artificial system of points. The Chase didn’t entirely fix the problem – Newman could have won a meaningless championship last season, but one thing was clear after the Kenseth debacle. A premium HAD to be put on winning. Thank you Wisconsin for showing us how to win with a calculator rather than a heart.. The top 30 is arbitrary, but it does not invalidate a spectacular comeback if it should happen.

Stu Pidphukor

Wow, do you have an ax to grind with Wisconsin and/or Wisconsin drivers? Obviously, you weren’t very rational when you posted, otherwise you’d see that the facts don’t back your argument.

Kulwicki didn’t even take the point lead until after the final race of 1992. That means he overcame a deficit and didn’t “cruise” to his championship. He won two races that year and of the six drivers mathematically in contention for the championship before the finale, four of them had won two races. Why not blame Bill Elliott and Davey Allison or their teams for being unable to seal the deal in the last six races of the year? They were both winning races during that stretch, but they couldn’t do it consistently enough to maintain a point lead.

Kenseth took the point lead after the fourth race of 2003 and was unchallenged to the end. Even though he only won race, so did Kevin Harvick, Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte who all placed in the top 10 in points. The key was that Kenseth had only two DNFs and everyone else had three or more. Why not blame Ryan Newman for having nearly as many DNFs (seven) as wins (eight)? Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon all had more top fives than Kenseth, so why not blame them for not being to outscore Kenseth in top tens as well?

Bottom line is that both drivers won during their respective seasons so they weren’t non-winners in contention for a championship. Another point of yours is proven invalid.

What exactly constitutes a “spectacular comeback” in your point of view? Allowing a driver who missed races to contend for a championship with those that haven’t? Kulwicki’s championship was a spectacular comeback in that he came back to win the championship without being aided by some crapshoot novelty thought of by a marketing department intern.


Well said, Stu. I would take the nailbiting finish to an entire racing season the way Kulwicki did it any day over the current crapshoot method.

I see nothing wrong with consistency playing a role in winning championships. I’d far rather have that then the let’s roll the dice method. 26 races to “seed” the field and then just silliness and in some cases, desperation for the next 10 races. I don’t find NASCAR’s chase to be exciting or reasonable in defining who gets the big trophy at the end of the year.


great response Stu to a baloney post by messengerfm

J. Smith

I think the whole idea that the Chase was implemented because of Kenseth is just a load of crap created by NASCAR cheerleaders in an attempt to justify the ridiculous new Chase format. You don’t have to have a Chase to keep a non winner from being the champion. Just up the points given to race winners. The weight of wins has always been a valid argument and would be the logical way to address the problem.

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