It’s time to stop playing around and block drivers who are not running for points in a series from competing for wins. Why? Well, it’s called NASCAR’s brainchild: the Chase.
Just like in the Sprint Cup Series, drivers who win in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series can earn a guaranteed starting spot in their playoffs by winning during the regular season, as long as they are positioned above the cut off line in points. In the Cup level, we saw Chris Buescher snag a coveted spot in the Chase by winning at Pocono. His second tier team, who normally struggles to find funding for the best equipment, will now benefit from an avalanche of positive PR simply because Pocono got fogged in. It’s all bonus, and an extremely important moment for the No. 34, as well as every other small team working to make the big time in stock car racing. It’s possible to live in the limelight with a little bit of luck and lots of perseverance.
However, the same cannot be said when we talk about the XFINITY and Truck series. In these Series, even if you have the best performing car or truck of those competing for the championship on any given day, it doesn’t mean you will win a race or grab one of those special Chase berths. Why not?
It’s the same old song we’ve been singing since the inception of the developmental system in our sport. Busch-whackers are stealing the trophies, the spotlight and now they are stealing the chance to compete for a championship, when it would have been earned without their presence.
On Friday night, Daniel Hemric and Cameron Hayley managed to escape all the carnage and were lined up to battle their way to a win. Neither one had a victory during the regular season. While Hemric would likely make it into the Chase on his points, a win would grant him three additional bonus points when the Chase grid was reset. Meanwhile, Hayley has only shown a few moments of brilliance over 2016, but as one of the young guns, he really could use a little extra media love that a Chase berth would offer him.
Neither driver had any hope of making their dream come true. Kyle Busch in his seemingly unbeatable machine stole the purse, the trophy, the points and the chance to make the Chase.
Yes, it’s tradition that inexperienced drivers get to cut their teeth running opposite the legends of the sport. But never before was so much on the line for the AAA pilot’s future and career. The existence of the Chase format at every level gives the media, the public and therefore sponsors a hyperactive glimpse into the week to week world of racing. Bonus points lost due to wins that are removed from reach by interlopers can destroy a Chase run.
In short, it’s not just about winning the race. It’s about having the chance to make the most out of the opportunities that NASCAR says winning a race can create.
If NASCAR is going to run development series complete with AAA-ball playoffs, then they need to let the kids in the sandlot play ball and keep the big kids out of the playground. It is simply not a fair system.
Either Hemric should have been starting the Chase this weekend at New Hampshire with a set of bonus points or Hayley should have had a spot in the running. In either case, having Kyle Busch add one more trophy to his overstuffed display case did not benefit the series, the drivers or even Boy Wonder’s overall career. NASCAR needs to bite the bullet and do what they have avoided for so long–leave the Cup drivers in the Cup garage. End of story.
As I parked our RV and thanked the already harrowed New Hampshire Motor Speedway track workers, I thought the thanks should extend to all the staff at all the NASCAR tracks that pull together to make our race weekends as much fun as possible. If somebody asked you to invite 80,000 of your closest friends over for a BBQ in a single week, would you cower in terror or welcome them in with open arms? It’s an amazing job that gets done at a different place every seven days. Let’s hear it for the heroes behind the scenes of NASCAR!
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