Race Weekend Central

Why a Four-Time Race Winner Fell Out of the Chase

There’s been lots of talk recently about the unfair results that the current Chase format creates.  Indeed, this week we saw the 2016 sweetheart, Martin Truex, Jr. and likely Homestead competitor Brad Keselowski both slip out of the top 8 after their engines detonated during Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega. It doesn’t feel right that two drivers who have each won four races this year are going to watch the Chase play out without the chance to go for the gold themselves.

If they should still be in the Chase, that means that there must be a bunch of drivers in that top 8 that haven’t really earned their spot in the limelight.  Let’s check who is left.

Joey Logano has earned two wins, three poles, 13 top 5’s and a whopping 22 top 10’s this year.  I guess he’s done enough to be playing for the Cup. We’ll let him stay.  Jimmie Johnson–check.  Three wins, 9 top 5’s and 14 top 10’s are on his stats. Happy Harvick, while not pleased with stable mate Kurt Busch, definitely should be going for the big prize with 4 wins, 15 top 5’s and 24 top 10’s.

Kenseth and Hamlin each have multiple wins with a bevy of high scoring finishes. We can agree they have been in it to win it all year. Edwards, well Carl collected pole position flags like it was nobody’s business.  He added six to his trophy case in 2016 and followed that up with a couple wins and a bunch of strong finishes.

So far, the next few races are going to feature a collection of drivers who have earned their place in the sun.

The last two that are still part of the Chase are the Busch brothers. Kyle is busy burning down barns with four wins and double digit top 5 and top 10 stats. Kurt has been doing his job, but not nearly as well.  If there was a single driver who perhaps should trade spots with the unlucky Keselowski or Truex, Kurt Busch would be it.

Now, if we go and pull out the points standings without using this Chase elimination nonsense, the eight top competitors would be Harvick, Keselowski, Logano, Busch, Busch, Hamlin, Edwards and Truex Jr.  Furthermore, Edwards and Truex’s hopes of grabbing the Cup would be mostly over. In that reality, Keselowski would still be in the hunt.

But was he really the 2016 Champion in the making for us? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Once again, the Chase isn’t just creating drama, it is destroying entire seasons with a whimsical swipe of Fate’s hand. No matter how much time these teams have to sit back and digest the uncertain results of a day at the track, there has got to be a lot of frustration when your entire year is wiped out by a single mechanical failure that was poorly timed. I think both the No. 2 and No. 78 teams ought to get an Emmy for Best “Faking Acceptance After Losing It All” Interview. Certainly, the NASCAR fans are not being so sedate in their criticism of the sport.

How would we be able to swallow the current state of events? We can decide that we don’t live in a world of “what if,” that our current Chase reality is correct and true–but the Chase was not only designed to up the attention factor for NASCAR, it was supposed to reward wins (Brad has four) and consistency (he has an average finish of 10.9–just slightly lower than his Championship year.)

The Chase is still not meeting those standards when we’ve seen competitors in all three series lose the chance to compete for the big trophy due to bad timing, which has nothing to do with weekly performance or the ability to collect a checkered flag. Keselowski and Truex are just the latest victims of the random selection process that decides who gets the most commercial airtime for 2017.

Next up, let’s see who can be eliminated in Martinsville thanks to an errant hot dog wrapper.

SOMETHING SHINY

Once again, Motor Racing Outreach hosted their annual Trick or Treat night at Talladega Speedway. It’s a wonderful opportunity for racing families to enjoy some spooky fun during this hectic part of their year. Slugger Labbe and Kyle Larson shared some fun pics on Twitter. Enjoy the cuteness!

 

 

 

 

 

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