Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Is It Fair Truex & Keselowski Are Out Of The Chase?

When the checkered flag flew on the Hellmann’s 500, eight drivers sighed in relief. Not just because they were safe from the unpredictability of Talladega; that was part of the emotion, for sure. But more importantly, two of their chief championship competitors were no longer a threat for the title.

Going into the Round of 12, everybody assumed that Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski would ease through the round as they pressed on toward Homestead. Both drivers sported four wins – two of Truex’s coming in the first round of the Chase – and with two intermediates and a plate race it was expected that they wouldn’t just survive – they would thrive.

Truex’s first two races brought decent results, a 13th and 11th-place finish, putting him well above the cut line heading into the final race. For Keselowski, a wreck the week earlier at Kansas, in what he had called a “layup” race, had put him below the cut line. No big deal for the Team Penske driver, right? After all, he was the plate king of the season, winning two of three races including the Talladega race in the spring.

For a while it looked like he’d deliver. He led 90 laps, including the one prior to the lap that Truex’s engine expired, dropping the No. 78 down the order and off the Chase Grid. But on lap 146, following a brief stint up front with trash on the grille, Keselowski’s engine arrested as well, knocking him out of the Chase.

Just like that, two of the championship favorites were out, just because of one measly issue. Is it really fair that they won’t be able to compete for the title any longer?


Like the Chase or hate it, these are the rules that Sprint Cup drivers are playing under. By those rules, of course the eliminations are fair.

Annoying? Frustrating? Disheartening? Absolutely.

But fair.

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)
Martin Truex, Jr., a four-time winner in 2016, won’t be celebrating a championship this year. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Sixteen teams qualified for the Chase knowing that every three weeks four of them were getting kicked out. And while most every team believed it could make the Championship 4 – and certainly believed the odds were in their favor to do so – they knew the cuts would be unpredictable. Just ask Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray this year. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. last year. Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon the year before.

This year, it happened to by Keselowski and Truex. The silver lining to the whole thing is that these were mechanical issues and not a wreck. It would be a much more bitter pill to swallow for both drivers had they been eliminated due to an accident not of their causing, getting caught up in someone else’s mistake like Busch was in 2014. A broken motor is rare these days, but both drivers can keep their head up high that they did everything they possibly could to keep from being dropped.

And while the two drivers are out of this version of the Chase, they wouldn’t be faring better in the other format of the playoffs.

If we were to use the original Chase format, 10 races to determine the winner, Busch would currently be leading the points by four over Johnson. Matt Kenseth would be third, Joey Logano fourth … you wouldn’t find Truex until sixth place, 18 points behind. Keselowski would be in ninth, 41 points behind the leader due to his two recent poor finishes.

Even in the old, whole-season-determines-the-champion format, Truex would be long out of contention. All those wrecks, pit road miscues, and other issues that have plagued the 78 team would have added up, leaving Truex eighth in points, 116 markers back from leader Kevin Harvick. For Keselowski, he’d be second in the points but back-to-back DNFs – his only on the season – would have dropped him nearly a full race out of the lead, 37 points behind the No. 4.

By comparison, then, it certainly looks like the elimination-style Chase gave Truex and Keselowski more of a chance to win the title. So while it hurts that both won’t be in the Round of 8 as title threats, they lasted a lot longer than they would have under old formats.

Now all they need to do is go and play spoiler. After all, winning is everything. A nice trophy at Martinsville would do both good.

Sean Fesko


Both Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex, Jr. had an incredible first round of the Chase, Keselowski finishing in the top 5 in all three races and Truex winning two out of three. Why does that suddenly not matter anymore? It’s not fair to teams that perform well but have one or two bad races that doom their season completely.

Yes, in other sports the season before the play-offs doesn’t matter when they start. But this is NASCAR. Drivers aren’t competing head-to-head for race wins, they are racing against 39 other drivers every week.

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve had of the Chase since it began is the lack of incentive for drivers after they are either locked into the Chase or locked into the next round. Jimmie Johnson won two early season races, virtually guaranteeing himself a spot in the Chase, then did a whole lot of nothing for the next 20 or so races. Last round, Johnson won the first race at Charlotte, locking himself into this round. For the next two races it didn’t matter if he finished fifth or 35th, he was going to go to Martinsville tied in the points with seven other drivers.

NASCAR should give incentive and rewards to teams that run well. I’m not saying to remove the “win and in” nature of it, just make the other races in a round matter. The best way to do it I feel would be to give two kinds of bonus points for results made in the round prior, save for the championship round at Homestead (Which would reset the final four to 4000 points as it does for the system in place now). First, four bonus points per points position (Where a driver is in points) following the completion of a round. Second, eight bonus points for winning a race in a round. For example, here is how the points reset would look now with this system:

1st Jimmie Johnson:                         3036

2nd Joey Logano:                              3028

3rd Kurt Busch:                                 3024

4th Kevin Harvick:                            3016

5th Matt Kenseth:                             3016

6th Kyle Busch:                                 3012

7th Carl Edwards:                             3004

8th Martin Truex Jr.:                        3000

Now, you may notice that Truex is there instead of Denny Hamlin. Why is that? Because Truex’s performance in the second round and the bonus points he would have earned would have more than made up his gap on Hamlin following Talladega.

This system rewards great performance in the Chase week in and week out. It’s still possible for a driver to win a race every three weeks and make it to Homestead just on that alone but a driver who wins three Chase races anyway probably should make it to the championship race.

[yop_poll id=”25″]

Applying this system to the first round would eliminate the need for a bye for the regular season points leader (If you lose over 40 points in round one to a driver who was 13th in the regular season’s standings, you don’t deserve to make it to round two). It makes points matter again without becoming the only thing for teams. Finally, it ensures drivers like Truex and Keselowski have at least something to show for their success in the regular season and in the Chase rounds.

Michael Finley

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

wrong question methinks.
as asinine as the rules may be, they are the rules as set by nascar’s owners.
they own it, they make the rules.
so yes, it’s fair.

is it stupid?


What’s fair got to do with it? The result of the Brian’s insane chase is based on luck!

And you still don’t have to win races to win the trophy. It’s not a championship.

Bill B

Define fair. Each person’s definition is different.

In this case my definition of fair is having a format that has the highest probability of rewarding the most deserving driver for their performance from Feb to Nov. So for me, it’s not fair.

Other people may define fair as whoever prevails in the defined set of rules that everyone is playing by. So for those people, if the rules said the champion will be decided by a game of musical chairs at the end of the season, they would be content and feel everything was fair because that’s the rules of the game.

The better question is, “Do you think Keselowski and Truex had seasons that made them more deserving of the championship then any of the remaining drivers?” If your answer is yes, then there is a problem even if you think it wasn’t unfair.


I don’t have any problem with it. As stated above, under the other versions of the championship system both would probably be out of it. When you blow engines and DNF in any system you are going to be in trouble in the points. Just ask Jeff Gordon about 1996 or Ryan Newman in 2003 or Carl Edwards in 2005/8. The difference between old systems and now is at least a team has a guaranteed chance to save themselves with a win. Under the old systems if you fell so many points behind, you could win races like crazy and not catch up.

Bill B

“As stated above, under the other versions of the championship system both would probably be out of it”

Truex yes, Keselowski no.

1) #4-Kevin Harvick(C12), 1027
2) #2-Brad Keselowski(EC), 990, -37
3) #22-Joey Logano(C1), 977, -50
4) #18-Kyle Busch(C8), 956, -71
5) #41-Kurt Busch(C7), 951, -76
6) #11-Denny Hamlin(C6), 945, -82
7) #19-Carl Edwards(C5), 926, -101
8) #78-Martin Truex Jr.(EC), 911, -116

Source – Jayski


Love or hate F1, they have pretty much always had their points figured out. No one can ever say a season’s champ backed into a championship. Yes, some years the drama is over before the season ends but that is actually quite rare and in those years its obvious who the champ was. Argue about passing and team orders and all the standard complaints about F1, but their points system primarily rewards winning and secondarily rewards passing for position nearer the front of the pack Additionally, they only award points to about half the field, with a 1st place finish being valued at 25x more than a mid-pack finish.

Honestly, in NASCAR you gain 1 point for passing from 40th to 39th, which is the same points gain as passing from 3rd to 2nd. Does that make any sense? And honestly, does ANYONE care who finished 32nd or 33rd?

The Chase is an abomination that came about because a poorly designed points system rewarded Kenseth for just finishing races. Maybe instead of changing the championship to a lottery, NASCAR should have addressed the underlying points issue. OH YEAH, that would be BZF would have to acknowledge he isn’t necessarily the smartest dude in the room. Never mind….

If it was me setting the points – I’d make it 100 points for a win, 5 points for 20th, with no points for 21st on back. Make the point difference from 1st to 2nd a bigger gap than 2nd to 3rd (for example – make every point position worth about 80% of the next higher position…..100-80-65-52-43-36-31…..). No one would argue about who the champ was and DNF’s wouldn’t be so punitive. DNF’s make for good racing! Teams push technological limits and occasionally blow up. Racers go for the same position and sometimes end up in the wall. Make the effects of bold decisions that actually help move the sport forward a lot less punitive.

BTW – I personally hate F1 racing- too much focus on the car and not as much on the driver. I like their points system only. But it’s hard to argue with success. Look at the worldwide success of F1 – monetarily – exposure – worldwide appeal. NASCAR’s eating at their kiddie’s table.

Don in Ct

Well said Tim. The Chase is an abomination and the points system has always been absurd because of its failure to elevate the winner ahead of second place by a significant amount.


As far as I’m concerned, they could draw straws to determine the title and would be just as valid as thie ‘hope you get lucky’ system they have now.


Brian France has destroyed Nascar by trying to make it a competitor to the stick and ball sports. Selling tv rights didn’t help the cause either. Even golf has it’s own channel and with the demise of speed channel we can just hunt around for coverage of even v. lane time wise. Pathetic.


All I see is Driver. This is a team sport from the tire changer to the mechanic at the shop. They win as a team and lose as a team. It is unfortunate that all the emphesis is placed on the driver when a team mate’s performance is just as critical to winning or losing. Don’t tell this to drivers such as Harvick who think winning is all their doing and losing is all the teams doing.


Well, if you look at it as to who accomplished what over the whole season, it is no fair. The definition of “SEASON LONG CHAMP” does not change in my logical, moral viewpoint because Brian likes to play fluck around with the meaning.


The World of Outlaws Sprint points leader is Donny Schatz (who happens to drive for Tony Stewart) has a 286 point lead. Does any one think the points system will change next year?

Share via