The Challenger round for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup has ended the first of three rounds of elimination for four drivers and teams prior to the finale at Homestead Miami Speedway. Since this was the first round we have not seen how it works or the strategy either used by the teams on purpose or by necessity. Here are some thoughts on the next two rounds.
It was amazing that at the bottom of the 16 drivers there were so many drivers so close in points at the last of the three races. This made the race for the twelfth and final spot interesting. Well as interesting as it can be watching drivers a lap or more down racing to make the next round of the Chase. Have you ever seen a race where being a lap or two down makes such a difference? The good thing is that as the number of Chase drivers gets smaller this will probably not be the case. If you’re a lap down you’re done.
In the race at Dover, the hype was that desperate drivers would take desperate measures to keep alive in the Chase. That was the whole point of the Chase, to give drivers hope to continue forward if they had a bad race. We didn’t see it, not at all. Could this mean that these drivers have been racing 100% regardless of the Chase format and they didn’t need a new Chase to encourage better racing?
The show that Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon put on during the first round begs the question why don’t they get three bonus points that carry over to the next and subsequent round. Sure you get a pass on the round you won in but not any of them needed it. This just might be more important in this round because anything can happen at Talladega, but then again Jeff Gordon had anything happen at New Hampshire. It only seems fair to reward wins reset them equal for the last race only.
Now begins the second of the three elimination rounds of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Will we see more of the same as we dwindle down twelve drivers to eight? What about the Talladega Super Speedway race, anything can happen there? Will we see the Chase drivers racing harder than ever for a win during the first two races in order to be safe come Talladega?
It appears to me that the risk in racing outweighs the reward such that it is more a game of Chess. If you do everything right you put yourself into a position to capitalize and perhaps get a win. If you don’t then you go on defense trying to minimize the damage to stay playing the game as long as possible. Either way as the players dwindle there will be less to defend and more to go take. The next three weeks will tell the story.
The first race of the Contender Round begins at Kansas Speedway. If you cannot to the Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400, it will be shown on ESPN on Sunday, Oct. 5 starting at 1 PM ET.
Feature Photo Credit: Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing