Last year NASCAR changed the rules on how to win the Championship the Sprint Cup. The goal of those changes was to make the Chase races more exciting. To put a do or die component in like other sports have where your championship efforts are over when you lose a game. In the 2011 season where Tony Stewart won five races in the Chase and beat Carl Edwards to win the last race of the Chase and the Championship. This was the closest championship in history. To have a Championship get settled on the last lap of the last race of the season, that is what the new Chase is all about.
The Chase consists of three rounds of three races each after which four drivers would be eliminated. The catch was that any driver who wins a race in a round automatically moves forward to the next round. The final four drivers would compete for all the marbles in the last race of the season at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Winning a race, this is where some of the drivers and fans got caught. It seems simple. Win and move on. The problem that was overlooked by some was that the risk for racing for that win is greater than the reward, especially in the early rounds.
Points Racing: In reality one can points race. That is race in such a way as to out point the opponents. Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin did not win races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup but managed to make it to the final round at Homestead Miami Speedway. They finished 2nd and 3rd in the championship standings by out pointing their opponents throughout the Chase.
Racing for the Win: Jeff Gordon was racing for the win at Texas Motor Speedway and Brad Keselowski wanted it more. Gordon didn’t back down and wrecked his car. He ended up 29th in the race giving the competition at least 10 points but more importantly moving himself into about a four way tie for the fourth and final spot for the final race.
When the race ended at Phoenix, Jeff Gordon was tied with eventual Champion Kevin Harvick and one point behind Ryan Newman. Harvick made the last and final round by winning the race at Phoenix. Ryan Newman made the last final round as the last driver in on points. If Gordon would have let Keselowski pass he would have made the last round of the Chase. He would have had a chance for his fifth championship.
Wrap Up: Although winning is always good, at the end of each round in the Chase it appeared that winning was something better left to desperation. Even in the last round of the Chase, the Eliminator Round, there were three spots available to make it to the final on points. Watch for teams to pay more attention to points and who they are actually racing against to move on to each and every round. The racing back in the field is more important than it has ever been.
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