NASCAR got it partially right when it made the decision to put Ryan Newman in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and issue penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing.
Does anyone doubt that team orders have been a factor in not only Sprint Cup races, but also in Nationwide and Camping World series events?
How many times has it been pointed out that a driver allowed a teammate to lead a lap to gain a point in the driver standings? It probably has happened too many times to mention.
The problem in Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond was that Waltrip Racing made it obvious that they were manipulating (cheating) the finish to ensure that Martin Truex Jr. would qualify for the Chase.
Although NASCAR said there wasn’t overwhelming evidence that Clint Bowyer intentionally spun his Toyota with five laps remaining. With Newman leading the race, it appeared that Truex would not make the Chase.
He got assistance from Brian Vickers and Bowyer by their making multiple pit stops to get Joey Logano into the 10th position in the points to qualify for the Chase, knocking out Jeff Gordon. That nifty move allowed Truex to claim one of the two wild-card spots.
It certainly backfired on MWR.
This is the same racing team that at its first-ever race, at the Daytona 500, was penalized for using an illegal fuel additive (jet fuel) to assist Waltrip in securing a qualifying position for the race. He did eventually make the starting field through the qualifying races. In my opinion, NASCAR should have sent the team home for the weekend.
I agree that Newman should have been placed in the Chase. The problem I have with NASCAR is it didn’t also move Gordon into one of the 12 Chase slots. Logano should have remained, but Bowyer should have not have been allowed to contend for the title.
What was Bowyer’s penalty for damaging the integrity of the sport? He was docked 50 points, which dropped him from third to seventh in the standings. But he is still allowed to compete for the title.
The real problem is the point system utilized by NASCAR. If a driver wins a race, they receive one point more than the second-place driver. The winning driver gets three bonus points and one for leading a lap. A fifth point is available if the winning driver leads the most laps.
There is really not much incentive for a driver to win races, aside from the three bonus points awarded for when the Chase starts. As an example, a driver wins a race and is awarded 43 points, three for the win and one for leading a lap — a minimum award of 47 points for winning. A second-place driver receives 42 points and could receive two bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps for a total of 44 points.
That’s three extra points for a victory. The winner of a race should receive at least 25 extra points to make it worthwhile, not taking into consideration the purse money.
Or why not base the Chase field on wins during the regular season? Win a race and you’re in the Chase, don’t record a victory and you can’t contend for the championship.
If that was the rule, the Chase field in 2013 would consist of Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Newman, Tony Stewart, Truex and David Ragan.
That would equal 12 drivers in the Chase and give added incentive to win races. Would it really matter if there were more than 12 winners in a year that would qualify for the Chase? It might attract more fans for the final 10 races.
IN OTHER RACING NEWS
The Champion Racing Association has added a final race at Anderson Speedway for the Late Model Sportsman and Street Stocks this Saturday. Both series will be competing in 50-lap features along with the Mel Kenyon Midgets.
Ken de la Bastide may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-454-8580.