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The Chase Heats Up in Daytona

July 1, 2011

Article first published as The Chase Heats Up in Daytona on Technorati.

The Summer Stop at the Birthplace of Speed Kicks Off a Ten Race Countdown to the Chase.

Daytona in July is hot, hot, hot.

So are drivers Carl EdwardsKevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson, sitting at positions 1, 2 and 3 in the championship points race.

Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 marks the first of a 10 event countdown leading to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Those 10 races will be at some of the most prestigious gems of the NASCAR season: Daytona, Indianapolis, Bristol, and Watkins Glen. Next week’s wild card is the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway. Nine races lead up to that last non-chase race in Richmond on September 10th.

After Richmond the top ten drivers are locked into the Chase which begins the following week at Chicagoland Speedway. Positions 11 and 12 are “wild card” qualifiers and will go to non-top-10-ranked drivers with the most wins, as long as they’re ranked in the top 20 in points. Ties are broken by points position, then by 2nd place finishes, 3rd, etc.

A lot can happen in 10 races. For those drivers back in positions 15 and beyond it comes down to math. The deeper you go into the 10 race sprint  the harder it becomes to get in. The best way to improve your position is to win or grab as many top fives as you can.

Opportunities are dwindling and now is not the time to let up. Every driver out there wants to be in the Chase and you won’t get there without racing hard and taking risks. You can’t leave anything in the hauler at this part of the campaign. The race season comes down to the next ten tracks. As the Hombres sang on their one-hit-wonder back in ’67, it’s time to… “Let It All Hang Out!”

Standings after Sonoma Toyota/Save Mart 350:

If you are unfamiliar with the Chase it goes something like this. After the 2003 season when driver Matt Kenseth won the last Winston Cup title in a season where he won only once. NASCAR adjusted the points system and came up with the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Around the garage it’s called, “The Matt Kenseth Rule.”

The format has been a game changer.

Has the Chase really impacted how the end of season turns out? You don’t have to go much farther than five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to get that answer. Johnson has won the last five titles, a total of five of the last seven.

What if NASCAR never implemented the Chase and the champion was crowned under the old points system – how would the seasons have ended?

It looks something like this:

Johnson would have two titles instead of five. Gordon would not be stuck at four. Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick would both be past-champions.

I wonder when NASCAR is going to implement the “Jimmie Johnson Rule?”

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