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Summer Bedgood · Monday October 28, 2013
Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are equally matched this season, and I can prove it. With three races left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, both Kenseth and Johnson are tied in points, with Kenseth holding the tiebreaker because he has more wins. Although we still have three more races left, meaning mathematically anything can happen, it would be a surprise to me for anyone other than Kenseth or Johnson to be the one holding the big trophy at the end of the year.
If you want more proof that this duo are equal drivers this season, look no further than Sunday’s race at Martinsville. Both Kenseth and Johnson were a part of the fight for the victory and had some of the strongest cars in the whole field. Kenseth led the most laps of the day at 202, gaining a valuable bonus point on Johnson at one of his best tracks. Johnson, in his own right wasn’t far behind with a total of 123 laps led in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered by Kroger.
However, you don’t just need one race to demonstrate the stranglehold both of them have had on each other as the top two teams all year. Kenseth has seven wins. Johnson has five. Kenseth has 10 top 5s; Johnson has 14. Kenseth has an average finish of 12.3. Johnson has an average finish of 11.3.
On and on the comparison goes. So what’s the point? The two are obviously great drivers, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that they are the two contending for the championship. Why even bring it up in the first place?
The point, my friends, is the Chase. That thing that you probably hate, think is ridiculous, a gimmick, blah, blah, blah… the point is, the Chase is the reason that we have such an exciting championship right now. The Chase is the reason the last two weeks have been so fun to watch.
The Chase is the reason that the truly best teams actually get to race each other for the championship rather than settling for scraps in Victory Lane. It’s the reason that, despite Kenseth had a somewhat inconsistent regular season, he got a chance to race with Johnson based on what really matters in this sport: wins. It’s why, instead of running away with the Chase even though Kenseth is just as good, Johnson is having to fight for this one.
Take a look at the standings without the Chase involved. Right now, with three races left it wouldn’t be Kenseth tracking Johnson but Kevin Harvick. There would be a 35-point gap between first and second with Kenseth sitting third, 37 points behind and needing a miracle to work his way into contention. Johnson would have a sixth championship pretty well wrapped up, starting his coronation tour during Sunday’s race at Texas. Instead? One of the best intermediate track races all season, reminiscent of Johnson and Brad Keselowski’s battle for the win last year might be right on tap.
I’m not saying the Chase is perfect or that it was started for the right reason. I won’t even deny that it may have been started for the wrong reasons. But it’s unfair to discount the champion each year because of the Chase or to not give credit where credit is due. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth are the best drivers in this series right now, and their points position accurately reflects that. The Chase provides a situation where the shifting realities of this series are reflected by the point standings. In my opinion, Johnson and Kenseth made a strong case for the Chase today.
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As much as I am not a huge Chase fan, I have to admit it made winning more important. Every Chase champion (except Stewart in 2005) has won a race in the Chase. It pretty clear now that you need to win and probably win multiple races in the Chase to take the Championship.
No, no, no..The Chase is the single worst thing to happen to Nascar, period.
So, is it acceptable if I just find myself less impressed with a 10 race ‘champion’ than an entire season long champ?