As a writer, I do my best to stay objective and look at the broad picture when it comes to these championship runs. But I have to admit, I was disappointed when I saw Denny Hamlin come to a dead stop on the frontstretch because of a mechanical failure at Martinsville. It wasn’t because I wanted him to win the championship or even the race for that matter. Rather, I was hoping for a three-man joust for the title at Homestead to one-up the riveting battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards last season.
Mathematically, we could still have that. Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson are neck and neck and Clint Bowyer’s deficit certainly isn’t insurmountable. However, I just don’t think Bowyer will give the same fight to this championship that Hamlin would have. I don’t mean he wouldn’t have tried as hard, but Hamlin has been there before. He’s been a serious title contender. Bowyer really hasn’t yet, at least not to the same extent.
My hopes are still up for a competitive championship fight. While I’ve said I think Keselowski will have a similar result as Denny Hamlin did in 2010, I still think this ending will be a fun one to watch. But when it comes to racing, three-wide is always more exciting than two. Right?
What a tough break for Hamlin. Now, on to the questions:
_Would fans be happy with a Chase format where the Chase drivers would have their best and worst finishes thrown out? Personally, I would like to see every driver have a mulligan._
Fans won’t be happy with _any_ Chase format, period. They already lambast this system for being too gimmicky. Adding in a mulligan system would cause blood to shoot from their eyes and steam to come out of their ears. You may even see some pitchforks and torches make an appearance at your nearest track.
While I personally like the Chase format, I’m not big on a mulligan system. Hamlin’s Martinsville finish shouldn’t just be “thrown out.” It needs to count, especially with so few races left. Can you imagine leaving Talladega and everyone decides to throw out their finishes? Why even race there at all?!
I know some fans say the same thing about the Chase system: “Why even run the first 26? They don’t count!” Well, they _do_ count but only the victories really mean something. You can disagree as to whether or not that that should be the case (I agree), but they do certainly count. Put in a mulligan system and all of a sudden certain races become irrelevant. I just don’t see that as being a good thing, and I would imagine most fans would agree with me on that.
_NASCAR needs to consider making all the Chase races to run on Saturday night – tracks without lighting in the Chase will have the choice of adding lights or moving their date. Trying to go against the NFL in the ratings war is not going to happen on Sunday afternoon. Though there is college football on Saturday nights, it is not as formidable as the NFL. Plus it gives NASCAR a legitimate reason to reorganize the tracks in the Chase. What are your thoughts?_
I _so_ agree with you, Dale! The biggest problem with that would be the weather. In some of the remaining races, it would be much too cold for fans to have an incentive to come out. However, I do wish we had more Saturday night races where it would be doable. The upsides outweigh the downsides. More fans can travel because they have Sunday to get back for work. If Saturday night gets rained out, they have Sunday to make it up. And, like you said, you have less competition with the NFL.
The other obstacle would be that four of the ten Chase tracks don’t have lights, and they probably wouldn’t want to invest. I would be perfectly fine with having the other six run at night, though that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Tradition is hard to break, and Sunday afternoons has been NASCAR’s forte for years.
I’m sure it’s something that has been discussed, but it appears that those of you who watch NFL and NASCAR will have to continue channel surfing, for the most part.
_I’ve been very impressed by MWR’s turnaround this season! It’s been interesting to see that team go from zero to hero in a matter of months. How soon before they are championship contenders with the likes of Hendrick and Roush?_
You could argue that they are already there! Bowyer is outrunning three of HMS’s four cars and all three of Roush Fenway Racing’s teams. In fact, Truex is also outrunning the three RFR teams, too.
If we’re being realistic, they’re still not in the discussions for championship contenders every season but they’re getting there. In fact, if RFR and JGR keep running like they have been since the Chase started, MWR will be second only to Hendrick Motorsports in terms of competition.
I think it will be at least two more seasons before Truex, Bowyer, and Vickers/Martin are actually _the_ team to beat on a weekly basis, but the fact that they are even contention at all is a miracle. This will be a story that will continue to be fun to watch over the next few years. They have nowhere near reached their peak. When they do, that’s when the competition _really_ needs to worry.
About the author
Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.
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