The championship race is finally upon us and NASCAR Nation is all a-Twitter about possibly having a winless champion, despite NASCAR’s emphasis on creating a system where it should have been all but impossible for that to happen. Though three of the four drivers have victories (Denny Hamlin has one, Joey Logano has five, and Kevin Harvick has four), it is Ryan Newman that has everyone wondering what, if anything, will change next year because of Newman’s involvement in this year’s championship picture.
The problem is that putting the Chase back to its original format – or eliminating it completely – wouldn’t solve this “problem” (more on that later). Remember, it was Matt Kenseth’s near-winless run for the championship back in 2003 that got the wheels turning in the minds of NASCAR higher-ups that a playoff system for the sport might be in order. With the old format, it was absolutely possible for a driver to start the season off strong and coast to the championship in the latter portions of the season because he had already built up a sizeable points lead. Heck, we’re seeing this scenario in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series seasons this year and several years prior. Where is the excitement in those series and how often are we really wondering who the champion will be at the end of the year?
I know the other half of this argument is that at least those guys deserve it. But I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say that if Newman or Hamlin wins the championship that they hadn’t earned it. Last I checked, Newman and Hamlin (and Logano and Harvick, for that matter) were playing with the exact same set of rules as everyone else. Newman was playing with the same set of rules as Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin had exactly the same opportunities as Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
And so on and so forth in the list of drivers who “deserve” to be there more than the current four.
So is it really a problem after all? Newman, winless though he may be, just did what everyone else couldn’t do… he survived. Maybe we don’t like the way he did it. Maybe we would rather see drivers fight for it like Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon were. Maybe we’d like to have seen all four drivers have multiple wins rather than two of them.
But to say Newman doesn’t “deserve” to be there? That’s wrong. Newman had to work just as hard to get where he is and if he wins the championship on Sunday night, there is no doubt that having to go through Harvick and Logano – two of the most consistently dominant drivers all season – Newman will have earned that title.
Newman is an underdog, no doubt. But make no mistake… he deserves to be there.
Now onto the mailbox:
“I think it is interesting that this is ESPN’s last race and yet it is Fox Sports 1 that is airing 21 hours of coverage. I guess that explains why they are leaving and FOX is staying, huh?” Tanesha
Actually, it’s not been uncommon for Fox Sports 1 (or SPEED Channel, before they were FS1) to air hours and hours of coverage leading up to the race, whether they were airing it or not. Of course I feel like ESPN is missing an opportunity because FS1 obviously wouldn’t be airing all of this if people weren’t tuning in for it, so why not get people watching your channel if that’s where the race is going to be aired, though?
You’re right, though. Even though ESPN is filled with tremendous talent in terms of their NASCAR coverage, the rest of the network seems to care very little, and it feels like they are just doing their time with the rest of the NASCAR coverage. Maybe it’s wrong to feel that way, and of course NASCAR fans weren’t the base of their viewership like SPEED/FS1 is (or at least was).
And it’s not like practice or qualifying sessions never occasionally aired on ESPN2 or anything like that, a rarity for any other sporting event. Plus, NASCAR Now was a fixture on the channel for a while (albeit with less-than-desirable time slots) and I’ve noticed discussions about the championship creeping up on a few of ESPN’s “mainstream” shows. It hasn’t been a lot and the discussions aren’t necessarily in-depth, but they are there.
It’s one of those credit where credit is due things but, like you, I do think it’s obvious which network cares more about this sport and sees its value. I enjoyed many of ESPN’s NASCAR group but otherwise I think it will be interesting to see how well-received the sport is by NBC.
”This is Marcos Ambrose’s last race and I want to see him get some love!! I know it’s the championship and all but I think he should have SOME send off. It’s not like he was a nobody or anything. At least do him the service of mentioning it, please!” Josef
Ambrose certainly isn’t a nobody, but it’s easy to see why he would be overshadowed. Though he certainly deserves credit for the seven wins he accumulated between the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, he otherwise was a non-factor. The only place anyone could really count on him to be competitive was on road courses. That’s certainly impressive but when road courses account for only a fraction of the schedule, it was easy to forget about Ambrose.
Still, Ambrose’s run considering his prior inexperience was certainly commendable and he deserves recognition. Would he have ever won the championship? Probably not. Could he have made the Chase? With this new format, certainly!
However, if Ambrose feels like it’s time to go back home to Australia, then that’s what he needs to do. Maybe he can regain some of his old magic in the V8 Supercar Series.
He will certainly be missed but he certainly did a great job with his time in the sport.
“I would just love it if everyone decided not to tune in this weekend…maybe NASCAR will change all of this after that!! How will they feel when the grandstands are EMPTY at Homestead???? How will they pay for their beach houses and fancy cars THEN?!” Pierce
I hate to break it to you, but the Phoenix race was up double-digits ratings wise (both from last week’s race and last year’s fall Phoenix event) and the grandstands are already sold out for Homestead.
So… maybe next year?
Whether you like the new Chase or not, the current state of the championship has revved up the excitement level for a lot of people – and I think those numbers show that this is true for people who may not have paid attention to NASCAR in the past.
Which – newsflash – is a good thing if we want NASCAR to be around for a long time.
So deal with it or enjoy it because if I feel confident making any sort of prediction for this weekend, it’s that it will be very exciting and intense.
As far as who will win, I don’t know. My gut says Harvick but all common sense says that it’s anyone’s race due to the fact that so many things have gone wrong for several potential championship contenders over the last several weeks.
I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I don’t want to miss it.