Home / Brett Poirier / Racing to the Point: This Championship Means Something Different, No Matter Who Wins
(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Racing to the Point: This Championship Means Something Different, No Matter Who Wins

Ryan Newman could become the next Billy Horschel on Sunday.

For those of you who don’t follow golf, Horschel came out of nowhere to win this year’s FedEx Cup, the PGA’s playoffs. He was the 69th-ranked player coming in, but overcame the odds to win the final two events and take home more than $11 million.

Here’s the sad truth: in two years, most golf fans won’t remember who won the 2014 FedEx Cup because it just doesn’t carry the weight of winning a major or the player of the year award. This will ultimately be remembered as Rory McIlroy’s year, since he won two majors and most likely will be named the player of the year.

The FedEx Cup carries a big payday and gives the winner a moment in the sun, but ultimately stands for nothing. The PGA didn’t even start the playoff system until 2007 as a way to draw television ratings after the year’s final major. Almost everyone qualifies, it lasts only four rounds and players are eliminated each week. Sound familiar? NASCAR’s fourth version of the Chase for the Sprint Cup features some eerie comparisons.

There’s been a lot less golfer-on-golfer violence, but the biggest difference between them is the Chase for the Sprint Cup trophy is still being billed as the biggest in the sport. There isn’t a driver of the year award that’s going to make Jeff Gordon (most points scored) or Brad Keselowski (most wins) feel better for not making it to the Chase’s final race. And while the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 carry some weight, the championship has always been the ultimate prize in NASCAR.

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Ryan Newman: perhaps the Billy Horschel of NASCAR? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

And up until this year, at least, it always has been. Before the Chase was started in 2004, there could never be an argument about whether the champion was worthy or not. The champion was the champion. He scored more points than his counterparts and therefore proved he was the most consistent driver in the sport that year. It’s the way auto racing championships were meant to be run. It wasn’t always exciting, but the most deserving driver always won.

The Chase era stripped some credibility, but still left the sport with worthy champions because 10 races without a points reset was a large enough sample size to weed out the pretenders from the contenders. For the first time on Sunday, we may have to question the legitimacy of the champion. That’s not just a shot at Newman either, who has done an extraordinary job getting to the championship race in a broken system. It doesn’t matter that I’ve actually come closer to winning a race this season. Whether Newman, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick or Joey Logano crosses the line first this weekend, their title will come with an asterisk because the Cup championship doesn’t carry the same clout it used to.

Year Champion
2014 [Insert name here]*
2013 Jimmie Johnson
*We’re not sure what to make of this.

Fans of those four drivers are probably ready to hit me with a golf club, so let me further explain. Those drivers should be commended for their performances during the 2014 circus of a Chase. They are the survivors of all the manufactured drama NASCAR injected into the sport. They showed enough consistency or ability to win to bulldoze through it all and get in this position. They’re pretty good drivers, too.

Crossing the line first is still going to mean something. It’s just going to mean something different.

After all, how could we ever compare a 36-race champion under the classic format to whoever comes out on top this season? Or even last year to this year? We can’t and we shouldn’t. It’s an apple and an orange. Just like Horschel’s FedEx Cup, this year’s Chase trophy comes with a boatload of money, is valuable and we’re pretty sure it means something good, but we’re just not sure what.

On that note, I have an award to give out to fill NASCAR’s void. Congratulations to Jeff Gordon for winning the First Annual Brett Poirier’s Driver of the Year Award. I don’t have money for a trophy, so you’ll just have to print this out and put it on your wall.

I know this award doesn’t carry much prestige now, but I’m hoping that in a few years it will mean more than winning the Chase. So, it has a chance.

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About Brett Poirier

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Brett starts his fourth year with the Frontstretch in 2014, writing the popular Racing To The Point commentary on Tuesdays. An award-winning Connecticut Sportswriter and Editor, Brett resides in the Constitution State while working towards his dream of getting involved in racing full-time.

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19 comments

  1. Avatar

    I am done after last week, I will not even record the races and skip to the last half hour any more. Unfortunately it will not make a difference and we will have this same farce of a champ next year. Or maybe they can come up with something better like 10 lap heat races at the end of each race to change the winners and let drivers knock each other out of the way for positions.

  2. Avatar

    Justice would be Gordon winning the pole, leading every lap, and winning the race. Maybe he can lap all the remaining chasers and they’ll all be fighting for the championship a lap down. One can dream!!!

    • Avatar

      No way. NASCAR would never let that happen. They will throw debris on the track themselves if that’s what it takes.

  3. Avatar

    I wonder if it would be better if race fans had a watchdog rather than lapdog relationship with NASCAR. It seems as if everything I read is spin and excuses.

    • Avatar

      Correct the illiterate, if race fans had a watchdog PRESS.

      • Avatar

        Not to worry, Summer’s mailbag Wednesday is tomorrow.

      • Avatar

        Look at what the “press” consists of these days. Most of the posts you see on Jayski now are either by Nascar, its affiliates or one of its “stakeholders”. So why would you expect anything but the company line from them.

  4. Avatar

    So ironic that BZF spent so much time telling everyone that winning was the most important thing in determining a champion this year…and 2 of his ‘finalists’ have won one race or less. With this lotto format, one bad race is disastrous, with chances of resuscitation slim and none. Perhaps also a consequence of placing way too much emphasis on the title, rather than each race. Win (or place highest of 4 drovers) and ‘win’ a title? I think not. Seems to me the TV ratings have already indicated how much fans ‘love’ the crapshoot.

  5. Avatar

    Oh look, two guys have a pillow fight and the ratings go up. It’s great for the France bank account.

    And isn’t what all this is all about?

  6. Avatar

    Even if Logano or Harvick wins the championship (the only two who arguably deserve to be the champion), it’s still asterisk-worthy. When a system rewards luck and circumstance over accomplishment and consistency, can a driver still be considered a “Champion”? I say no.

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      thumbs up on that one, but the NASCAR media and Brian France will continue to tell all of us we just don’t understand and we should just enjoy it.

      I understand what NASCAR is doing quite well, but no, I don’t buy it and I sure as heck am not enjoying it.

      I’m passing on watching Homestead, it isn’t worth it.

      • Avatar

        I’m trying to psyche myself up NOT to watch it either, but it’s going to be the first really cold weekend, the Ravens have a bye and I have a NASCAR addiction.
        Let’s just say, if I do watch it, it will be to ridicule the entire process.

        • Avatar

          Hope it rains in Miami on Sunday. That would be justice for dumass Brian.

        • Avatar

          Lots of great comments and pretty much agree with all points made. I will be watching the race. I always tune in for the racing. The Chase and, now, the Championship are a sideshow and I will regard them as such.

  7. Avatar

    Newman lucked out hugely in a flawed system, credit is not due given his stats. It reminds me of giving one on the welfare dole congrats for knowing how to exploit the system for max benefits. IMO. Hamlin too.

    A Championship season one would hope the stats looked like this.

    wins top 5 top 10’s laps led
    Kez 6 16 19 1,540
    Joey 5 16 22 993
    Jeff 4 14 22 922
    Kevin 4 13 19 2,083

    You do not want to see a “Champion: with these stats.
    Denny 1 7 17 313
    Ryan 0 4 15 41.

    That about sums it up…imo of course.

    • Avatar

      Silly you. Trying to use stats to determine who is worthy of a championship. It was so awesome how Hamlin went a lap down twice and received the lucky dog twice to get back on the lead lap. That was awesome!!!! I can’t wait to see who gets the lucky dogs next week. That’s the only reason I tune in.

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        LOL, well Bill, you are more interested than I am. I don’t even plan to tune in for Homestead. The race and whoever wins the crapshoot mean nothing to me, so I’m not even going to bother.

        kb, wow, yeah, those stats for Hamlin and Newman, well, less than magnificent, that’s for sure. But hey, Brian France is OK with all this, so we fans should just fall in line and embrace it.

        Nah, count me out.

        • Avatar

          Gina, I will not be watching either…the hype, them telling us how great the format is…etc. will be too much for my ticker to take..I will explode…:) Nope not me.

          • Avatar

            those stats are indeed laugh out loud funny. in truth they were spit your taco salad out funny.

            I for one will be watching. hoping against hope that harvick chokes on pit road and logano passes hamlin for the win on the last lap. Because that would almost be worth my while.