NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2015 NASCAR Championship Edition

ONE: Congrats, Champ

It would be remiss of me not to start the last 5 Points to Ponder of the 2015 season without a hat tip and hearty congratulations to the new champion Kyle Busch, who won a maiden title in what were trying circumstances. A season that encompassed a terrible injury, lengthy rehab, a battle to get into the top 30, a deep run in the Chase for the first time ever and most importantly the birth of his first child, 2015 is a year that the younger Busch brother will never forget (and nor should he). I know there are fans out there who will argue that he doesn’t deserve a championship due to his missing 11 races to start the season, but my counterpoint would be that his path to the title was arguably harder given the hole he found himself in upon his return.

In addition, I would argue that his injury was avoidable. SAFER barriers, or lack thereof, is an unforgivable miss in this day and age of increased safety. Had Busch hit the softer walls would he have still broken his leg and foot? I think likely not. From the moment Busch first started wheeling a Cup car, the collective wisdom was that he would one day win a title. And on Sunday that day finally came. Unquestionably the most talented driver without a title prior to the 400 miles at Homestead-Miami Raceway, Busch is a worthy champion. The real question now is how many more can he win before he hangs up the driving gloves? At just 30 years old time is still on his side. Watch this space, folks.

TWO: Brothers in Arms

With Busch’s Cup title on Sunday, the Busch brothers join the Labonte brothers as the only other set of siblings to both win the big prize. Terry Labonte started it all with his two titles in 1984 and 1996 while younger brother Bobby Labonte took the honors in 2000. Kurt Busch, as many of you will remember, won the inaugural Chase in 2004 with younger brother Kyle getting it done some 11 years later. Just as it was for the Labontes, this is a historic moment for the Busch family and one that might not be equaled for quite some time (there being no obvious options at the time of writing). Tweeted the elder Busch in the aftermath of the race:

He has every right to feel that way. Given where both brothers were at the drop of the green flag of the Daytona 500 (Kurt suspended, Kyle injured) it really is a remarkable comeback – one for the ages – and a truly great stock car racing story. Parents Tom and Gaye have much to be thankful for this week.

THREE: First Losers

In the end, the two best drivers of the year based on the traditional points system finished up second (Kevin Harvick) and sixth (Joey Logano) respectively. For both wheelmen, it was a bitter end to a year that brought each driver a ton of success. But such are the vagaries of this new playoff system NASCAR has instituted that neither end up with the big prize. For Harvick, it felt like a second place kind of a season given the number of times he finished as first loser, or runner up for those more gently inclined. But for Logano in particular, the sting of defeat may well last long into the offseason. Had he handled the Kansas Speedway contretemps with Matt Kenseth differently, we might be looking at a totally different champion this morning and I really believe this to be true. Last year, Logano essentially lost one at Homestead with multiple pit issues. The conventional wisdom is that you need to lose one before you win one; well by my reckoning Joey has now lost two in a row. Will it be third time lucky next year? I wouldn’t be surprised. One thing is for sure, though, he can’t continue to blow his opportunities. They don’t come along very often.

FOUR: 2015 In Review

So that my friends, is that: Another long season in the books and we now get our Sunday afternoons back for at least a couple of months. All told, it wasn’t an awful season – there were certainly some high points – but for the most part the year was blighted by what proved to be a terrible aero package. At some tracks it would have been easier to solve world hunger than it was to pass the leader and that is a worrying state of affairs. Thankfully, the 2016 package looks to be a lot more racy and one can only hope this optimism is reflected on track, and in particular at the cookie-cutter circuits, throughout the campaign. The signature moment of the year will of course be the Kenseth vs. Logano disagreement coming to a head at Martinsville Speedway. That’s a highlight we will be seeing over and over again and one I suspect the vast majority of fans will not tire of seeing. Outside of that, we had no new first time winners, although in some senses Martin Truex Jr.’s win at Pocono Raceway felt a little that way. And all told, his was probably the most heart-warming story of the season even if it didn’t end up with what would have been both a remarkable and unexpected championship. Roll on 2016.

FIVE: Next Up, Daytona 500

And finally this week, a quick look ahead to the next meaningful race – the 2016 Daytona 500 – some 90 days from now. The Great American Race is a tremendous tradition, a fitting curtain raiser to the season and one in which legends are both made and also cemented. Sure, there is some racing in other series between now and then, but for stock car fans it’s a date to circle for next year. But that is a little way off. We have Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holidays to look forward to. Enjoy the offseason folks. And as always thanks for reading and commenting. It is truly appreciated.

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kb

Hmmm. Logano can’t continue to “blow his opportunities”. Says it all about the attitude and many things in “Nascar fantasy world” today.

salb

I have to agree Kyle’s injuries were totally avoidable. Had he limited himself to running the Cup race instead of dropping down to the Xfinity series, he probably wouldn’t have been injured. Since he chose to take the extra risk….

Steve

First thing I thought of when I read this. One can certainly argue that while nobody likes to see anyone hit the wall head on, he made his own bed by racing in that series.

Nice shot taken at Logano too. The media continues their crusade to made Logano look like the bad guy even though what happened was a racing incident at Kansas and caused by Kenseth himself. And of course Kenseth being an idiot at Martinsville is still being praised.

kb

Right on Steve, amazing stuff. lol. The narrative astounds.

Bill B

I think the point at Kansas was that if Logano couldn’t pass Kenseth cleanly (read without touching him at all) regardless of Kenseth’s blocking, given the fact that he was already locked into the next round of the chase, he could have let Kenseth win that battle to make sure he won the war. It was penny-wise and pound foolish. Nobody is saying Logano shouldn’t go for the win but in going for the win he pissed someone off and ended up being victimized a week later.

While most would agree it was a racing deal and that Matt had no right to carry the grudge to the point of blatantly wrecking Logano at Martinsville, Matt didn’t feel that way and none of us armchair drivers opinions really matter, only Matt’s did. If you have an argument it isn’t with me, it’s with Matt. I’m just laying the cards out on the table.

So, in hindsight, if someone would have told you that Matt would wrecked Joey at Martinsville before he laid a bumper to Kenseth at Kansas, what would your advise be to Logano? I can tell you if I were his crewchief, knowing what I know now, I would have told him to do whatever he could to pass Kenseth but DO NOT LAY A BUMPER TO HIM NO MATTER WHAT. If you can pass him without contact then go for it.

kb

Well I just watched the Youtube Kansas clip, and Logano held his line. Nothing horrible about that. What was the guy to do? Matt was all over the place for several laps. Passing him looked impossible. So he held his line. Desperate but a acceptable part of racing. Matt didn’t learn doing it to Newman the week before, but of course crickets on that account. I don’t know why the double standard or double speak continues. What Matt did, Matt did…he has to look at himself in the mirror and in a few months time I think he will not like how he acted at Martinsville, or what he did and said after to the press or his immature “tweets”. Very unprofessional for a 43 year old man, where Logano like him or not took the high road on all counts. People were pissed he didn’t go and “apologize”, what for? He said in his post race interview “Matt knew what was going on, it was a racing deal. I raced him the way he raced me. And everybody took offense. Logano blocked Harvick in April, Harvick held his line. The camera was right on Logano when he climbed from his car in April. He said I knew what could happen it was a racing deal. They asked him the same thing the next pre race interview after Martinsville, he indicated he did it to Harvick, he said no I did not feel the need for him to call me nor did I expect it, and he didn’t. Sounds mature to me.

kb

I truly do believe the press and others have double standards as to what is considered normal racing depending on who it is, and the older drivers exploit the pity party better than anybody. They all need to grow up, interest is being lost with all this bs double standard, faux racing, faux Champ garbage. What a cesspool of bullshitz this year, right up to a guy p20 in points hoisting the trophy laying claim to a “season champ”. Ugh.

kb

Ah no, you are saying it is ALL his fault and it squarely rests on his shoulders, which is not true at all. Which I find insulting. Since coming to Penske he has been in the hunt. 3 years ago at Chicago he and Juniors season was over for blown engines after a long rain delay the opening race of the silly 10 race hunt. Last year a jack issue, this year a Matt Kenseth issue. because Matt had to act like a petulant 3 year old. I don’t see how Logano “blew those opportunities”, more like was handed the shaft, and he handled them very well. Simple stated the Nascar fantasy world is pretty much people like you can write it, but it doesn’t make it true… Much the same way people are validating the greatness of this one race champ as if it was earned for 36 races. Ah, no. Twisting and a turnin’ doesn’t make it true.

Danny

No I am not saying that it is all his fault. I’m saying he has had two wonderful opportunities to win the title and he didn’t get it done(given the speed of his car/his driving ability). You don’t get many of those opportunities. Carl Edwards, for example, was a point away in 2011. Hamlin in 2010. So yes, on some levels, he did blow his opportunities. Kenseth – he could have handled that very differently (see the comments from the #24/#88 on the topic) then maybe Martinsville never happens. Fair point on the jack issue but you win as a team just as you lose as a team.

As for your NASCAR fantasy world comment – don’t we all have our own versions of reality? Just because you disagree with mine doesn’t make it fantasy. It just makes it different to yours. And opinions are the spice of life aren’t they?

I do think Kyle is a worthy champion. Yes, the system might be flawed but his story this year is an incredible one. Plus, his talent is without question.

kb

Oh good grief now “his driving ability”. Anything else you wanna pile on? I know you win as a team and you lose as a team, but your comments were directed at the driver..admit it. You make it sound like he is a fluck up. His stats are almost second to none two years in a row and he has the most wins of all. Does show the folly of the system. And for the Kyle being a worthy champion, no. Let him be a worthy champion another year, a full year, if he is good as you claim let him do a whole season and not win one race, let his season long stats prove it. Let him have a whole year, no waivers, no missed races, etc. He is not a season long Champ, and his “feel good” story should not be used to justify the warn and fuzzy scripted bs at Homestead. I could cheer his win with the Homestead Trophy, I do not cheer anything of his this year as a season long Champ, he isn’t.
SMH. I am amazed, and I should not be.

kb

And one other thought Danny, not that it seems to make a difference, but it does. Nascar keeps changing what constitutes a Champ. Well the had the lame 10 race Chase, and of course last year they instituted the even lamer 1 race crapshoot. As you know last year (of course) they went to the 1 race deal. Logano when it was all said and done after Homestead would have been if they didn’t change it the “Champ”. Harvick won at Homestead, but Logano still had him beat by 7 points via the 10 race format. Sooooo..to say a loser, I would say it would be Nascar, at a whim, always changing the definition of what a Champ is, because the format used for over a decade, it is his year and it wasn’t acceptable because that year they changed the rule. Figures.. Big problem with that. And no I hate all forms of a chase format. Merely bringing another aspect to light. I the beginning of last year, he was going to win under the old format, I knew it wasn’t in his cards for the one race deal, I was correct. I wish that day I had access to Lotto, I would have won big time. I have witnesses to my statement too… :) :).
The diluting of the Champ continues…………….

kb

Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards cannot make any such claim as to the situation with Logano.

2013 Jimmie Johnson under the 10 race Chase rule is Champ.
2014 Rules change to a one race “Champ”. Logano deemed by the rules in effect for over a decade, in 2014 isn’t a “Champ”. But the 7 point margin over Harvick says he is, but the new “one race farce” says no. Funny how it changed after a decade of sameness, then the next year you are a loser. He did do everything right, Nascar didn’t. Interesting…..

salb

Danny, respectfully, the installation of the SAFER barrier has nothing to do with what BZF did to allow Kyle to be eligible. When one decides to run in a ‘lesser’ series, one assumes the risk that it can affect your performance in the series you are being paid big bucks to compete in. Kyle assumed the risk, yet was allowed to go by a rule that applied only to him. Getting injured has always been a risk drivers assume…even with SAFER barriers. Had Kyle limited himself to running the Cup race, the exception would not have been necessary. And, he would have had to compete on the same terms as the other 42 drivers.

Capt Spaulding

Maybe the competitors should just go for the wins come hell or high water. If you miss the chase, go back to motorhome and count your money, since this years Championship is the equivalent of a one race shootout between 4 cars. It even needed a debris caution to make a winner of one of the contenders, and I’m still not why Bad Brad took the low line on the restart. Just an adder, anybody else think that Jimmy Johnson had a crew member body adjustment at the last pitstop in Texas…he sure made it look easy to pass Kez after 300 laps of domination….thinking maybe NASCAR knew what to look for at Homestead.

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