I thought about how I’d feel if the EPL adopted a similar “Chase” format with teams being split off after, say, 28 of the 38 league games. My initial, instinctive reaction was utter horror — and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone. I imagine this is probably how some of you felt when the Chase was first debuted back in 2004. Back home, the outcry from fans everywhere would reach legendary proportions, and they would kill the idea stone dead before it even began. Let me put it another way: there would be more of a chance Scott Riggs wins 10 straight races than there would be for a Chase format in English football. So, in short, I get the argument of the long-term fan. I understand why you might despise this “arbitrary” system… I just don’t necessarily agree.
Despite all the doom and gloom and dire talk of a sponsorship crisis on the Cup circuit next season, there is still much to be cheerful about. So without further ado, here is why the rest of the Sprint Cup season remains absolute must-see NASCAR.
What’s not to like about Carl Edwards? He loves his mother. He gives away his race win trophies to deserving causes. He lists his hometown as his favorite vacation spot. He’s put his money where his mouth is, and started a record business with a high school buddy. He’s even appeared on the hit series 24, where he got a brief role as a Homeland Security Agent — not to mention playing the starring role in a number of great ad campaigns. Plus, he’s in good enough shape to go bare-chested on a national magazine. Oh yeah, and can he wheel a racecar right on the ragged edge to victory — and then get out and do a back flip like he’s been for a nice cruise in the countryside.
This list of drivers I never saw but wish I had is about as unscientific as you’re going to get. I’ve not restricted myself at all in terms of criteria, and in a couple of cases, I quote from sources that know much more than I. Where relevant, I’ve explained my reasoning, so you know I’m just not pulling these things right out of thin air. Some choices are obvious and others may surprise you; so if you think I’m missing someone, write in and tell me why.
I never was much good at what us Brits call maths. As soon as the numbers started becoming letters or strange mathematical characters and shapes, I pretty much checked out. But with only seven races left before we reach the Chase cutoff, it’s time to dust off my trusty old calculator and take a look at some important NASCAR-related numbers — and in particular, the current points standings. With 19 races fully accounted for, the end of the regular season is fast approaching, and it’s fair to say we have a good sample size so far to consider Who’s In and Who’s Out of the field of 12 for the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
With the conclusion of the high-banked 200 mph, 400-mile dramafest at Daytona, we’re at the halfway point of the 2008 season. And while each week usually unfolds into its own unique episode in the 10-month epic of a soap opera NASCAR has become, there are always certain storylines that resonate across each season, from track to track and month to month. So here, in no particular order, are my 18 top storylines to date as we head into Sprint Cup’s second half.
In the spirit of the mindless but oh-so-enjoyable summer movies, if our favorite NASCAR stars were to replace the ones on the silver screen, who’d be on the A-list? Who would sell out movie houses in every state? Who would win Oscars, and who’d win the decidedly less glamorous Emmies? Who would be the rising stars, the break out names, and who would be the fading icons in need of a hit? And — in pseudo-honor of Kathy Griffin and her excruciatingly painful “Life on the D-list” show — who’d prop up the pile?
Over the last couple of years Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered his own version of an epic drought, as NASCAR’s most famous son hadn’t won a race for more than two whole seasons. While Earnhardt finally got his win — a fuel-mileage triumph at Michigan on June 15th — the streak lasted for a stretch of some 76 races, or 404 days for those so mathematically inclined. It’s fair to say the “Dale Jr. Drought” did not have the financial and societal effects of the Dust Bowl, but for those caught up in both — the workers so graphically depicted in Steinbeck’s tome and Junior Nation — it must have felt, for a while at least, as if it was never going to end. But end both did; and surprisingly enough, in each case the world continued to revolve safely on its axis.
In the three years since my job and NASCAR crossed paths, changing my sportwatching life forever, one of my absolute favorite moments — of many good times — came at Talladega. Regular readers of my column will be aware of my love for the 2.66-mile behemoth of a track in Alabama, as evidenced by an article on the subject earlier this season; so, it’s not surprising that one of my fondest memories came at the series’ largest track.
Right about the time Sam Hornish Jr. might have been starting to feel comfortable in a stock car this June, he got what Bill Weber described as “the full Pocono experience.” The veteran commentator was referring to the series of scrapes Hornish endured across the weekend, none of which appeared to validate his choice to leave open-wheel racing — and showed that while the driver’s taking baby steps forward in his progression as a Sprint Cup rookie, he’s still got a long ways to go in order to make his transition complete.