Monday, June 9, 2008

Six points of separation

The TNT television crew lavished praise upon the No. 18 team for getting their car back on the track after a crash. Too bad it didn’t matter if they fixed the car or packed up and went home. After Kyle Busch crashed into Jamie McMurray, the team worked feverishly to fix the car and collect a few more points. Unfortunately, it would take another 34 laps for Busch to pick up two positions and six not-so-precious championship points. Those six points may have been valuable in the 2003 version of championship, but not in the new era of the Chase.

The reason? Busch is atop the standings after 14 races and leads David Ragan, the first man out of the Chase, by 477 points. Barring a major malfunction by the No. 18 or injury to Busch, there is no possible way he’s missing NASCAR’s playoffs. The most important number for him right now is four. That’s how many wins he has, meaning he would be at the top of the points if the Chase began now.

The old discussion about the importance of points should be over. Each point for the leaders does not mean as much as it did five years ago because it doesn’t matter what place you’re in after 26 races. Take Dale Jr., for example. He is third in the standings and has 10 top-10’s this year, but he doesn’t have a single victory. That means he would begin the Chase in eighth place and 40 points behind Busch. Not much of a consolation prize for one of the best drivers in 2007, although he could easily overcome that deficit.

The Chase, unfortunately, has de-emphasized the importance of the first 26 races. That's too bad, too, because Busch and Jeff Burton are separate by just 21 points. What a run to finish that could have been between two drivers that have had remarkable seasons thus far. But until Brian France gets a clue on how to run NASCAR, we’ll just be stuck with this joke of a system. What a shame.

If the Chase started today
Kyle Busch – Leader
Carl Edwards – 20 points
Kasey Kahne –20 points
Jeff Burton – 30 points
Denny Hamlin – 30 points
Jimmie Johnson –30 points
Clint Bowyer –30 points
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 40 points
Greg Biffle – 40 points
Jeff Gordon – 40 points
Kevin Harvick – 40 points
Tony Stewart – 40 points

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