Monday, September 29, 2008

Up in smoke

It would be a monumental understatement to say that Kyle Busch blew his shot at the Sprint Cup title. The driver and team that could do nothing wrong in the first 26 races have done nothing right over the past three weeks. And it couldn’t have happened at a worst time. Busch had what appeared to be an insurmountable 207-point lead before the Chase began, but because of the recalibrated standings, that was whittled down to merely 30 going into New Hampshire.

Standings after Richmond
1. Kyle Busch – 3878
2. Carl Edwards (–207)
3. Jimmie Johnson (–302)
4. Dale Earnhardt (–390)
5. Jeff Burton (–494)
6. Tony Stewart (–593)
7. Kevin Harvick (–595)
8. Greg Biffle (–598)
9. Denny Hamlin (–643)
10. Jeff Gordon (–657)
11. Matt Kenseth (–746)
12. Clint Bowyer (–762)
13. Kasey Kahne (–831)
14. David Ragan (–839)

So what would the standings look like now had his large lead not been wiped out and would he still be on the verge of blowing the championship if not for the Chase? The answer is yes. Busch’s season has tanked so badly since Richmond that he would’ve lost the points lead even under the pre-2004 points standings configuration. That’s what makes this meltdown that much more incredible as Busch's chances went up in smoke with another poor finish Sunday. It's an unheard of 331-point swing over the last three races. Here’s what the standings would look like without the Chase.

Standings after Kansas
1. Carl Edwards – 4186
2. Jimmie Johnson (–75)
3. Kyle Busch (-124)
4. Dale Earnhardt (-323)
5. Jeff Burton (-358)
6. Greg Biffle (-361)
7. Kevin Harvick (-464)
8. Jeff Gordon (-533)
9. Tony Stewart (-581)
10. Denny Hamlin (-629)
11. Clint Bowyer (-669)
12. Matt Kenseth (-680)
13. David Ragan (-817)
14. Kasey Kahne (-824)

It's not a secret that I hate the Chase. So each week I'd like to revisit these standings to see who the "real" champion would be had NASCAR not blown up a perfectly good points system.

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