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Woody: Are Non-Chasers Non-Racers?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 24 2009
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the rest of the drivers who are not among the Chasers still have plenty to race and race hard, for. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the rest of the drivers who are not among the Chasers still have plenty to race and race hard, for. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Critics of the Chase for the Championship claim that drivers who don’t make the 12-man playoff become ride-around clock-watchers with no incentive in the final 10 races.

Oh really?

How about pride?

How about a little self-respect?

How about showing some grit and professionalism?

How about trying to get your sponsor some publicity the old-fashioned way by leading laps and winning races?

How about attempting to salvage something positive from an otherwise blah season?

How about trying to build some momentum that might carry over into next season?

How about earning that those big paychecks that keep coming in even though you failed to make the Chase?

How about getting mad and refusing to be pushed around any more?

Seems to me the non-Chasers should be quivering with incentive.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they don’t give a flip about any of the above. Sometimes it sure doesn’t seem like, based on the lethargic efforts we’ve seen heading into the 6th Chase race Sunday at Martinsville.

To be fair, I suppose it’s hard to suddenly step it up if a team wasn’t able to crack the Top 12 in 26 races. There’s a reason why they were buried back there.

When you scoop off the top 12 teams that’s a lot of NASCAR’s cream. Maybe there’s simply not much left. If that’s true – if NASCAR has indeed become a 12-car league – the sport’s in trouble.

Also, there’s the troubling indications that perhaps the non-Chasers are being waved off from racing the championship contenders too hard. There have been hints that NASCAR has given the also-rans some subtle move-over warnings.

If that’s so, it’s shameful on two counts – NASCAR for ordering it and non-Chasers for complying.

The Chase drivers aren’t “entitled” to a single square inch of asphalt. They’re supposed to go out and earn it. They should have to race 42 drivers every time they go out, Chase races included.

To somehow suggest that 33 non-Chasers should move over and get out of their way is absurd.

I’ve heard some non-Chase drivers admit that they are “aware” of the Chase guys when they’re around them on the track. That’s ridiculous. They’d better be “aware” that they’re mired in a rotten season and should be doing everything in their power to lead some laps. They shouldn’t cut the Chase contenders an inch of slack.

Maybe that’s part of the problem – maybe the non-Chasers are simply too timid and don’t want to interfere with the title fight. Maybe that timidity helps explain why they’re not in the Chase.

Or maybe their heart’s just not in it; maybe they surrendered the season once they failed to make the Chase. Maybe they quit.

Or – and I hope this is the case – they’re racing their bruised hearts out and doing the best they can with balky cars and stumbling teams that simply weren’t up to snuff this season.

I hope it’s the latter; that the non-Chasers really are trying their best and not just going through the motions and running out the clock. I hope so, but sometimes it sure doesn’t look like it.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 24 2009


  • larry woody says:

    Midasmicah, if your favorite non-Chase driver leads the race or wins the race it’ll be pretty hard for TV to ignore him.
    I realize that’s an old-fashioned way for a racer to get noticed, but it still works.

  • midasmicah says:

    It’s hard to give your sponsor any publicity whe a certain network won’t show their car on tv. Some of have a favorite driver we never see and if thye get in the way of the chasers, they’re warned. And you expect them to be able to race hard. I know they’re giving it all they’ve got, but they’re not allowed to get in the way of the chosen. Look at the top 10 at the end of a race, or are you too blind to read between the lines? Geeez!