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Woody: Asterisks For Jimmie? That’s Asinine

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 24 2009
Jimmie Johnson and his team did not win the championship strictly because of the Chase.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jimmie Johnson and his team did not win their championships strictly because of the Chase. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The only thing more predictable than Jimmie Johnson’s championship stretch run was the afterburner whine of a certain segment of fans who continue to chastise the Chase.

Some even suggest putting an asterisk beside each of Johnson’s four titles, as well as the championships won by Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart under the Chase format.

What a bunch of baloney.

Would they put asterisks beside a couple of Richard Petty’s titles which were won under a different points system that came along later?

From the very start – from the day that Busch was crowned the inaugural Chase champion – critics have been calculating who would have won the title under the old points system. By their calculations it was usually someone other than the Chase champ.

I repeat: What a bunch of nonsense.

That’s like trying to calculate how many points a college basketball player in the old days would have scored if the three-point shot had been in effect. It can’t be done because there’s no way to know if how many three-pointers the player might have attempted – and how many he might have made.

A high-scoring player back then might have scored FEWER points under the three-pointer rule because he might have put up more long shots and missed.

The same goes for the NASCAR points system. Nobody can calculate how many points a driver would have accumulated under the old system because there’s no way to know how that driver would have raced. Like a basketball player prior to the three-point shot, a driver might actually have scored FEWER points because he might have raced differently.

If the Chase has been in place during Petty’s heyday, would he have won more than seven championships? Fewer than seven? The same?

There’s no way to know. Critics of the Chase can melt their calculators trying to tabulate what might have been, and they still will never know.

All we know with absolute certainty is that for the past six seasons every driver knew about the Chase going into the season.

Every driver was aware of how it worked.

Every driver arrived at Daytona for the season opener with the same number of points – zero – and they all knew that they had 26 races in which to make the Chase.

So how does the Chase favor any particular driver?

It’s also a bunch of bunk to continue to claim that the Chase renders the first 26 races irrelevant. That’s like saying the 16 games of the NFL regular season are irrelevant.

The Chase makes the first 26 races MORE important because they’re how a driver punches his ticket to the Chase.

And the old argument that if a driver doesn’t make the Chase his season is over is absurd. Jamie McMurray won a Chase race and got tons of attention for himself, his sponsor and his team.

Remember, if your favorite driver wasn’t in the top six – never mind the top 10 or 12 – under the old system, he wasn’t going to win the championship anyway. The Chase puts MORE drivers in championship contention.

Does the Chase guarantee fireworks and drama? No, unfortunately, it doesn’t. This year’s stretch run was as dull as dishwater as Johnson almost casually pulled away. But that’s not the Chase’s fault. Johnson – even despite his Texas hiccup — would have pulled away under the old points system.

At least the Chase created a dab of drama during the final races of the regular season as a half-dozen bubble boys fought for the final playoff spots.

I’m not sure what the answer is to NASCAR’s dull racing, but changing the points system won’t fix it. Increasingly boring racing is a legitimate gripe for fans and a continuing concern for NASCAR. But that’s no reason to lessen Jimmie Johnson’s amazing accomplishment.

He blew the competition away – and he would have done it regardless of how the points were tabulated.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 24 2009
5 Comments

5 Comments »

  • Steve says:

    “The Chase makes the first 26 races MORE important because they’re
    how a driver punches his ticket to the Chase.”

    This statement is the reason why people hate the Chase. The first 26 races are more important than the last 10? There is something wrong with that logic. The TV networks proved it, though because after Race 26 nobody watched. Another reason is the leaders points lead is totally wiped out, no matter how far ahead he is. That’s ridiculous.

    “Johnson – even despite his Texas hiccup — would have pulled away under the old points system.”

    How can you say this? He was over 200 points behind after Race 26 and won by less than 100 points under the old system. And there is no way Stewart loses that huge lead with 10 races to go. He’s too good a driver for that and knows how to points race. Like you said, he would have raced differently and we wouldn’t be calling Jimmie the 4 time champ, legend, best driver of all time, or whatever other superlative you want to give him.

    Remove or keep the asterisks, I don’t really care, but please keep Jimmie Johnsons accomplishments in perspective. He has been the best at the last 10 races for the last 4 years. This does not make him a legend, best of all time, or whatever else the media wants to annoint him

  • missouriracefan says:

    You are an endangered species – a columnist with common sense.

  • Keith says:

    I think the chase was the dumbest idea ever in professional sports but you are right on the money. Everyone knows the rules when the season starts and they race accordingly. They know when to race hard or experment for the playoffs.

  • Bill says:

    Um, I think you mean that KURT Busch won the inaugural Chase championship, not Kyle.

    Good point, though. I’m not a huge fan of the Chase, but the asterisk idea is absurd. How many different point systems and race schedules, affecting the number of races and number of miles driven, have been changed over the years? You could practically make an argument for an asterisk on EVERY championship.

  • Vicki says:

    Great article. You’re spot on!