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Pedley: Time For One More Teeny Tweak

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 13 2009
Kyle Busch came up just short in his effort to make the Chase but perhaps it was the Chase which was the loser. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch came up just short in his effort to make the Chase but perhaps it was the Chase which was the loser. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

If it’s not a unanimous opinion that the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is a wonderful thing, then it is at least a very strong consensus. It is doing everything it is supposed to do as it adds excitement to a sport that tends to get lost when football season begins and baseball turns from tedious to serious.

And Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, the 2009 Chase, the sixth Chase, got off to a perfect start.

Well, nearly perfect.

When the 12 drivers who had earned their berths lined up for the festive, smile-o-rama, boys-night-out of a group photo, the best driver in NASCAR was missing. And that of course, points up a fairly significant lugee in the churn.

The 2009 Chase will start next Sunday in New Hampshire with Kyle Busch competing merely for a race victory and yes, that is a problem.

A victory at Loudon would be his fifth of the season. It would make him Sprint Cup’s top winner on the season. It would be embarrassing.

Hopefully, it would set a small fire in the office of those who are empowered to make just one more tweak to the Chase format.

NASCAR officials should explore the option of “Win And You’re In”. Get a victory in the first 26 races of the season, get a shot at the Cup.

The downsides, of course, are that such a system would allow fluke race winners – like Joey Logano this year – in; that it could turn the Chase into a mob scene because as many as 26 teams could make the cut; that it is antithetical to the system of rewarding consistency in NASCAR.

The opinion here is that there is one answer to all of those arguments: Inclusion is better than exclusion.

OK, two answers: Winning races is what motor sports is, has always been and, hopefully, will always be about.

Drivers, crew chiefs, owners and the guys in the booth all love to talk about how hard it is to win a Sprint Cup race these days. How competitive the series is, how the garages are populated with the best drivers in the world.

Those people are mostly correct. And so, it only stands to reason that a driver and team who win a race in Cup are good enough to be in the Chase.

Will this year’s championship be cheapened if a driver like Carl Edwards or Juan Pablo Montoya win it without winning a race? Should a driver who has not won a race yet but takes home the big silver trophy which looks nothing at all like a Cup, feel guilty as he addresses the banquet this winter?

Nah and nah. Not even if Busch picks up, say, five more victories, which he is good enought to do.

The winner of the 2009 Cup will have played by the rules and been crowned by the rules.

As those rules now stand, that is.

And what of Kyle Busch?

He scored a personal victory at Richmond for the way he handled himself at a very tough moment. The guy who has showed people how not to win the last couple of years, showed them how to lose on Saturday night.

He spent a lot of time apologizing, a lot of time thanking, zero time scapegoating.

He used the word “we” more than he used the word “I” or “them”.

“It’s a conglomerate of points that we sacrificed all year,” Busch said after driving to a terrific fifth-place finish only to miss the Chase by eight points. “It’s unfortunate for the whole M&M’s organization; Victoria Mars was here tonight hoping that we could make it into the Chase.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to. We didn’t have the best of years to be consistent and unfortunately that bit us.

“We can always look toward the rest of the year to try to win some races and go out with a bang and try to build on something for next year.  I’ve been struggling a little bit this year with these cars for some reason. Last year I took to them real quick.  Thank Interstate Batteries, Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs) and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing.  It wasn’t tonight – it was a good, strong top-five finish

“That was a hard battle all night.  My arms are sore, my back is sore, but it was fun to be able to race all these guys.  (Brian) Vickers put up a whale of a fight there at the end you know.  I just want to thank M&M’s, Combos, Snickers – we missed it.”

And the Chase – the almost perfect Chase – will miss Busch.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 13 2009


  • Richard in N.C. says:

    I think there should be more points awarded for wins and for finishing in the top 5 in a race, and extra points for multiple wins. Alternatively, I believe anyone in the top 20 thru the first 26 races who wins at least 3 races should get in the Chase by bumping out the number 11 or 12 drivers IF #11 or #12 do have fewer wins. That way someone could get in the Chase by winning the 26th race. Letting a driver in the Chase with just 1 win would encourage ringers and possibly allow a driver in the Chase who only runs a partial schedule. I’m not a Kyle B. fan, but I suspect he will come back next season as an even more determined, more focused driver as a result of missing the Chase this year.

  • Jim R. says:

    Saying that a win will get you into the “Chase” is the same as saying that consistency is irrelevant. It is saying that the point system should be 1 point for a win and zero points for everyone else. There was only ever one fair system for determining a season champion: the team with the most points at the end of the season. Resetting the points for the last 10 events is manipulation designed to create drama. It is not a fair way to determine a full season champion. If NASCAR feels it cannot compete with professional football and baseball in the fall, maybe they need to readjust their schedule. Maybe they need to conclude that auto racing is a completly different sport and championship playoff systems don’t work the same way they do in other sports. Shorter races during a shorter season is the answer. A Chase for the Cup system is not.

  • yankeegranny says:

    If you win a race, you are in the chase. Shortened for rain races do not count. I don’t care if there are 5, 10, 15 , or twenty-five racers in the chase; the winners would be there. I am not a Kyle fan, but he certainly belonged there more that those 4 point-racing losers. Personally, I am looking foreward to 2010 when Jr wins it all.:=)

  • Sue Phebus says:

    I consider Kyle Busch the ultimate jerk, but would never question his driving ability. However, when a driver misses by 8 points, there are several places to point fingers. One of the places is questionable on-track decisions by Kyle, putting himself, and other drivers, in jeopardy. Missing the Chase is deserved and will make him a better driver in the long run, IF he learns the lessons he should from doing so.

  • Jonathan says:

    What is this ricky bobby? if you’re not first youre last? you can win 6-7 race and finish last in the other 36 but you won the most so you should be champion? if they do that then smaller teams should use all their budget and run 6 race and put all their resources into making sure they can win those

    • Jim Pedley says:

      No, I feel that if you win 12 percent of the races you should be allowed to compete fort the championship. Robby Gordon can put 100 percent of his budget into winning ONE race or one lap and he still is not guaranteed to achieve either goal.

  • Count Culo says:

    Say what you will about KyB, but the chase will be much less interesting without him in it… and a Cup winner without a victory for the season is a lame prospect indeed… drivers should HAVE to win at least ONE race for inclusion… don’t ya think??..C_C

  • SB says:

    If you’re so concerned about leaving a ‘worthy’ driver out, how about we just do something simple, like, oh, reset everyone’s points with 10 to go? Then EVERYONE would have a shot at a title, since that seems so important to you. All 43 cars are on the track anyway, so why just not include them all?

  • Marybeth says:

    Montoya had a win at Indy, it was just taken from him. Marybeth

  • Cupdude says:

    Yes, Kyle can be Kyle but he belongs in the Chase. Will miss him.

  • Jackie says:

    Cry baby… cry

    • Shawn Morgan says:

      Why don’t you just make a rule that Kyle bush gets in no matter what then that will be totally fair! I guess if you win 5 races that should cover the 21 other races that you sucked at. You know what in that case we should let Jr in because he is just so darn cool! Then we can be just like professional wrestling and not like a real sport at all!