The 2014 NASCAR season is officially over with the notable exception of the Championship Banquet. What kind of year was it? With the multitudes on talk radio praising the new format for determining a champion, what does the rest of NASCAR Nation think? This reporter has a “wait and see” attitude on the format, but that comes later.
The season saw some of the hardest racing we’ve seen in some time. For the first time in ages, we saw some real competition between brands and teams. Hendrick Motorsports did not dominate the sport because it had company with Team Penske. If you will notice, just like in olden times, it was Chevrolet versus Ford. HMS came through with 13 wins, most in the season, as usual. Team Penske was second with 11 wins; Stewart-Haas Racing had six, two each for Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing, and one each for Richard Petty Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing. That left the score at 20 wins for Chevrolet, 14 for Ford, and two lonely wins for Toyota. It’s almost strange that the final four to go for the championship kind of looked like that with Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman representing Chevrolet, Joey Logano representing Ford and Denny Hamlin representing Toyota. Good competition among brands is always good for NASCAR.
The new format had its detractors, though. Fans of certain drivers and even the drivers themselves were critical when the favored driver didn’t make the cut. The loudest were Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, Jimmie Johnson fans and Jeff Gordon fans. Even Gordon got into the act by proposing changes to the format that would have put him in the Final Four. Apparently Gordon forgot that his failure to pass Earnhardt at Martinsville just might have had something to do with that one-point deficit.
Tempers flared and we had a couple of pretty good post-race skirmishes. Out came the hatred for Brad Keselowski. Fans will boo him and maybe they will leave Kyle Busch alone for awhile. Drivers say they don’t like his attitude. Having been around this sport for a long time, I wonder if this young bunch could even fathom the fallout from drivers like Dale Earnhardt Sr., Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough or Bobby Allison. They raced like Keselowski, but boys will be boys. I doubt it’s a long time before anyone hits anyone in a melee with a closed fist again. Of course when the team owner pays your fine we may see more of these post-race antics.
After all of this, I say leave it alone for next year. The first attempt had its moments and it seemed to get fans fired up about something. My opinion from the start has been a true champion is exemplary over the entire season. It’s one of the main reasons that I don’t watch the baseball playoffs or the NFL playoffs. How about the Super Bowl? I haven’t watched it in years. Sometimes teams who have done nothing get hot for the playoffs. When they end up in the World Series or the Super Bowl, I lose interest, but for some strange reason since two of the Final Four had won nine races during the season, it held my interest. I’m sure it won’t always be that way, but I’m willing to see what happens next year.
In the end, it came down to who made the least mistakes. Logano and Hamlin lost because their teams let them down. Newman was just overmatched all season and that left Harvick. Sort of like those baseball and football playoffs, but with a worthy team winning. I hate the Chase and I don’t like this format, but the people have spoken and we will see what happens in 2015.