NASCAR’s Mistake in Adding the 13th Chase ContestantBy Ron Fleshman
What a strange week. Just when I thought NASCAR was handling things right, things go haywire. After the events at Richmond (I won’t go into it—you know the story), I thought the sanctioning body had made some tough decisions in displacing Martin Truex from the Chase and adding Ryan Newman, but what happened today was almost unbelievable. Despite the sincere explanation of the officials of NASCAR, I just don’t see it. The rationalization that Jeff Gordon should be added to the field of 12 (make that 13 now) makes no sense. I’m not a mathematician (and you have to be to understand the complicated new point system, though they supposedly made is simple for the fans and drivers, let’s go through the changes.
After Matt Kenseth won the last regular NASCAR championship in 2003, it was decided changes were needed to mold NASCAR in the form of stick and ball sports and have a playoff. The problem was the problem whereby Kenseth only had one win that season and the thought of that wasn’t kosher. So, we went to a ten-race playoff where almost anyone could win just like the NFL, NFL, and NBA. Later on they added bonuses for wins and two more “wild cards” based on wins by drivers who came close. Huh? Now you can finish 11th or 12th and still not make the cut because of your win total. So we turn around and place a driver in the Chase because he’s won no races? And guys who have won are left out? I’m sure David Ragan is thrilled. Who’s running this show?
I have nothing against Jeff Gordon, but the crying over the last few days has been over the top. Once NASCAR made the decision to disqualify Truex and install Newman in the chase, Gordon’s car owner went to the media saying he was “robbed.” Gordon fans (and there are plenty of them left) went to social media to state their case for their driver. It was constant. One fan posted on a web site many times that his man should be in the Chase. NASCAR simply yielded to pressure, which is never good. Lots of scenarios show it would have been difficult for Gordon to gain a place in the Chase and no reason that NASCAR should have changed the rules, though they are very good at this and have for years, to add a 13th driver. Funny, but they did and made themselves look like the WWE in the process. It wasn’t necessary. It is sort of like the contrived effort to make sure the most popular driver somehow got in the playoff (you know what I’m talking about, surely), or seemed so.
Wonder what will happen next year if the same thing comes up again and another driver, maybe Junior, misses by one point? Will NASCAR add a 13th driver? Sort of like the Big Red Machine missing the playoffs by a half game in 1976 and adding them in because one of the qualifiers had a pitcher use PED’s. NASCAR has set a precedent and they will be sorry for that in the future.
I’ll end this tirade with one question. How many times have teammates swapped the lead to get the bonus points? How many times have teammates back in the pack let a teammate pass them as victory is in sight? Going back in history, you have to ponder these points. A friend today told me money talks, and he has a point. If the driver missing the Chase had been David Ragan, would they have added him after a controversy? You can bet your life it wouldn’t have happened.