I had hoped to announce the NASCAR Ron Thornton series, but I came up about $200 million short. Instead, the former Busch series and soon to be former Nationwide series shall be the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the next 10 years. Oh, so close.
Just as NASCAR holds no respect for branding its events long term, the same goes for its touring series. Thankfully, the top circuit remains the Cup tour, as in Winston, Nextel, and Sprint. Mind you, it was referred to as Strictly Stock in 1949 before becoming the Grand National tour a year later. That got tossed in favor of the Winston Cup in 1972, becoming in 1986 part of the new name for the former Sportsman series, then called the Busch Grand National Series until 2003. Thankfully, the truck series is the truck series, no matter who sponsors it. At least something remains consistent. You would think with all them smart folks working for them, someone would have gotten a grasp on the concept of branding. Maybe they need fewer smart guys and more cowboys.
Now looking forward to Richmond. Looking back at last year, Clint Bowyer did what he was told, and it cost his then teammate a place in the Chase. Spin-gate was a year ago at Richmond, and while Martin Truex Jr. did not make the playoff in 2014, it appears Bowyer is in tough to repeat this year. He needs to make up a 23 point deficit on Greg Biffle and then hope nobody takes their first win of the season at Richmond. Truex lost his ride and had to find another, while I doubt Biffle will go for a spin to help his cause.
It is interesting to note NASCAR granted Tony Stewart a waiver that would allow him a Chase spot if he wins on Saturday night. Part one of the Chase notes declared a driver needed to be in the top 30 in points – that was accomplished. The second part was a driver must qualify for each of the races leading up to the Chase – unless waived due to circumstances, say medical reasons. NASCAR deemed Stewart to fall under the “extraordinary” circumstances and granted the waiver. Still, he has to win to get in – but that’s another story.
The whole reason for the Chase and new playoff format this year is to create some drama and higher ratings. Win and you are in has been exciting, though Biffle, Bowyer, or both could be denied a place they would have taken a year ago. The elimination format should be interesting as those eligible for the title get pared down by four every three events, leaving four to battle it out for the crown at Homestead. Of course, there will be 39 other guys and gal out there as well to provide some hamburger helper to bulk up the few steaks out there.
I still like the idea of a real playoff, with the top 20 and only the top 20 competing over the final five races to see who is the best. There is no way you could send cars home ten races short, but we once had 31 race seasons and some might want those days to return. Failing to qualify for the Chase would then be one way to realize a shortened season and a longer rest, though not a desirable option. Who knows, maybe it is an idea that will find traction in the future. In the meantime, let the Chasing and the eliminations begin after we take care of business at Richmond.
As for our search for the best over the course of an entire season, these standings reflect if winners were given a 25 (rather than a 3) point bonus.
1 – Jeff Gordon – 3 Wins – 937 Points
2 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 3 – 917
3 – Joey Logano – 3 – 857
4 – Brad Keselowski – 3 – 848
5 – Jimmie Johnson – 3 – 832
6 – Carl Edwards – 2 – 799
7 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 794
8 – Kevin Harvick – 2 – 792
9 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 747
10 – Kasey Kahne – 1 – 730
11 – Greg Biffle – 0 – 728
12 – Clint Bowyer – 0 – 705
13 – Kyle Larson – 0 – 704
14 – Kyle Busch – 1 – 679
15 – Paul Menard – 0 – 675
16 – Austin Dillon – 0 – 674
17 – Jamie McMurray – 0 – 666
18 – Denny Hamlin – 1 – 658
19 – Brian Vickers – 0 – 650
20 – Kurt Busch – 1 – 636