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home : features : strap in October 20, 2014

2/6/2014 10:00:00 PM
Reset Points Four Times in 10 Races = Champion ... Really?
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Thunder Road Late Model point leader Nick Sweet (88), the 2010 King of Road, leads the field at The Road.


Biggy can be reached at
R. Bigelow, 294 Hillside Dr., St. Johnsbury, VT 05819


By Big Bigelow

Brian France said, and I quote, “For more than three years we’ve been contemplating ways to elevate the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship format in the following ways: First, we’ve talked about putting greater emphasis on winning races.” The key words here are – “emphasis on winning races”.

If we look no further back than last season this ridiculous format (I had other words come to mind but I’m going with ridiculous for now) would have found Dale Earnhardt Jr. as your 2013 champion.

Now put your tinfoil hats away and forget for a few seconds the idea NASCAR would love it if NASCAR’s most popular driver was sitting at the head table come banquet time.

Remembering those key words in France’s speech, fact is Earnhardt Jr. had won zero races last season. He was winless in the first 26 races and then went 0-for-10 in the playoffs. But with this new ridiculous format he could have been your 2013 champion.

Jeff Gluck from the USA Today wrote, “It turns out last year’s champion, if the new rules were applied, would have been Dale Earnhardt Jr., who didn’t win a race. According to economist Andrew Maness, who runs the site, Earnhardt would have made the final race along with Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon. NASCAR’s Mike Forde confirmed the lineup.

“The driver who won the most races last season, Matt Kenseth with seven, would not have been eligible for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here’s how it would have played out: Kenseth’s poor finish at Phoenix, the next-to-last race, would have knocked him from the top four when the points were reset, giving Earnhardt a slot along with three race winners from the last Chase segment: Gordon (Martinsville Speedway), Johnson (Texas Motor Speedway) and Harvick (Phoenix International Raceway).”

• Earnhardt finished third at Homestead, Johnson finished ninth, Harvick 10th and Gordon was 11th. Granted, teams would have raced differently under a different set of rules but it has to make you think twice knowing under a format that “emphasizes winning”, your next year’s champion may have not have won a race while the guy with the most wins doesn’t even make it to the final round.

• And a side note: There’s no truth to the rumor that at half time of the Super Bowl, last Sunday, the brain trust of the NFL thought for a minute about resetting the score back to 0-0 and replacing the Broncos with the Patriots. But, then again, there are no France’s on the board of directors of the NFL.

Not every Super Bowl is going to be a barn-burner, anyone with a little smarts knows that. You deal with it and move on.

Is NASCAR Promoting the Bump-and-Run?

Is it just me or is the most overlooked line in the press release about this ridiculous format, “A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round.”

The way I read that is when the playoff field is set they run the first three races of the playoffs at which point the three (could be only 1 or 2) winners and the next nine guys highest in points move on. Run three more races – take those three winners (could be only 1 or 2) and the next five guys and move on. Run three more races – take those three (could be only 1 or 2) winners and one other guy to Homestead where the highest finisher of those four guys wins the championship.

So when Racer X straps into his race car at Dover he knows if he wins this race he moves on to the next round. Fast forward 397 laps with only 3 to go, knowing NASCAR allows me to just punt (France and Company wants to be more like the NFL) the leader out of the way, and why would I not just run into the back of him and drive under him? If he wrecks, oh well, that’s just part of it – right?

NASCAR will love it, every network will repeatedly show the clip of the ensuing wreck(s) and the fighting among the crews.

The suits at NASCAR headquarters know a shot of the leader winning the Cup race by 17 plus seconds isn’t going to make the days Top 10 list. But a race car upside down on fire would be shown for days and maybe even make the front page (above the fold) of a few newspapers.

• Forget the playoff races, a win in the first 26 races and the team is all but insured to be in the playoffs. Let the wrecking begin!

I’m guessing the team owners will be spending more cash on repairs then ever before.

No Team Talk Over the Radio

If teammates (or friends or guys running the same make of car) are running 1, 2 with two to go and the leader has a win already is he going to slow up a bit and let the guy running second win? Will team owners switch up the over the wall guys when three of their four cars have won a race?

The key here is not to talk about it over the radio. After all, I don’t believe NASCAR will ever stop teammates helping teammates.

Tony Stewart is Ready to Go

Stewart says his broken right leg will only be 65 percent healed by the time he’s cleared to drive for Daytona Speedweeks, but he believes he’ll be fine. He has a titanium rod in his leg, which will aid him in pressing the pedals. He said he’s done that “a million times already” in the race shop. But Stewart won’t be cleared to drive until Feb. 14, the day before the season-opening Sprint Unlimited non-point race.

Because the leg isn’t fully healed, he acknowledges there’s a risk he could aggravate the injury which he broke back last August. He cites injuries to Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. last season as proof healthy drivers can break bones, too. “This is an injury that’s not healed 100 percent, there’s no bones about it,” Stewart said chuckling after he realized he made a pun. “But it is reality that it could get injured again.”

Daytona Sprint Unlimited

For the second year in a row, fans will decide a number of competition elements for the Sprint Unlimited (formally the Busch Clash), the 75-lap, non-points race February 15 at 8 p.m. The Fox Sports-1 network will broadcast the race.

Fans will vote on the number of laps in each of the three segments and how the drivers will line up to start the race and how they will line up for the restart of the final segment.

Fans can vote using the official NASCAR app, NASCAR Mobile or at

Twenty drivers are eligible. They either won a pole last season or have won this event in the past. Last year’s pole sitters are, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards. Also Marcos Ambrose, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Past winners are Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader and Tony Stewart. Schrader last I heard retired from Cup racing so I’m not sure he’ll compete. Labonte will run some races for Frankie Stoddard but not sure this event is on their schedule.

PASS Winter Meltdown Canceled

The Pro All Star Series canceled their New Smyrna (FL) event scheduled for Feb. 8. The press release said, “Miscommunication which resulted in the speedway website not being updated with information about the event, the speedway marquee not being changed to promote the event and a test session scheduled by the speedway that would have extremely limited PASS teams practice time on Friday led to the cancellation.

“We are extremely disappointed in having to cancel the Winter Meltdown at New Smyrna Speedway,” said PASS President Tom Mayberry. “I know that this is very inconvenient for our teams that have prepared their cars and booked travel to Florida, but we felt this decision was best in light of the circumstances. With that said, we’re very excited to kick our season off at Greenville-Pickens on March 1.”

The Fox Carolina 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway on March 1 will now become a PASS National Championship Series event and will also serve as the opener for the PASS South Super Late Models and PASS Pro Late Models.

ACT Serie Quebec Announces Management Change

The U.S.-based American Canadian Tour (ACT) announced a management change for its Canadian Late Model stock car series, beginning in 2014. Racing Promotion Management, Ltd. (RPM), a Quebec-based company, led by long-time racing enthusiast and promoter Sylvain Brouillette and his partner Jean-François Fredette, will take over the day-to-day promotion, marketing and event responsibilities for the 2014 season.

ACT took over the struggling Series in 2007, and it has turned into the most exciting stock car racing in Quebec, drawing large crowds and crowning notable champions of the Series like Donald Theetge from Quebec City, Patrick Laperle from Montreal, Ste. Felicien’s Karl Allard, and 2013 defending Champion Jean-François Déry from Quebec City.

Brouillette and Fredette are the owners and promoters of the Pro-Cam Truck Series. The Truck Series will become sanctioned by ACT as a part of the new management team’s arrangement with ACT. They will also manage the new American Racer tire business for both series. “We have been anxious to get some established help from Quebec officials for some time now. I have known Sylvain Brouillette for many years. He has been a strong advocate of ACT racing, and the ACT U.S. team looks forward to having the RPM team join us in assuring all the fans and teams in Quebec that ACT racing will continue to set a standard of excellence for the fans and teams of Quebec,” said ACT President Tom Curley.

A 10-race schedule, including the NASCAR-sanctioned Autodrome Ste-Eustache, the 5/8-mile oval outside of Quebec City, Circuit Riverside Speedway, and the 1/3-mile and 1/4-mile ovals in the eastern part of Quebec, Autodrome Montmagny and Autodrome Chaudiere, will all host the ACT Série in 2014.

“We are anxious to get started and are very excited about working with ACT this season. I have been a big fan of short-track racing and especially the ACT for many, many years. We feel confident that working with the ACT crew will help us to make this Series even stronger for our many fans in Quebec,” said Sylvain Brouillette, head of the RPM.

The Série ACT opens the season at Autodrome Ste-Eustache on May 24.

Until Next Week

Every day find someone or something that makes you laugh.


Go Green

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014
Article comment by: David Nance

We went from a debris caution championship format (old Chase) to GWC format to decide the 2014 champion.

Interesting they chose a scheme that allows a non-winner to be crowned champ since it was a one-win champion that got the series on this path to begin with.

Can't wait for 2015 when this format will be applied to determining individual race winners. The Chase For The Checkers concept would employ the same scheme, but sub lap leaders for race winners. Competition cautions At the 350 mile mark to advance the top 16. Three 45 mile segments would whittle down the field down with the top three lap leaders in the segment advancing and the bottom three in points being eliminated in each segment, until there are just four to run for the final 15 mile segment to determine the race winner.

If the format is good enough to determine a season champion, why not use it each week's race winner?

Posted: Friday, February 7, 2014
Article comment by: Brian Hickey

Hey Biggy, your points about the newest version of the NASCAR Chase format are spot on. Brian France is proof positive of the saying, "Blood is thicker than water." How else would he be in his present position? I've never liked The Chase (does it really deserve capital letters?) mainly because it is exclusionary and contrived. If NASCAR insists on emphasizing the final 10 races, then double points for the first 9 capped with triple points for the 10th would work far better than the convuluted methods previously and presently employed by the NASCAR "brain trust" headed by Brain (mispelling intended) France.

Keep up the great work! Best, Brian H.

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