By Jared Turner
Is it really fair for a driver with four wins on the season to be eliminated from title contention with seven races remaining while multiple drivers with nary a win all year still remain in the hunt for the sport’s top prize? That’s the question NASCAR must answer after Sunday’s final race of the Chase Challenger Round. All we’ve heard the past few years is how NASCAR wants to put a greater emphasis on winning. And, to be fair, the sanctioning body has done that with its win-and-you’re-in pathway to earning a spot in the Chase. But what about drivers who win multiple races in the regular season, only to have one bad race in the Chase and find themselves locked out of the next round? That’s precisely the situation faced right now by Jimmie Johnson, a four-time 2015 winner who seemed like a lock to make it to the next round. But thanks to a mechanical failure at Dover, Johnson doesn’t advance. Meanwhile, winless drivers Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman are moving on simply because they managed not to record a really bad finish in the first three Chase races. If that doesn’t seem fair, it’s because it isn’t. And it certainly contradicts NASCAR’s insistence that winning is more important than consistency.
Kudos to Kyle
No driver has overcome as much this season as Kyle Busch. After missing the first 11 points races while recovering from leg and foot injuries suffered in a crash at Daytona in February, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver won four races and climbed into the top 30 in points to earn a Chase berth. Then, on Sunday, he finished second to secure a spot in the Chase Contender Round – after starting the day outside the top 12. That’s impressive, but impressive has been the story of Busch’s season.