By Jared Turner
NASCAR Should Raise Chase Eligibility Requirements
Should NASCAR really include EVERY regular-season winner in the Chase, as long as every winner is also in the top 30 in points at regular season’s end? This year, Sprint Cup rookie Chris Buescher qualified for NASCAR’s playoff on what amounted to little more than a fluke – he won the August Pocono race after his crew chief gambled and left him on track while others came to pit road. With the race more than halfway complete, persistent fog forced NASCAR to call the race official with Buescher scored in the first position. But even with the win, Buescher wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the 16-driver Chase field. That’s because he still had to finish the regular season in the top 30 points – which he ultimately did, but barely. After entering the Chase as clearly the weakest link, Buescher now enters Sunday’s elimination race at Dover in last place and needing nothing less than a win to reach the next round. Barring a miraculous turn of events rivaling what happened at Pocono, Buescher won’t be moving on, however. In fact, one could argue that he really doesn’t deserve to be in the Chase, based on his woeful performance over the first two Chase races (finishes of 28th and 30th) and really the entire season – with Pocono and the fall Bristol race, where he finished fifth, being the notable exceptions. Maybe it’s time for NASCAR to be a little more rigorous with its points requirement for Chase drivers. Maybe instead of having to be in the top 30 after 26 races, a driver should have to be in at least the top 25. Raising the standard would go a long way toward improving the overall quality of the Chase field and ensuring that drivers who really don’t deserve to be there aren’t.