Consistency still award in the Chase
October 2, 2004
By Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist
NASCAR instituted the Chase for the Championship format partly in response to the perception that its scoring system rewards consistency over winning races.
Matt Kenseth’s championship run in 2003 was a sterling example, and was perhaps the final impetus to change the scoring system. But I’m afraid that NASCAR is going to get a hard lesson in the law of unintended consequences, because the key to winning the “Chase” in the last 10 races is going to be (guess what?) consistency! The driver who puts together the best string of finishes and avoids trouble in those last 10 races will be the champion, no doubt about it. With two of the 10 a”Chase” races in the record books there’s still lots of room for drivers to move up or down in the standings, but consistency looms large as the deciding factor.
One factor that isn’t under drivers’ or teams’ control is NASCAR penalties. Jimmy Johnson was assessed a pit road speeding penalty last weekend that cost him 27 points in the Chase. Johnson and car owner Rick Hendrick visited the Nextel Cup trailer after the race to protest the penalty.
It seems that although NASCAR has finally entered the 20th century with a transponder scoring system, they still use an official with a stopwatch to time the cars for pit road speed violations. Hendrick’s point was that the technology is available to take the guesswork out of something that could cost a driver the championship and a couple of million dollars.
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“In the age of electronics we ought to be doing it with a wire. . . You don’t want somebody up there with a stopwatch making a decision on the championship.”
Hendrick also noted that Delphi, an RCR sponsor, offered technology to fix the problem to NASCAR over a year ago, but was rebuffed.
“If it came to putting some stands here or selling some more tickets, they’d be doing it. Spending a little money to take the guesswork out of it, I guess the tracks don’t want to do it,” grumbled Hendricks.
Others have also echoed Hendricks’ feelings, noting that an electronic system to time pit road speeds would make penalty calls accurate and indisputable.
Indy Racing League team Nunn Motorsports will test several female drivers in an Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series car during a three-day test Nov. 8-10 at Texas Motor Speedway. The team will use the test to identify a driver for a chance at a full-season ride during the 2005 season.
Lynn St. James, who has started the Indy 500 seven times, will be one of the people identifying the women to participate in the test. Interestingly enough, our own local female hot shoe, Amy Barnes, went through a school for female racers put on by James a few years back. Might our Amy be one of the women selected for the test? No names have been released yet, but I’ll call Amy in the next week or so to see if she has been contacted.
Have you seen those commercials with the robot Kevin Harvick? The funny line is “We’re gonna need another Harvick.” Well, NBC found itself in the same situation this past week, with the not so funny line being “We’re gonna need another Bestwick.”
The NBC play-by-play guy for Nextel Cup TV coverage, Bestwick broke his leg in a hockey game Wednesday night in Rhode Island. Bill Weber, who normally does the pre-race analysis and then switches to pit reporting for the race and victory lane ceremonies, will join Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach in the booth for the broadcasts until Bestwick returns. If I were Bestwick, I’d be hoping that Weber doesn’t do too good a job, because positions in the announcing business can be fleeting.
Finally, another West Coast Nextel Cup venue may be in the cards before too long. International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and Washington State and local officials have decided on a site for a Northwest track that may become a Nextel Cup venue. Located 30 miles north of Seattle, the 850 acre site will accommodate a .75 mile track and seating for 75,000 fans. Opening is scheduled for 2008. Season tickets will go on sale shortly, I’m sure.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.