NASCAR Begins It’s Race For The Cup
By Kelly S. Croslis – Sports
Who Will Be This Year’s “Speed Racer”
Baseball has the pennant race. College basketball has march madness, and football focuses on the super bowl, for NASCAR.
However, it is “the chase,” appropriate name for race-car drivers as the last 10 weeks of the season are focused on how fast and how well the drivers can perform and accrue points for the coveted sprint cup.
For the last five years, it has been Jimmy Johnson in the lead taking home the cup and title as the best in NASCAR, will this be the year he is beaten? In 2004, NASCAR decided it would use a playoff type system named the chase for the NASCAR sprint cup, more commonly known as the chase for the cup. The idea is to bring playoff type excitement to NASCAR that other sports enjoy.
The basic of the chase pertain to only to the top 12 drivers in the standings after the 26th race of the season. When the chase begins these 12 drivers are each given 5,000 points plus 10 points for any race won during the season so far. This system all 12 drivers have the same opportunity to win the cup, and it will often come down to the last race. Not to be left out, and as an incentive for the next year’s season, the driver who finishes 13th in points is awarded $1 million and is invited to the end of the season banquet. The last 10 races are not only for those in the chase, but for all drivers, adding competition and excitement.
This year, the chase will be a little different as to how drivers are chosen and the points given. After the first 26 races, the top 10 drivers in points will advance to the cup race, in addition two “wild card” drivers will be added. These drivers will be chosen from those ranked 11th through 20th in driver’s points who have had the most regular-season wins. All drivers receive a starting point of 2,000 points. The top 10 drivers receive a bonus of 3 points for each win, while the wild-card qualifiers receive no bonus. When the chase begins with race 27, normal scoring applies. The race winner receives 43 points plus three bonus points. Drivers who lead a lap earn one bonus point and the drivers who leads the most laps also earns one bonus point.
After the Matt Kenseth won the Winston cup in 2003, it was decided that a new system needed to be implemented. In 2004, Nextel became the namesake sponsor the changes began. In 2003, Matt Kenseth won the cup after winning only one race that year, though finishing in the top 10 in 25 races. The controversy came when it was noted that Ryan Newman had won eight races that year, but finished 6th that season. The new system gave equal chance to each driver who finished in the top 12 to win the cup.
The new system, while giving each driver an opportunity to win, has worked well for Jimmy Johnson, who has won 5 out of the last seven sprint cups. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart won in 2004 and 2005. Who will take home the coveted cup this year? Only time will tell, there are 12 drivers looking for the ultimate checkered flag and their place in history.
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