Well, after 26 races the field is finally set for NASCAR's playoffs, " The Chase ", with Mark Martin leading the field of twelve drivers. Martin has posted four victories this year while fellow Chase entries Stewart and Johnson have three, Hamlin and Kahne, two, Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Vickers, one each. The remaining field of Edwards, Newman, Montoya, and Vickers have not taken the checkered flag once this year. Oh, and Kyle Busch has four victories also, but will not be in NASCAR's playoffs this year.
How can a sport whose fundamental goal each week is to take the checkered flag exclude a driver who has done so in 15% of the races? He has as many wins as Chase leader Martin and if he had won Saturday night at Richmond would have taken the top spot away from Martin. We have four drivers in the Chase with zero wins which makes me wonder if they are more deserving than Busch to be in the Chase.
Ok, I understand NASCAR's reasoning here and it is not without some merit. They say, and many agree, that it is all about consistency. The Chase is based on points accumulated in the first 26 races and those drivers who finish in the front of the field consistently obtain the most points. But that, in my opinion, is contrary to the goal of all sports, which is to reward those who win. Really, nobody cares who finishes second or third. I dare anyone to tell me without looking who finished second at the Daytona 500 this year, who was second in the NFC East last year, or who lost the World Series in 2008.
Everybody likes winners and like him or not Kyle Busch is just that. He is arguably the most exciting, most controversial, most goal oriented driver in NASCAR right now. With Kyle it is all about winning and he puts it all out there every week. He views anything less than the checkered flag as failure. In a period of time when NASCAR has been concerned about its viewership they should recognize him and his style as an asset and reward drivers with multiple wins like him with a spot in the Chase.
Why not have a " Wildcar " spot like other sports who offer " Wildcards "? Reward two drivers who do not make the Chase on points, but have the most wins outside of the Chase driver's entry list, into the Chase field. If there are multiple drivers with the same amount of wins then go back to points for the tie breaker. The Chase field can either be expanded to fourteen or trim the entry list to ten to accommodate the " Wildcars". I would favor a larger field as it would make for more excitement.
This year's list of Chase drivers is a good one, but NASCAR has missed an opportunity for an even more exciting end with the absence of Busch. Like I stated earlier you may not like him, but he brings excitement and many thrilling finishes amidst controversy to most of the races he is in. Many watch him in the hopes that he will fail, but negative or not he does bring in the interest and viewership, and that is exactly what NASCAR needs to do during the year and in the Chase if it is to survive.