Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 30 - Heating up the Heartland (Chase #4)

Dover did what Dover does and shuffled the field among the twelve “Chase” contenders gunning for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship. Tony Stewart stood atop the field after two weeks looking like a driver in championship form, but after a poor race, Stewart has slipped to tied for third nine points behind the points leader, Kevin Harvick. Jeff Gordon was the big loser slipping four positions but still in close contention nineteen points off the lead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost two positions, now in 10th, 34 points out of first. For Ryan Newman (41 points back) and especially Denny Hamlin (68 points back), the chances of glory in Homestead at the end of the season would appear to be long shots. The Chase is hotly contended given with nine races to go, nine teams are within nineteen points in the championship contest.

Shown below is how the Chase drivers shown by points position, their starting spot for the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speeway, and how many points out of the lead they need to resolve.

1 – Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet, (14th), #1
2 – Carl Edwards, #99, Ford, (2nd), #1
3 – Tony Stewart, #14, Chevrolet, (23rd), -9
4 – Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge (17th), -9
5 – Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet, (19th), -13
6 – Brad Keselowski, #2 Dodge, (12th), -14
7 – Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford, (4th), -14
8 – Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota, (3rd), -15
9 – Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevrolet, (10th), -19
10 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88, Chevrolet, (18th), -34
11 – Ryan Newman, #39, Chevrolet, (11th), -41
12 – Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota, (7th), -68

Richard Childress might have divided loyalties since besides having Kevin Harvick tied for the points lead starting the race along with his three other teams, his grandson, Austin Dillon, current leader in the Camping World Truck Series, makes his Sprint Cup debut. We’ll see how high of a finishing spot the young driver will achieve given it is quite likely at least eight cars will be doing their welfare laps politely called “start and park” teams realistically called a supreme embarrassment to NASCAR and a fraud to NASCAR’s fans.

In today’s Nationwide race NINE cars pulled off the track with nebulous problems, perpetuating the start and park fraud. If teams are having trouble finding sponsors, and there are teams on both Sprint Cup and Nationwide who can’t or won’t compete, then it’s obvious the field needs to be slashed where only teams that are resourced enough to truly buy in and compete would remain. The progressively tiered system of NASCAR series should assure each advancing series represents a higher level of talent, resources, and achievement.

It’s time to revamp the system, minimum team requirements, and smaller starting fields. This charade is cheapening the sport no matter much NASCAR and is media partners attempt to sweep it uner the rug. We’re projecting seven teams will bow out of today’s race.

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