Over the off-season, NASCAR announced a new points system that they would be using. The new points systems allows race winners to virtually secure one of the 16 spots in the Chase if they’re in the top 30 in points, with the highest non-winners in points filling out the remaining spots.
Then once in the Chase, a win automatically moves you to the next round, with four drivers eliminated every three races based on whether they’ve won in that segment or their points totals.
So far this year, there have been three different winners – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Each have virtually locked up a spot in the sweet 16 come Chase time.
With the argument in place, there are some that have argued winning is everything – points mean nothing. Focus on getting the win and the rest doesn’t matter.
Some drivers have expressed importance of getting a win early. Both Earnhardt Jr. and Keselowski have stated that with their tickets punched for the Chase, they can now take chances from here til the end of the regular season on optimizing their win total.
However, there are other drivers that aren’t as concerned about getting a win in the first 26 races – like Kyle Busch. He says he’s right now focused on being consistent and staying in the top 16 in points.
“There still are going to be guys make the Chase without having wins,” Busch added going into the race at Las Vegas. “For instance, my start is not terrible, I’m 14th in points or something like that, so I’m kind of already in if you look at it that way. Kurt (Busch), for instance has had a horrible start and if he wins here this weekend, then all he has to do is get himself top-30 in points and he’s in. It changes everything the way the whole year and everybody’s strategy is and what all it’s going to boil down to. You never know what you will see next weekend at Bristol. You could have guys racing each other hard for the win and move the other out of the way just to get that win and lock themselves in.”
Busch went on to say that as we get closer to the Chase, he doesn’t feel like they’ll be a sense of urgency to get a win – as long as he’s in the top 16 in points and there aren’t 16 winners to date.
“The time or the urgency to get those wins is going to be in the Chase in order to lock yourself in the next (round),” he added. “I think — what’s the first round – Chicago, Loudon and then Dover, so those three – that’s when you start hunting wins really hard and trying to do whatever you can to get checkered flags in the Chase.”
Jimmie Johnson agrees with Busch’s mindset for the first half of the season – however says that wins will become more important during the Chase.
“I think that winning late in the season is very important,” Johnson said. “I guess you still can transfer all the way through by having a great point’s situation which I’m in favor of. I think our series still needs to have that element of consistency and be rewarded for it. But winning becomes most important from Chicago on.”
So while the format makes winning important, it’s not everything as consistency could still be the name of the game at the end of the season.