Tuesday, November 11, 2014

So the final four for the Chase is set

Congrats to Kevin Harvick for winning at Phoenix on Sunday. With the results of that race, we now know who will be in the running to win the Sprint Cup for 2014. And it's just the mash-up NASCAR was hoping for.

We have two drivers who dominated all season in Harvick and Joey Logano, and two drivers who shouldn't be even in the conversation after such unremarkable seasons in Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin.

The race at Phoenix was completely dominated by Harvick, who because of NASCAR's arcane scoring system, might have missed out on the Chase after leading nearly the entire race, if he had not won. And then there was Newman.

I was tempted to get an old Seinfeld gif of Jerry saying "Newman!" but I thought that was too obvious. In the closing laps, Newman on older tires was passed by rookie Kyle Larson and Marcos Ambrose, both of whom gave Newman every chance to stay in front of them, but when it was obvious he couldn't keep up, they shot past him.

In desperation, needing to pass one car to get into the Chase (like I said, arcane scoring system), Newman ran hard into the corner and sideswiped Larson, putting him into the wall so he could pass him. After the race, Newman was unapologetic saying he did what he had to do to get into the Championship. And those who have followed NASCAR for years, know that Newman has a reputation for being an elbows out kind of driver.

It's exactly the type of move that had everyone infuriated with Brad Keselowski last week and led to some fisticuffs at trackside after the race. But no one seems angry at Newman so far. Perhaps it's because he's the scrappy underdog guy for the Championship. Facepalm award to Ricky Craven on ESPN for trying to equivocate on Newman's move by saying he had pulled even with Larson and just pushed him aside. Oh brother.

Anyway, whoever finishes in front for these four drivers wins the Championship. My money's on Logano even though I'd like to see Harvick win is for SHR. The Penske Fords have been dominant all year, and as we saw in earlier races, Logano and Keselowski have each other's backs on track. Brad will surely push or block to get Joey the title. And Harvick isn't going to get any help from Kurt Busch (who might not even be racing with the legal troubles decending on him) or Tony Stewart who isn't running that well.

Should be an exciting and nerve wracking race, which is exactly what NASCAR wanted with this new format. I know a lot of fans are pissed because their favorite driver missed out. But don't expect the format to change any time soon. Especially if we get a Death Race 2000 style finish with these four guys beatin' and bangin' on each other for the final laps for the title.

NASCAR reports that Homestead Speedway is sold out for the final race of the season. So it seems that they are getting exactly the enthusiasm from fans that they had hoped for with this new Chase format. I'm pretty sure this is the only sold out race of the season.

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