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Oh My What a Chase
November 22, 2011 - Al Stephenson
When Nascar announced it's chase format several years ago, I didn't like the premise. It seemed like Nascar was headed where all the other sports had already ventured - a playoff system. I wondered why Nascar felt compelled to make such a move. There was nothing wrong with the old system as far as I was concerned.
Though some people bemoaned "points racing" I didn't feel like it took anything away from the action. Somebody was going to go for the win and if it meant trading paint, well so be it. Perhaps some drivers who were protecting their position in the points would back off, but others would fill the void. I just didn't see the need for a "playoff."
After this just completed season, I guess you could call me a chase fan. What Tony Stewart did in the ten chase races was nothing short of amazing. Considering he didn't feel like he belonged among the 12 drivers who were title eligible when the chase began, his performance stacks up as one of the best in auto racing history.
Stewart won five of the last ten races including the season finale at Homestead. He took the title away from Carl Edwards (who was spectacular in his own right), when he won the race to Edwards' second place finish. For the season the two actually tied in the points race with Stewart holding the tiebreaker (most wins for the season - 5 to 1). For the top two guys to actually tie is incredible.
Tony Stewart drove like a man posessed in the last couple of races, particularly at Homestead. His restarts bordered on insanity as he would take his car four or five wide to gain a single position. With the points being so close he needed to do just that and somehow he pulled it off. His confidence never wavering (as you could tell from his radio communications), Stewart brought home the trophy in exciting fashion. His triumph convinced me that Nascar made a good move by installing the chase.
A couple of other thoughts as Nascar fans wait (not so) patiently for February's Daytona 500 and the beginning of a new season. Carl Edwards was a very gracious loser Sunday. He showed what class is although you know he had to be very disappointed to lose such a close points race. Other athletes should take a cue from Edwards.
What will Kyle Busch be like next season. After he totally lost his cool in a truck race at Texas and was parked for the remainder of the weekend, Busch was very quiet in the last two races. Will he learn his lesson? Will he lose his ride if sponsors want him gone? Will he bring the arrogance (that seems to be needed for him to be a top driver) in 2012? These are questions that will be answered over the next several months.
The view from my seat suggests that Nascar's recently completed 2011 season will go down as one of the best ever. It certainly has this fan longing for next season already.
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