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NASCAR: If the Chase Didn't Exist, Who Would Have Won a Championship?

Christopher OlmsteadSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 13, 2017

NASCAR: If the Chase Didn't Exist, Who Would Have Won a Championship?

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    In 2004, NASCAR changed its championship system and created the Chase format.

    The catalyst for this change came when Matt Kenseth won the championship in 2003, despite only recording one victory throughout that season. In comparison, Ryan Newman won eight races that season, but finished sixth in the standings.

    Have you ever wondered what might have happened had the Chase never been created?

    This article will break down season by season what the final standings would have been if NASCAR had continued to use the non-Chase system.

How This Is Going to Work

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    Here is a look at how NASCAR points scoring worked prior to the Chase, thanks to FieldofFortyThree.com. This same system was also used through 2010, with a minor adjustment coming in 2007.

    I will use this points system to score what would have happened from 2004-2010. I have taken into account the change that was made in 2007, so all findings remain accurate.

    This is a look at how the current Chase system awards points, thanks to the NASCAR Wikipedia page. This simplified system went into effect two seasons ago. I will use this points system to score what would have happened the last two seasons had there been no Chase.

    From 2004 to 2012, I will show you what the top 10 was and what it could have been.

2004

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    2004 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Kurt Busch (6,506 points)   
    2. Jimmie Johnson (-8)   
    3. Jeff Gordon (-16)   
    4. Mark Martin (-107)
    5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-153)
    6. Tony Stewart (-180)
    7. Ryan Newman (-326)   
    8. Matt Kenseth (-437)
    9. Elliott Sadler (-482)
    10. Jeremy Mayfield (-506)  

     

     

    2004 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Jeff Gordon (5,042 points)
    2. Jimmie Johnson (-47)
    3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-173)
    4. Kurt Busch (-247)
    5. Tony Stewart (-341)
    6. Mark Martin (-445)
    7. Jamie McMurray (-445)
    8. Matt Kenseth (-666)
    9. Ryan Newman (-681)
    10. Elliott Sadler (-727)

     

    Noteworthy

    • This could have been Gordon's fifth championship.
    • Under the old system, Sadler would have had his first-ever top-10 point finish.

2005

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    2005 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Tony Stewart (6,533 points)   
    2. Greg Biffle (-35)   
    3. Carl Edwards (-35)   
    4. Mark Martin (-105)   
    5. Jimmie Johnson (-122)   
    6. Ryan Newman (-174)
    7. Matt Kenseth (-181)
    8. Rusty Wallace (-393)   
    9. Jeremy Mayfield (-460)   
    10. Kurt Busch (-559)

     

    2005 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Tony Stewart (5,199 points)
    2. Greg Biffle (-215)
    3. Jimmie Johnson (-428)
    4. Mark Martin (-523)
    5. Carl Edwards (-602)
    6. Rusty Wallace (-687)
    7. Matt Kenseth (-748)
    8. Ryan Newman (-790)
    9. Jeremy Mayfield (-918)
    10. Kurt Busch (-951)

     

    Noteworthy

    • Stewart would have been champion this season regardless. The Chase made it closer.
    • This was the only season Gordon missed the Chase; he still would have under the old format.
    • Rusty Wallace had a top 10 in the Chase; he would not have under the old format.

2006

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    2006 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (6,475 points) 
    2. Matt Kenseth (-56)
    3. Denny Hamlin (-68)   
    4. Kevin Harvick (-78)
    5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-147)
    6. Jeff Gordon (-219)
    7. Jeff Burton (-247)
    8. Kasey Kahne (-292)   
    9. Mark Martin (-307)   
    10. Kyle Busch (-448)

     

    2006 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (5,158 points)
    2. Matt Kenseth (-4)
    3. Kevin Harvick (-320)
    4. Tony Stewart (-431)
    5. Denny Hamlin (-433)
    6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-517)
    7. Jeff Gordon (-591)
    8. Jeff Burton (-623)
    9. Kasey Kahne (-661)
    10. Mark Martin (-674)

     

    Noteworthy

    • 2006 still would have marked Johnson's first championship.
    • Kenseth would have been right there down the stretch under the old format; you have to wonder if it was really that close if he could have won his second championship.

2007

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    2007 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (6,723 points)   
    2. Jeff Gordon (-77)   
    3. Clint Bowyer (-346)   
    4. Matt Kenseth (-425)   
    5. Kyle Busch (-430)   
    6. Tony Stewart (-481)   
    7. Kurt Busch (-492)
    8. Jeff Burton (-492)   
    9. Carl Edwards (-501)
    10. Kevin Harvick (-524)

     

    2007 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Jeff Gordon (5,455 points)
    2. Jimmie Johnson (-353)
    3. Tony Stewart (-706)
    4. Matt Kenseth (-737)
    5. Denny Hamlin (-832)
    6. Kyle Busch (-870)
    7. Carl Edwards (-881)
    8. Clint Bowyer (-899)
    9. Jeff Burton (-906)
    10. Kurt Busch (-1,084)

     

    Noteworthy

    • This could have been Gordon's sixth championship, for he would have easily destroyed the field this season under the old format.
    • Johnson's five-in-a-row streak has already been snapped.

2008

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    2008 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (6,684 points)
    2. Carl Edwards (-69)
    3. Greg Biffle (-217)
    4. Kevin Harvick (-276)
    5. Clint Bowyer (-303)
    6. Jeff Burton (-349)
    7. Jeff Gordon (-368)
    8. Denny Hamlin (-470)
    9. Tony Stewart (-482)
    10. Kyle Busch (-498)

     

    2008 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Carl Edwards (5,236  points)
    2. Jimmie Johnson (-16)
    3. Kyle Busch (-252)
    4. Greg Biffle (-489)
    5. Jeff Burton (-527)
    6. Kevin Harvick (-545)
    7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-631)
    8. Jeff Gordon (-699)
    9. Tony Stewart (-749)
    10. Clint Bowyer (-749)

     

    Noteworthy 

    • This would be Edwards' first championship under the old system.
    • This would be another championship not won by Johnson.
    • Under the old format, this would have been the third time Johnson finished second in the points since 2004, having won only one championship.

2009

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    2009 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (6,652 points)
    2. Mark Martin (-141)
    3. Jeff Gordon (-179)
    4. Kurt Busch (-206)
    5. Denny Hamlin (-317)
    6. Tony Stewart (-343)
    7. Greg Biffle (-360)
    8. Juan Pablo Montoya (-400)
    9. Ryan Newman (-477)
    10. Kasey Kahne (-504)

     

    2009 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (5,156 points)
    2. Jeff Gordon (-66)
    3. Tony Stewart (-71)
    4. Denny Hamlin (-350)
    5. Mark Martin(-394)
    6. Kurt Busch (-398)
    7. Greg Biffle (-615)
    8. Juan Pablo Montoya (-653)
    9. Kyle Busch (-699)
    10. Ryan Newman (-709)

     

    Noteworthy

    • Johnson is champion in both situations, but his lead is cut in half under the old system.
    • This would only have been Johnson's second championship.
    • Martin falls three spots under the old system.
    • This season would have seen Gordon challenge for his seventh title.

2010

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    2010 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (6,662 points)
    2. Denny Hamlin (-39)
    3. Kevin Harvick (-41)
    4. Carl Edwards (-229)
    5. Matt Kenseth (-328)
    6. Greg Biffle (-375)
    7. Tony Stewart (-401)
    8. Kyle Busch (-440)
    9. Jeff Gordon (-446)
    10. Clint Bowyer (-467)

     

    2010 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Kevin Harvick (5,274 points)
    2. Jimmie Johnson (-285)
    3. Denny Hamlin (-409)
    4. Carl Edwards (-454)
    5. Jeff Gordon(-605)
    6. Kyle Busch (-627)
    7. Matt Kenseth (-634)
    8. Tony Stewart (-646)
    9. Kurt Busch (-815)
    10. Jeff Burton (-851)

     

    Noteworthy

    • Kevin Harvick would have won the championship by a landslide here.
    • The deficit from first to 10th nearly doubled under the old system.
    • This would have been the fourth time in seven years Johnson finished in second place, having won only two championships thus far.

2011

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    2011 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Tony Stewart (2,403 points—won tiebreaker)
    2. Carl Edwards (2,403 points)
    3. Kevin Harvick (-58)
    4. Matt Kenseth (-73)
    5. Brad Keselowski (-84)
    6. Jimmie Johnson (-99)
    7. Dale Earnhardt Jr (-113)
    8. Jeff Gordon (-116)
    9. Denny Hamlin (-119)
    10. Ryan Newman (-119)

     

    2011 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Carl Edwards (1,278 points)
    2. Kevin Harvick (-78)
    3. Tony Stewart (-87)
    4. Jimmie Johnson (-91)
    5. Matt Kenseth (-95)
    6. Jeff Gordon (-128)
    7. Kyle Busch (-154)
    8. Kurt Busch (-163)
    9. Ryan Newman (-175)
    10. Brad Keselowski (-199)

     

    Noteworthy

    • Instead of finishing tied, Edwards runs away with the championship, which would have been his second.
    • Kurt Busch finishes eighth after not being in the top 10 under the Chase format.

2012

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    2012 Championship Standings (Chase Format)

    1. Brad Keselowski (2,400 points)
    2. Clint Bowyer (-39)
    3. Jimmie Johnson (-40)
    4. Kasey Kahne (-55)
    5. Greg Biffle (-68)
    6. Denny Hamlin (-71)
    7. Matt Kenseth (-76)
    8. Kevin Harvick (-79)
    9. Tony Stewart (-89)
    10. Jeff Gordon (-97)

     

    2012 Championship Standings (Old Point System)

    1. Brad Keselowski (1,259 points)
    2. Greg Biffle (-19)
    3. Jimmie Johnson (-28)
    4. Matt Kenseth (-41)
    5. Clint Bowyer (-46)
    6. Denny Hamlin (-92)
    7. Kevin Harvick (-97)
    8. Martin Truex Jr. (-98)
    9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-115)
    10. Kyle Busch (-126)

     

    Noteworthy

    • Keselowski would have remained champion.
    • Truex Jr., who had zero wins that season, would have finished in the top 10.

Conclusion

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    If NASCAR never went to the Chase format, things would be a little bit different right now.

    Instead of having five championships, Jimmie Johnson would only have two. Carl Edwards would currently be a two-time champion, and Jeff Gordon would be heading into 2013 looking for his seventh championship.

    Some things did not change, though. Even with only two championships, Johnson was still dominant. Also, Dale Earnhardt Jr. still would not have come close to sniffing a championship, and Brad Keselowski still would have won last year.

    This isn't an exact science, I understand that drivers might have handled things differently if the points were different. The Chase may have changed the game forever, but it's still fun to look back.

    So, what results did you prefer? Feel free to comment and let me know!

     

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