The Chase for the 2013 Sprint Cup is almost halfway over, and while we’ve seen some exciting moments, the Chase has also been met with disappointment.
The same issues that plagued the earlier post-seasons continue to do so this year and hopefully it’s only a matter of time before NASCAR fixes them.
Issues like a variety of tracks, and the same drivers continuing to make the Chase year in and year out are two issues that are slowly ruining the post-season playoffs of NASCAR.
We’ve also seen issues with the Gen-6 and the tire wear that the new car causes because of its high speeds.
Wasn’t this the car that was supposed to change stock car racing?
Instead it’s made the post-season lackluster, and drivers have been stuck in single file grooves, without the ability to pass unless it’s during a restart.
Hopefully as the post-season moves forward, drivers will push themselves and their teams harder, and we will see more races like the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas.
As for now though, these 10 things are the biggest disappointments of the Chase so far.
One of the biggest disappointments of this year’s Chase has been Brad Keselowski. He didn’t make the postseason and doesn’t have a chance to defend his title.
While the 2 team has run into issues throughout the regular season, Keselowski hasn’t been able to get a win and is clearly underperforming compared to what he did last season.
After the championship win last year, Keselowski and the 2 team looked like serious competitors heading into the 2013 year. Instead, teammate Joey Logano was the only Penske driver to make the postseason and hasn’t been able to keep up.
While Brad and the 2 team not making the Chase fully rests on their shoulders, a postseason without a champion to defend his title is disappointing.
The year changes, but the story stays the same.
Jimmie Johnson continues to be the one driver who always remains in contention for the title.
And while it’s great for Johnson fans, it’s a story that is getting old. When will we have a Chase season where other top drivers compete against each other? Every year (except for 2011, and he was a factor until about midway through the postseason), one driver stands out, and he or she has to compete against Johnson.
Even with the new Gen-6 car, which was supposed to even the playing field, Johnson and the 48 stay the team to beat. Clearly, they understand the Chase better than any other team in NASCAR, and while they continue to impress by always being contenders, never seeing any new competition that doesn’t involve Johnson is disappointing.
We are four races into the Chase this season, and only one race has been exciting. Kansas last weekend was the best Chase race of the postseason by a long-shot. Chicagoland, New Hampshire and even Dover were all lackluster to say the least.
One of the problems that has come along with the Gen-6 car has been the issue of passing during a race. Drivers have no problem battling during a restart, but once the race is underway, they ride single file.
Dover, for example, only saw a couple of cautions, all for debris, and Jimmie Johnson seemed to be the only car that could pass others during the race, which is why he dominated the Monster Mile.
Could the early races of the Chase foreshadow the rest of the Chase? Let’s hope not, but don’t be surprised to see several more not-too-exciting races this postseason.
Will we ever see a road course race in the Chase?
Speaking of tracks, one of the biggest disappointments that continue to remain the same through every season has been NASCAR’s inability to change the tracks it visits in the Chase.
The postseason continues to be filled with cookie-cutter 1.5 mile tracks, while more exciting races only get attention during the regular season.
Both road-course races, for example, were exciting this regular season, yet NASCAR hasn't put a road course in the Chase.
Other tracks, like Darlington, are a staple of NASCAR history but not important enough to see drivers return during the Chase.
Tracks in the postseason need to change, and drivers need to be able to handle everything NASCAR can throw at them before being crowned champion. Instead though, the Chase continues to disappoint as it remains filled with cookie-cutter tracks.
After the first two races of this postseason, the focus was on three drivers:
Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.
And while Kyle slipped out of third, he was quickly replaced by Kevin Harvick.
This has been—and is still—a problem with the Chase, though. There were 13 drivers entering the postseason, and after two races, only three were the focus.
Even now, the Chase has come down to a battle between Kenseth and Johnson as most drivers sit too far out to catch them.
The Chase, itself, narrowed the field of drivers down to 13 this season but has basically shrunk to two drivers at the halfway point, leaving a lot to be desired from the postseason.
By now, you’ve more than likely heard about the controversy at Richmond. Whether you believe Bowyer spun on purpose to help get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase or he legitimately had a tire going down, one thing is clear:
NASCAR can do whatever it wants to the rules it's already established.
To take Martin Truex Jr. out and replace him with Ryan Newman and then to add a 13th driver into the Chase (Jeff Gordon) undermines the whole idea of the rules NASCAR established for the postseason.
NASCAR creates the Chase, yet can clearly change those rules of competition without 100-percent proof that their rules were violated in the first place.
And without being able to fully prove Bowyer spun on purpose, NASCAR getting involved by changing the very structure of the Chase is a disappointment to the 2013 postseason.
With Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon entering the Chase because of NASCAR getting involved with the Chase standings, you would think these drivers would have a little extra to prove this season.
Even though they were put back into the Chase because NASCAR felt they were cheated, they have struggled at different points of the postseason.
Newman saw his day end in a wreck at Kansas and now sits 12th in the standings, but he didn’t do anything spectacular in the other Chase races.
Gordon has run better than Newman and is now in fourth place. He finished well at Kansas but made mistakes during a couple of the earlier Chase races.
To make it even worse, Gordon is a three-time champion who is still looking to win a race this season.
Can Gordon win the championship this year? Anything is possible, but even though he had a good finish last weekend at Kansas, Gordon is going to disappoint if his postseason turns out to be like his regular season run.
These drivers were given a second chance, and it’s becoming clear that they wouldn’t have been able to keep up in the postseason even if they had made it in without NASCAR’s help.
The Chase drivers, themselves, have been a disappointment this season. Sure, it’s great that Matt Kenseth has been doing well, but every year the same drivers make the Chase or battle to make the final wild card spots.
Hendrick Motorsports continues to make the postseason with all four of its drivers, and Gibbs Racing and Roush-Fenway made the Chase with two out of three again. Penske, Childress and Stewart-Haas Racing also saw a similar Chase season with one driver from each organization competing for the title. Michael Waltrip Racing would have had another two-driver postseason run, if not for the troubles at Richmond.
Outside Kurt Busch, the same teams and the same drivers are always competing for the championship.
When will new teams emerge? When will we get a different postseason? NASCAR as a sport needs to even the field a bit; seeing the same handful of drivers over and over again in the Chase is making the postseason scene predictable.
The Gen-6 car was supposed to help move NASCAR in the right direction. And while it has been a slight improvement, the overall impacts have been minor.
If anything, the Gen-6 has hindered the sport this season.
We’ve seen what it’s done to superspeedway racing, and how the extremely fast track times the car produces have caused problems for tires and for drivers who move out of the grove at certain tracks this season.
Drivers and teams are still getting used to the new technology, and Good-Year is still struggling to produce a tire that can keep up with the new model car.
As mentioned earlier, the Gen-6 has played a big role in drivers only racing single file, and no real improvements have been made to help drivers compete better with the Gen-6 model.
Yes, the car that would change the sport has been disappointing in the Chase.
Kyle Busch was one of the three drivers who were serious contenders to win the championship this year.
Then Kansas happened.
Busch and Kansas Motor Speedway don’t get along, and this past weekend, the two battled with Kansas coming out with the victory.
Kyle’s rough race-weekend started when he wrecked his car at practice and had to start the race from the back of the field. He would struggle with a bad car all day long and run into issues throughout the race only to eventually end his day with a wreck during a restart.
With a DNF at Kansas, Kyle’s championship hopes are basically over as he went from a comfortable third to fifth place and 35 points behind Jimmie Johnson.
2013 looked like a promising year for Busch, but with a major setback at Kansas, the 18 team might not be able to recover.