Do you think that Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick sleeps well at night?
Of course he does. He’s got two race wins to this credit this season and a guaranteed place in the 2014 Chase.
And despite what some are saying, like Jeff Gluck with USA Today Sports, about the need to have more than one win to secure entry into the Chase, listen up, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano—all of you, get a good night sleep, please.
You’re all in the 2014 Chase.
The magic number for the Chase was 16 at the start of the season, it’s 16 now and it will be 16 when the Chase field rolls onto the track in Chicagoland in September.
NASCAR has a lot of smart people with computers filled with statistics, and they figured out that 16 was going to be the right number of entrants for the Chase. This was a well-thought-out decision. NASCAR is notorious for taking its time before making this kind of change.
So, everybody got excited for the first seven races of the 2014 season when there was a different winner every week. This was more a product of the new emphasis on winning—which came about when it was also revealed that a win got you in more than any other reason.
And it encouraged everyone to roll the dice more often, signaling the end of drivers saying, “It was a good points day” in a post-race interview.
Thank goodness for that!
Points still matter, but NASCAR boss Brian France made sure his NASCAR was going to be all about the winning.
And now it is. Plus, all this change has made the racing better.
Still thinking there will be more than 16 winners? It isn't going to happen. Even with Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson winless going into race No. 9, we’ll start seeing more repeat winners beginning this weekend in Richmond.
Kenseth, Gordon and Johnson will each get a win or or maybe two this season, but that still makes it a total of 10 different drivers. Add in a currently winless Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer, and you’re at 13.
You see, there’s parity in NASCAR, but only amongst the teams at the top of the food chain: the Hendrick Motorsports, the Stewart-Haas Racings and the Team Penskes of the sport, to name just a few.
It works like this: The best people usually go where the money is. The bigger the budget, the more innovation, the faster the car. The faster the car, the more races you win. You don't have to be a genius to figure that out.
When it comes down to it, the fans know that there will be a familiar face in Victory Lane every weekend. That’s not to say that the rest of the field isn’t capable of pulling off a win now and then. In fact, when the green flag falls, all 43 teams have an equal chance to win.
Do you think there will be more than 16 different Sprint Cup race winners in 2014?
For about 20 laps. Then, everything changes. Some teams bide their time, working to stay out of trouble, while others have to work at staying on the lead lap.
Its toward the end of the race when the big-dollar teams make a difference and pull away from the rest of the field.
Their stuff stays together a lot better, and the guy behind the wheel, he makes a huge difference, too, when the real racing happens in the last 20 laps.
So while we can romance all we want about there being more than 16 race winners this season, it just won’t happen.
Rest easy, guys, you’re in.
However, there is no rule that says once you've won, you can't pile it on.