Old School Meets the Chase: Bring Back the Crown Jewels

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst IAugust 23, 2010

31 Aug 1997:  Jeff Gordon celebrates with a giant Winston Million check after winning the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. Gordon also won the $1,000,000 Winston bonus. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones  /Allsport
Craig Jones/Getty Images

(Note: I originally wrote this article on Yahoo! Sports From the Marbles NASCAR blog)

Once upon a time, NASCAR had a pre-Chase version of the Chase. Called the “Grand Slam” or the “Winston Million," they were the crown jewels of the sport.

Winning three of NASCAR’s most prestigious races meant the driver would take home a cool one million dollar bonus. The "jewels" were as follows: the Daytona 500, the spring Talladega race (formerly known as the “Winston 500”), the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the Darlington (Labor Day) Southern 500.

The feat was only accomplished twice. Bill Elliott nabbed wins at all but Charlotte in the 1985 inaugural competition. Jeff Gordon scored victories in all of the majors except Talladega during the competition’s final year, 1997. The “No Bull Five” replaced the Winston Million, but faltered with constantly changing races and the decreasing significance of a cash prize.

A million dollars just isn’t what it used to be for today’s cup drivers. These days, you might find yourself $50K in the hole for tweeting about potholes at Daytona or how Matt Kenseth's personality is "hurting the sport".

It's time to bring back the crown jewels, updated for the 2011 season. Keep the Daytona 500, Darlington's (now held on Mother's Day) Southern 500, and the Coca-Cola 600. Add the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis and finally, the race that is arguably NASCAR's most popular, Bristol at night.

There is no need to have two plate races, so I propose dropping Talladega’s spring event.

And since Jimmie Johnson needs another million dollars about as much as Mark Martin needs a rocking chair, make it worth something more significant.

Winning any of the jewels would be worth 25 bonus points - on top of the normal bonuses for winning - toward making the Chase. Win three of them and take home an extra 100 points. If a driver takes all five, it’s worth 200.

As an added incentive, if a driver takes at least two of these races, they earn an automatic berth in the Chase if they have not already qualified (see: Jamie McMurray, 2010).

The fans say they want more emphasis on winning. Well, here you go.

Imagine if going into the traditional Saturday showdown at Bristol, drivers from 13th place on back had a crack at anywhere between 25 and 200 bonus points and a Chase berth. The night could be absolute insanity.

This isn’t just another fabricated tweak. This is a real reward for a difficult accomplishment. Winning NASCAR’s toughest, longest, and most exhilarating races.

As nice as a mouthful of brick dust is, I'll bet plenty of drivers and fans would appreciate a nod to the "old" days of the Winston Million.

(If you like, you can read more of my articles on Yahoo! From the Marbles NASCAR Blog or follow me on Twitter as nathanmedic)