After a look at the early winners this season in the Sprint Cup Series, it is becoming clear this year’s Chase for the Cup could be the most competitive yet.
That’s not because of where anyone stands in points four races into the season, but rather because of the change made to the eligibility rules of the Chase.
The top 10 drivers in points after 26 races qualify for the Chase, plus – for the first time this season – two ‘wild card’ entries, which are the drivers in positions 11-20 in points with the most wins.
If there are no winners after the 10th spot, the 11th and 12th entries will revert back to points. But since the Chase started in 2004, there has always been at least one driver who didn’t make the Chase with at least one win.
Looking at who has won so far this season and running the whole season – Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch – is there any doubt that if one of them had to get in the Chase on the ‘wild card’ rule they wouldn’t have a chance at the title?
Certainly they would have more of chance than a driver who “slipped in” the Chase in the 12th spot in points and hadn’t won a race all season.
That’s the benefit of the ‘wild card’ entries – they are more likely to be competitive in the final 10 races than drivers who simply finished 11th or 12th in points.
Let’s face it, while there have been good stories of drivers winning their way into the Chase (Jeremy Mayfield) and making up a large points deficit to get in (Matt Kenseth), none of them turned out to be contenders for the championship.
While there is no guarantee, the ‘wild card’ rule helps improve the chances the drivers who make the Chase field will be the ones most capable of finding Victory Lane.