Wednesday, September 12, 2012

10 Most Popular Driver finalists named

    The National Motorsports Press Association announced the 10 finalists for the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award. With more than a half-million votes cast, the top 10 drivers that earned the most votes will now be reset to zero with voting continuing over the next 10 weeks, coinciding with the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

   The 10 finalists are, in alphabetical order: Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

   Fans now have 10 race weeks to cast their vote once a day at to determine the winner from the final 10 drivers. Voting will conclude Nov. 18 at 11:59 PM ET and the winner will be announced at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon in November.

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. collected his ninth consecutive Most Popular Driver award at the end of the 2011 campaign, joining Bill Elliott as the only drivers to win the award eight years straight. Elliott holds the record for most consecutive Most Popular Driver wins with 10, and he also holds the record for total wins with 16.

We interupt the NASCAR Chase to bring you a race

   We interrupt this year’s Chase by pausing to reflect on the race.

   Once again 12 drivers this weekend will begin their quest for the Sprint Cup Series championship with Sunday’s kickoff of the 10-race sprint to the title.

   And once again, the other 31 drivers in the field will take a back seat for the rest of the season to the media attention, whether it’s TV, radio or print.

   There is an argument to be made that those who don’t perform well enough to make the Chase haven’t earned the right to such exposure.

   In general there is merit to that argument, but it assumes a fact not in evidence: Race fans are fans of their particular driver all season – all 38 points and non-points races – not just the first 26 races of the season.

   In other words, fans of Carl Edwards and are still looking to follow Edwards the same way in the final 10 races as they did in the first 26 points races, regardless of whether he made the Chase.

   This has always been struggle of the Chase format.

   Indeed, it creates multiple new storylines at the end of the season, but those new storylines overshadow many of the ones that typically covered when the Chase is not underway.

   NASCAR veteran Mark Martin has been outspoken in his career about how winning individual races was once held in far more reference than it is today.

   In large part that is because winning the Chase – and the issues affecting its participants – become the focus of attention in the final 10 races.

   Martin, who is running a partial schedule and not in the Chase, reiterated his stance again this week.

   “We race for the same reasons that we raced before the Chase started and that’s to win. The Chase does a lot of wonderful things, but it isn't the only thing going on. The event is about winning,” Martin said.

   “Clint Bowyer won Richmond. That to me is more important than points. The championship, the points and the Chase all do add to what we do. I am not degrading it. But I also think in today’s age that winning a race is underrated.”

   You can’t say it better than that.