Monday, November 10, 2014

NASCAR's scoring insanity

Yours truly likes to think he's a little better than your average couch tater when it comes to keeping up with the wide world of sports. But when it comes to the NASCAR scoring system, particularly lately, I must admit I haven't a clue -- NONE -- as to what's going on.

Here's what I do know. Next week, a champion will be crowned in the final race of the year at Homestead, Fla.
Only four drivers have a chance at the Cup going in.
They are -- Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman.

Such notables, and former champs, as Wonder Boy (Jeff Gordon), Six Time (Jimmy Johnson), and I'll Piss You Off Eventually (Brad Keselowski) have been eliminated from contention. Smoke (Tony Stewart) hasn't been the same since he accidentally killed that kid on a dirt track a few months back. And The Go Daddy Priestess (Danica Patrick) was right in the thick of things until, well, maybe the middle of March, April Fool's day tops. Ahem.

Beyond that, how NASCAR's "playoffs" work might as well be brain surgery on a Klingon. Good luck trying to figure out either one.

In the penultimate race at Phoenix, Jeff Gordon finished second. He was fourth in points going in, but eliminated because Ryan Newman finished 11th. How does that work?

For that matter, Newman hasn't won a single race ALL YEAR. But if he wins at Homestead, he'll be the champ. Huh? Isn't that a little like giving an 0-16 NFL team a spot in the Super Bowl because all their losses were close games?

Idle thought: What gives with NASCAR's "lucky boy" rule? This is when a car and driver find themselves a lap down, but if they're in just the right position on the track when a caution flag comes out -- they get to pass the entire field and get their lap back. It's not lucky -- it's insane. A comparison might be if Tiger Woods found himself 6 shots out of the lead on the back nine of the final round at the Masters on Sunday. Let's lop 4 strokes off his score so he can be back in the "hunt" to make things more interesting. How well do you think that would go over? But it's basically what NASCAR continues to do every race. These are the same people that will bang a car, driver, owner, and crew chief with hefty fines and loss of points for the slightest deviation from their "template" in their quest for "parity" -- but they're giving away free laps? How nuts is that?

And here's the really potentially crazy part. Again, only Hamlin, Harvick, Logano, and Newman are eligible for the Sprint Cup. One way or the other, one of them is going to be the champion when the Homestead race is over. But what if......

A major accident occurs early in the race and takes them all out? After all, the four of them will be racing for all the proverbial marbles. They'll all have fast cars and chances are they'll all be super-aggressive trying to go to the front. Which means they will likely be in close proximity of one another towards the head of the pack. If somebody makes a mistake, or even a tire blows, it's entirely possible such an incident could collect them all.

This is not to wish misfortune on any driver, car, or team. But wouldn't it be interesting if the entire Final Four wound up in no better than, say, 30th place when the checkered flag waved at Homestead?

Could happen, and yours truly hopes it does, for two reasons.

While NASCAR would spin it to trumpet their new champion -- champagne, mega-bucks, and future endorsements galore -- they would also find it painfully awkward to justify to the fans and media how their entire Final Four could crash out of the championship game, finish towards the rear, if they finished at all, but still crown one of them king. A lot of questions would be asked as to how such a stupid scenario was ever allowed to play itself out that way. It might lead them to rethink the ludicrous point/playoff system they've put into play.

But more importantly, if much needed changes are made, then your better than average couch tater such as myself might begin to understand what the hell is going on.

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