This year NASCAR has changed its points system for its number one series. The Sprint Cup Series this year has changed the rules into a points playoff format, just like most of the major sports. This playoff format consists of four rounds, the challenger round, the contender round, the eliminator round, and the championship round. The Sprint Cup chase this year is intended to make things more exciting for NASCAR fans, but the format eliminates drivers in stages, turning some into heroes, and some victims.
Chase contenders are determined with the running of the normal season where the top 16 drivers advance. These drivers have to meet two criteria to move to the next rounds. The first criteria is to obtain the most wins in each round. Second, a driver must finish with the points if they do not obtain a win and at least 16 different drivers have not won races. These drivers will then fill the final remaining spots of the challenger round.
After the first 16 races, 13 drivers had won a race to claim the first 13 positions. Three drivers, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and Greg Biffle filled the open spots by gaining the most points without a win.
The first round, the challenger round, consists of the next three races with 12 drivers advancing. The heroes of this round, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, and Joey Logano, won those three races to guarantee their spot in the next round. This particular round also eliminated four drivers who didn’t finish well enough to claim their position in the remainder of the playoffs. Aric Almirola, Greg Biffle, Kurt Bush, and A.J. Allmendinger were the victims in this years contender round.
The second round, the contender round, is same as the contender round, except that only 8 drivers advance. All points are reset for these remaining contenders. The three tracks, Kansas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Talladega Superspeedway, are the only tracks for this round.
In recent years, Kansas Motor Speedway has been Jeff Gordon’s track, leading all chase contenders in past victories. Charlotte Motor Speedway has a more difficult trend of winners. Jimmie Johnson leads the chase contenders with 7 wins, while Jeff Gordon is one win behind him. Kasey Kahne, with fewer years in the series than the two, trails Jeff Gordon with 4 wins. Talladega Superspeedway is what drivers call a game of chance and luck. In previous years this track has been good to Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. While Gordon has 7 victories, Earnhardt Jr. follows him by one.
The third round, the eliminator round, consists of the remaining 8 drivers contending for four spots in the last and final round. The same rules apply as the other rounds; win one of these three races, finish the highest in points without a win.
The fourth round, the championship round, is the final round. This is the final race of the season held at Miami-Homestead Motor Speedway in Florida. The four remaining driver’s points are again reset and the battle is on. These four drivers will contend for the highest position in this race. The driver in the highest position, regardless of a win, is the final hero and the 2014 Sprint Cup Champion. The rest, despite surviving until the end, will still end up victims of this new NASCAR format.
By: J. Dylan Halen