Perversely Perfect

If Ryan Newman wins the championship by taking his first checkered flag at Homestead, many will sigh with relief. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

If Ryan Newman wins the championship by taking his first checkered flag at Homestead, many will sigh with relief. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 10, 2014, 10:23 a.m.

Kevin Harvick’s fine NASCAR resume is notably lacking in a championship, Winston or Sprint, and he has his best chance by far next week when the series visits Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race. Of course, by rule (as referees and umpires are fond of saying), his chance is only one in four. As Harvick is coming off his fourth victory of the season – he is practically an honorary Sun Devil, what with four victories in his last five races at Phoenix International Raceway – many will cast him in the favorite’s role.

Kevin Harvick deserves to win a championship. Maybe, miraculously, he will. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Kevin Harvick deserves to win a championship. Maybe, miraculously, he will. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

The other name that springs to the front is that of Joey Logano, who has two more wins and three more top-five finishes than the presumptive favorite. Neither, however, has particularly distinguished himself at the 1.5-mile track where the title is decided.

That brings us to the two drivers, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, who have, by the wonder of the new NASCAR format, capitalized on the contrived format that now determines the champion. Hamlin has a lone victory. Newman doesn’t. No Cup champion has ever failed to win a race, and the format was ostensibly designed to make such a phenomenon impossible. This claim had already been undermined ever since some pesky compiler ran the 2013 results and determined it would have produced a winless champion.

Joey Logano is most useful of the four finalists. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Joey Logano is most useful of the four finalists. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Perhaps the rationale was surely it can’t happen again! It can. Not only does Newman lack a victory; he’s only finished in the top five four times. Hamlin has seven top fives. Only by the wonder of the Etch a Sketch is it possible to conclude that either has had anything more than a disappointing season, but the aforementioned wonder is the only one that matters. If Jeff Gordon had had such a season and been able, like Newman, to make an unruly pass for 11th place on the final lap, he’d be cast as the favorite right now.

Denny Hamlin has competed for championships before but this year has benefited in particular from the new system. (Monte Dutton)

Denny Hamlin has competed for championships before but this year has benefited in particular from the new system. (Monte Dutton)

What this format really produces is excitement. Zany excitement. The kind invented by the Marx Brothers. The kind provided by a Final Four that includes both Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey.

That it will be. If Newman wins the championship, he will be Cinderella, and when the fireworks go off, three other cars will turn into pumpkins, and somehow, for the burly Newman, who looks like a high school linebacker, a glass slipper will fit, and someone at NASCAR will point out that, at the end of the day, it is what it is, and many will rejoice at the isness of the itness.

The process is exciting, unjust and gimmicky, which is to say, from NASCAR’s obvious view, perfect.

It’s sort of a shame that all the drivers who managed more than Newman and Hamlin – Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, even Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch – have to compete in the Ford 400. They should be allowed to watch from a mountaintop, impossible in south Florida though it may be (sorry, I’m still thinking Phoenix), and peruse the great works and deeds of those mortal in comparison.

It’s the bravest new world since Aldous Huxley sat down his pen.

Thanks for reading me. Give my short stories and essays a look at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com a look if you think of it. My books, fiction and non, can be considered and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1415634579&sr=1-1

 

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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9 Responses to Perversely Perfect

  1. Tim says:

    In my opinion NASCAR really needs to take a look at both the lucky dog and the wave around. I know people will say the rules are the same for everybody but to me it is really hurting the legitimacy of the sport. Hamlin was lapped twice and he got his lap back not having a car anywhere close as good as Harvick. At Texas, Jeff Gordon finished behind drivers who were two laps down with 50 laps to go. What is the motivation for anyone to work hard to lap a driver any more? My solution you can only get the free pass once a race. Or eliminate the free pass and adopt this rule. Let the first two cars one lap down line up 9th and 10th. The leaders have some clearance but it someone has a great car and had that flat tire they have to fight and pass the leader to get their lap back.Was it really that big of a deal that the leader started in the middle of the pack when the yellow came out during green flag pit stops? I bring all this up because Newman used the wave around/ lucky dog many times this season to salvage a decent finish. I have been watching racing since the mid 90s and some of the best battles were drivers trying to get laps back from the leader. They had to earn it they weren’t given a lap back because they weren’t even in touch with the leader. You can still freeze the field at the caution.

  2. Harry M says:

    It is my fervent wish that Ryan Newman wins the championship. (NASCAR will have certainly gotten what it so richly deserves.)

  3. Roger Miller says:

    This whole chase is disingenuous . Great moments are suppose to happen not be created because of a set of circumstances that is in turn a constant reset or do over, from the chase to the lucky dog to the wave around to double file restarts let’s bunch them all back up and try it again…… And every TV personality from former drivers to crew chiefs say all this slam bam racing is just good racing. Be different if they were on the relieving end.

  4. Robert Johnson says:

    Contrived indeed.

    And how in the world were fans supposed to follow who was ahead of who in the Chase as the race went on, without the ticker, or a PhD in Math ?

    As far as “excitement” goes, NASCAR could load all the cars with explosives, and have the last half of the field explode at the end of the race, and that would be exciting too.

    One wonders what the owner’s association will be saying to NASCAR in the off season.

  5. John says:

    One race to go
    One Chaser has no wins
    All hail the winless champion

  6. Bill B says:

    Brian France is a genius. He figured out that if you reset the points every three races you can keep everyone close.

    “What this format really produces is excitement. ” Actually it produces a reality television show. NASCAR was always difficult to defend to outsiders as a sport, now it’s impossible.

  7. Monte says:

    I have made that comparison, too. The last thing you’ll ever find on a reality show is reality.

  8. Carol Dahlberg says:

    If Newman wins, how can NASCAR ever be considered a sport? A champion who doesn’t win a single game (race)? Ridiculous.

  9. Ron Fleshman says:

    It makes no difference what I think, but for a system based on winning, it seems strange that two of the final four have one win. If there is any justice, Logano or Harvick will win. Hopefully Logano since he hasn’t been respected with five wins, but I can live with Harvick which will give HMS a pseudo championship.

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