NASCAR changes good for Kentucky Speedway


NASCAR’s new format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup has Kentucky Speedway in an enviable position.

Those Sprint Cup drivers waiting for their first win? Not so much.

The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts on June 28 kicks off the final 10 races for drivers to qualify for the Chase. NASCAR’s new format awards victories instead of points. ESPN analyst and former NASCAR driver Ricky Craven predicts the action at Kentucky — and the final nine races — could get heated with drivers desperate for a win.

“I think (the race) being in June in this system is Utopia. It’s perfect,” Craven said during Kentucky Speedway’s media day Tuesday. “When you get to June you better have things figured out. If you haven’t won yet, you need to do some things. I call it racing without a conscience. What are you willing to do to win a race? We’re going to see some very entertaining racing.”

In the restructured Chase format, the top 16 drivers with the greatest number of Sprint Cup Series wins after the first 26 races advance to the championship round. Four drivers will be eliminated after the first three rounds: the Challenger (races 27-29), Contender (30-32) and Eliminator (33-35). The final four drivers compete in a winner-take-all race for the Sprint Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

The 16th Chase position will go to the points leader after race No. 26 if the driver does not have a win. If more than 16 drivers have won a race, then the tie will be broken by number of wins first and Sprint Cup points second.

Seventeen drivers won races last season

“It’s not about being really good or average, it’s about winning,” Craven said. “To win a race at that level should be very rewarding.

“I think it raises the bar. I think this season is going to be full of energy. There’s going to be teams that capitalize on the changes early that might surprise us. There are going to be some left playing catch up. It’s all going to be very interesting.”

How will six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson fare in the new system? Very well, according to Craven.

“Jimmie Johnson has a willingness to run on the edge more than most drivers. Jimmie Johnson also has the talent to back up that willingness,” Craven said. “I think he’s destined for seven titles. I think when he captures his seventh title he’s already made up his mind he wants eight.”

Kyle Busch, one of those who prefers racing on the edge, was critical of the new format. It won’t push him to race harder for the win, which is what NASCAR is after. It will, according to Craven, make more drivers like Busch. It’ll also make them take more daringchances, especially in those final laps.

“I thought he was right (with his comments),” Craven said. “You don’t fear what you don’t know. Kyle does race every lap like it’s his last. Now you’re going to see drivers who would normally be characterized as good guys grow fangs. You’re going to see things from drivers that seem out of character. That’s what Kyle doesn’t realize.

“This system rewards a team and a driver for emptying the tank, for taking the extra risk. It rewards them by putting them in position with 15 other drivers to win a championship.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

5 takeaways from a Western and Southern Open first-timer
5 takeaways from a Western and Southern Open first-timer

This week I had my first Western and Southern Open experience.  Although it was cut short by a nasty rain storm, I saw enough to convince me I need to make a return trip.  Here are my top takeaways from my visit:  The Graeter’s turtle sundae really hit the spot, giving me the energy to seek out actual tennis.  I found it at...
Joey Votto is Kris Bryant’s favorite player
Joey Votto is Kris Bryant’s favorite player

Cubs fans may not be thrilled with star third baseman Kris Bryant’s favorite player. Bryant admitted that his top preferred player is Reds first baseman Kris Bryant. “He’s the best player ever,” Bryant said before Wednesday’s game versus Cincinnati. “He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking...
How the Ohio State offense is getting its swagger back
How the Ohio State offense is getting its swagger back

We’ve reached the point in the football preseason that themes can start to run into the ground.  “How will X be better than it was last year, coach?” is a well-worn question in July and August.  Whatever went wrong a season ago is inevitably a central theme to the following preseason.  Such as it is with an Ohio State...
High School Football: New coach, same expectations for Greeneview
High School Football: New coach, same expectations for Greeneview

The Greeneview Rams have had much to cheer about the past three seasons by earning the program’s first playoff appearance and first postseason victory. But you wouldn’t know it by watching them, especially on the practice field. The Rams have quietly gone about their business after reaching the postseason the past three seasons. &ldquo...
Regarding the ‘Urban Meyer is overrated/underrated’ at Ohio State thing
Regarding the ‘Urban Meyer is overrated/underrated’ at Ohio State thing

This “Urban Meyer has underachieved at Ohio State thing” is a stupid, made-up story, but people love to click those so it's probably worth a few minutes.  I would say he's overachieved twice, underachieved twice and hit expectations pretty much on the head once in five seasons in which he is 61-6 with one national championship, one...
More Stories