NASCAR’s Chase format was supposed to eliminate the habit NASCAR drivers have of “points racing,” or their habit of keeping their eyes on “the big picture” during races, especially during The Chase. However, it didn’t. This year’s elimination format, where every three races during The Chase four drivers are eliminated, was also supposed to eliminate it. Again, if you did any scanning on the team radio channels, especially the last four weeks, you know that it didn’t.
What are “Points Racing” and “Keeping an Eye on the Big Picture?”
These are things that most NASCAR fans despise. We find it odious. We go to races, and plan ahead to watch races, to see races that are exciting with loads of passing and lots of lead changes. We want to see drivers taking chances to pass other drivers. We want to see them tradin’ paint to get an advantage.
This doesn’t happen when drivers “points race” or “remember the big picture.” Admittedly, this doesn’t happen very often during the first 26 races of the season leading up to The Chase. It also doesn’t happen very often during the first and maybe the second race of each elimination round during The Chase.
However, if you pay attention to team radios during The Chase, you hear spotters and crew chiefs, and sometimes team owners, telling their drivers to “keep your eye on The Big Picture.” These will be the teams that don’t have a win in that Chase segment and are near the cutoff. During the regular season of the first 26 races, it could also be the four or five drivers without wins who can get into The Chase if they place high enough. Or don’t crash.
The first race of each Chase segment, each driver in The Chase is going to go all out to get a win to guarantee their spot in the next round. That’s because they’ve got two races to recover from a poor finish that drops them a position or two in the standings. Those drivers with a win, or high in the Chase points and basically guaranteed to move on to the next round, will be trying things to gain an advantage over the other Chase drivers or testing new setups on their cars and pushing their cars. Most will also push themselves and their cars to try and keep others from getting a win and the guaranteed spot in the next round.
JGR Teams Were the Cutoff Drivers After Talladega and Phoenix
JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch were sitting on the edge of oblivion at both Talladega and Phoenix during The Chase this year, while Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin were sitting there at Talladega. An average finish with safe driving would guarantee them a spot in The Round of Eight after Talladega and the finale at Homestead-Miami after Phoenix. However, bad finishes at Talladega would finish them and allow in other drivers, like Austin Dillon or Martin Truex Jr at Talladega and Kevin Harvick or Kurt Busch at Phoenix.
Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson were the only two drivers at both races who had the wins to be guaranteed a spot in the next round, even if they had horrible finishes at both tracks, while Harvick had enough points at Talladega to be guaranteed to move on. This meant that all three could take chances and push hard to win, and they did.
The Gibbs drivers didn’t, though. They raced for points. They raced to make sure they didn’t have a terrible finish. All they did was race to protect their position in the standings, not to advance. If you had a scanner at the track or used one of the NASCAR applications that lets you hear the race radios, you heard the spotters, crew chiefs, and, I believe, even Coach Gibbs telling the drivers to “remember the points” and “keep your eye on the big picture.”
You can liken this to the football team in the lead in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, playing it safe and taking the whole play clock to snap the ball, and the quarterback taking a knee in the last 90 seconds or so of the game. They do this to help ensure that they don’t give the other team a chance to win the game by creating a turnover.
This has to change. NASCAR has to do something next year to eliminate this type of attitude in drivers and teams. We pay our hard-earned money at the tracks because we want to see a race that is hard fought and full of passes, rubbin’, and drivers “takin’ the air off the spoiler” of another driver to advance. We don’t want to see a bunch of humdrum drivers just putting in laps. If we wanted to see that, we could hit the freeway on Sunday.
Do you like it when drivers “points race” or keep their eye on “The Big Picture,” or do you also want to see each and every driver pushing their cars and their skills to the limit each and every race? We want to know, so let us know how you feel about this in the comments section below.