With the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Season upon us, a ton of excitement has built up along with a ton of questions that remain to be answered. The excitement generates from a new Chase format that includes 4 stages or rounds. The questions mainly stem from the excitement built up by the new format concerning the improved emphasis placed on winning and the decreased emphasis placed on points: Which driver will best thrive under these new circumstances? Which team is best suited for championship results?
The Preseason discussion has mostly circled around Richard Petty comments about female driver Danica Patrick and rookie Austin Dillon winning the pole for the Daytona 500 while driving the legendary #3 racecar. It has been suggested that Danica offer The King a challenge to race her and of course Dillon got permission from the Earnhardt family before driving with #3 on the side of his car. But these are all side issues that shall we say fall trackside once the real racing begins.
So how does the new format function? Let’s begin with the first 26 races. The 15 drivers with the most points during this time span will earn a spot in the Chase considering they finish in the top 30 in points and attempt to qualify for every race. The Series Points leader then automatically grabs the 16th and final spot.
These 16 drivers then enter the Challenger Round. This round includes three races at Chicago, New Hampshire, and Dover. The 4 drivers with the least amount of points will be eliminated. There is an exception for a driver however who wins a race. That driver automatically will advance into the next round. This winner advance at every round mentality continues until the final stage.
The Contenders Round is the second stage and includes three races at Kansas, Charlotte, and Talladega. Out of these 12 drivers, 8 will advance to the third stage, known as the Elimination Round hosted at three more race tracks (Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix). Finally, the top 4 racers advance to the final Championship Round with a winner take all at one race track, the Homestead-Miami Speedway. The driver may not win the championship race, but out of the four drivers who advanced to the season finale, the driver who finishes ahead of the other three drivers will be declared the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion!
Early Season predictions for Racing’s Final Four include: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Brad Keseloski, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Look for Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Marcus Ambrose, and Austin Dillon to pull some rabbits out of their hat.
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