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Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2004

Commenary: You can ask ‘what if,’ but it won’t change reality

November 11, 2004

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If last year's points system were in place this season, Jamie McMurray would be seventh in the points standings.

But he's not.

"Every week, I always ask where we would be in the Chase," McMurray says. "It's really frustrating."

Well then, the thing to do would be to stop asking.

McMurray had 26 races to try to get enough points to make the 10-race runoff for this year's championship and he fell 15 points short. If his team hadn't been penalized 25 points for having a car NASCAR impounded at Bristol in the spring, McMurray would be in the Chase.

But he's not.

You can talk all day about what could be happening as this season moves toward its finish, but it won't change the reality. The new format is what it is, and everything that has happened has been predicated on how teams are handling the challenges it presents.

You can add things up a hundred ways, but the only way that matters has four drivers within 48 points atop the standings after Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

It's simple math to add up the points and say that under last year's system Jeff Gordon would be leading Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 57 points and Jimmie Johnson by 62 atop the standings.

But he's not.

That's no more relevant than it would be to say that if 100,000 Ohioans had voted for John Kerry instead, George W. Bush would be needing to rent U-Haul One to tote some stuff back to Texas.

The new system has done precisely what it was designed to do.

"My feelings are the same they've been since we started this thing and that's that there need to be a few minor adjustments," said Gordon, a four-time champion under the old system who's just 41 points behind Busch right now. "But I like the Chase. I think having 10 guys in it is the way it needs to be."

Two weeks ago, when Busch blew an engine just 52 laps into the Bass Pro Shops 500, Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. both had chances to leave Atlanta Motor Speedway with the points lead.

But Gordon had a failure in the rear-end gear in his Chevrolet and Earnhardt Jr. wrecked after making contact with Carl Edwards late in the race. Earnhardt Jr. finished 33rd, Gordon wound up 34th and Busch escaped with the lead still in hand.

Next year, and for the next eight years after that, one driver might get through the 10-race chase without a bobble and run away from his rivals. If Busch had managed just a decent finish at Atlanta, he'd be comfortably ahead in the race for this year's title.

But he's not.

So, here we go. Let the best team win.

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