Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Great points battle, but where does it rank over the past decade?

Whether you like the Chase or not, you can’t deny that we are in store for one exciting championship battle going into Homestead. If you are not pumped up for the race this Sunday, then you don’t need to be watching (and according to the television ratings, many of you are not). Is this the best points race in recent memory though? Lets take a look at the final point differentials since 2000.

Year     Over 2nd   Over 3rd    Champion
2000      -265        -289         Bobby Labonte
2001      -349        -371         Jeff Gordon
2002      -38          -159         Tony Stewart
2003      -90          -207         Matt Kenseth
2004*    -8            -16           Kurt Busch
2005*    -35          -35           Tony Stewart
2006*    -56          -68           Jimmie Johnson
2007*    -77          -346         Jimmie Johnson
2008*    -69          -217         Jimmie Johnson
2009*    -141        -179         Jimmie Johnson
2010*    -15          -46 (After 35 races) ???

*Indicates Chase year

If you go strictly by numbers, this is the best points race since 2004. Of course, these numbers can be misleading. As we all know, the Chase was designed to produce closer points finishes, although many will claim it has hurt the product. As an example, if the 06 season did not have the Chase, Jimmie Johnson would have won by only four points over runner up Matt Kenseth. Prior to the Chase however, the final point differential did not always indicate how close it really was. In 2003, the roles were reversed, with Kenseth winning the title by just 90 over Johnson. A reasonably small margin given it was over an entire season instead of ten races, but it was really never in doubt that Kenseth was going to win that year, having over a 400 point lead on second place with just ten races left. On the other hand, while Jeff Gordon won his 2001 championship by a landslide over second place Tony Stewart, it wasn’t indicative of how close it was for most of the season – the top three were separated by just 28 points midway through with Gordon and Dale Jarrett tied for first. The end result wasn’t Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean it was an uneventful points battle.

What has been your favorite points race and why? Do you prefer the championship to be decided in the last race, even if it means resetting the points with ten races left? Now that we have a Chase that is close, has it changed your view of NASCAR’s playoff system?

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