Well, the Race for the Chase is over. Now we're into Phase II Hype, the NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship. As a public service, I will review NASCAR's points system, so that those of you who are mathematically inclined can figure out all the possible combinations that will win your favorite driver this year's title.
Ready? Here we go.
The points were revised slightly a couple of years ago to give a little bit more of a bonus to the race winner (but not nearly enough, in the opinion of a lot of motorsports journalists and race fans).
Now, the winner receives 180 points, with second-place getting 170. There is a five-point bonus for leading a lap (the winner always gets this, because he'll be leading the last lap), and another five point bonus for leading the most laps in a race. Theoretically, all 43 cars in a race could lead a lap and get a five-point bonus, but I doubt that it has ever happened. There is a five-point drop for each position between two and six: third-place gets 165, fourth 160, etc. From seventh to 11th place, the drop is four points per position, and three points separate each position from 12th to 43rd.
However, to ensure that some upstart not in the Chase might win all of the last 10 races and garner maximum bonus points and win the Championship, NASCAR puts that possibility out of reach by resetting the points for the top 10 contenders so high that they can't be passed. Tony Stewart, the points leader after the 26-race "regular season," starts the Chase with 5050 points. From there, the points drop five points per position, thus erasing Stewart's substantial lead after Richmond. The 10th-place driver starts the Chase with 5000 points, as would any additional qualifiers within 400 points of the leader (none last year, none this year).
I hope you were taking notes. There will be a quiz next week.
In the wake of disastrous seasons for two of NASCAR's biggest stars, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., there will be changes made to both teams for next season. Robbie Loomis, who has been Gordon's crew chief since Ray Evernham left Hendrick Motorsports to form his own team in 2000, will move to Petty Enterprises as Vice President of Race Operations.
Loomis helped Gordon to win the 2001 Championship, but the question arose mid-season this year, "What have you done for us lately?" Loomis will be immediately replaced by Steve Letarte, formerly car chief for the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet.
Loomis will finish out the season as a "consultant" to Jimmy Johnson's No. 48 Lowe's car. With Johnson in the Chase, Hendrick is putting resources where they can do the most good.
Meanwhile, over at DEI (soon to be a televised prime time soap opera titled "Desperate Drivers"), Dale Earnhardt, Jr.' cousin Tony Eury, Jr. will move over to Little E's team as crew chief for the remainder of the season. The team personnel swap between Little E and teammate Michael Waltrip this year appeared to be more beneficial to Waltrip, who was recently given his walking papers by DEI. Earnhardt has been through two crew chiefs already this season, Pete Rondeau and Steve Hmiel, so maybe the third time will be a charm. Hmiel will go back to his position of General Manager for DEI, and plans are to team Eury, Jr. and Earnhardt for 2006 . . . unless results indicate otherwise.
Waltrip will finish out the season with car chief Tony Gibson in the crew chief position. Waltrip is rumored to have a ride with the Bill Davis team next season, with a high probability of that team fielding a Toyota in 2007. Mikey's big brother Darrell has ties to Toyota in the Craftsman Truck series. Maybe if Darrell helps Mikey get a Toyota ride, Mike will finally let big bro drive the Aaron's Dream Machine!
Finally, doff your caps and raise a glass to the memory of the 42 years of racing at Champion Speedway, also known as Silver State Raceway and Tahoe-Carson Speedway (T-Car to fans). Last night was her final race, and she will succumb to progress (and bulldozers) next week.
n Contact Roger Diez at Racytalker@aol.com