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Hamlin points out Chase deficiencies.

Should NASCAR be worried that its drivers are showing signs of tiring of the hype surrounding the Chase for the Championship?

Don't blame Denny Hamlin for feeling cheated by the mathematics of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

There's nothing inherently wrong with NASCAR's ten-race playoff system. There is something wrong when an obsession with the standings blinds you to the action in front of you on the racetrack.

Just ask Hamlin, who won Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville. During what should have been the afterglow of a hard-fought victory came the acknowledgement - because Hamlin, realistically, is no longer a factor in the Chase - that what he accomplished at Martinsville will become more of a sidebar than front-page news.

“I'm sure on the websites tomorrow there will be 20 stories and they'll all talk - I take that back.... there will be twelve stories - and there will be one about how much this guy lost to Jimmie [Johnson], how much that guy lost to Jimmie,” Hamlin said after the race, “How much Jimmie gained, or stretched his points lead, will be about three or four stories, and then mine will be in that little column, Denny Hamlin wins at Martinsville for the second time. Y'all do it, you know - write something different.”

From the media standpoint: Guilty as charged. Guilty, too, are the marketing machines at NASCAR and the networks, which tend to hype the Chase to the exclusion of all else. Most of the discussion about next Sunday's race at Talladega, for instance, pertains to the possibility of NASCAR's most unpredictable racetrack scrambling the championship standings.

The fans who buy tickets to the races, however, aren't sitting in the grandstands with calculators, computing the Chase standings with each pass for position. They are sitting there with scanners, listening to exchanges between a favourite driver and his crew chief or flipping channels to catch reaction to battles on the racetrack.

On the frequencies of Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya, they got an earful Sunday, after hard racing between the two left a pair of black 'doughnuts' on the side of Montoya's Chevrolet. The invective the two drivers heaped on each other after battling at close quarters is emblematic of a burgeoning rivalry between two world-class drivers. If no-one else was paying attention, fans in the grandstands certainly were.

“I never really had a big problem with him, but he's always so hard to race against,” Montoya, Sunday's third-place finisher, said later, “But he probably says the same thing against me. Because he never gave me any room, why am I going to give him any? It's a vicious circle.”

And it's a story worth following.

To supporters of Dale Earnhardt Jr, who did not qualify for the Chase, it matters little whether Johnson leads second-place Mark Martin by 18 or 118 points heading to Talladega. Roughly 20 per cent of the crowd at Martinsville headed for the exits after Earnhardt blew a tyre and hit the wall for the second time 359 laps into the 500-lap event.

If that's not a wakeup call to the Chase-obsessed, nothing is.

Johnson's bid for a record fourth straight Sprint Cup title is a huge story, but it shouldn't overwhelm everything else that happens in the sport. Even Johnson is sick of the constant speculation about his points lead.

“I'm so tired of answering this question,” he said, when asked whether he felt comfortable with his advantage entering Talladega, “I think you guys can all figure it out.”

Fans who invest their money in race tickets care most about what happens that day in that race at that racetrack. They function in the present tense. It would benefit those who administer, broadcast and write about the sport to remember that perspective.

by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service



Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin leads Jeff Gordon at Martinsville   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, lead the field into turn one during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. CPT Travis L. Patriquin, US Army, is honored on the car as part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael S. Duskin is honored on the car as part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Ford EcoBoost Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Roush Performance Products Ford, leads Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Interstate Batteries Toyota, during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Roush Performance Products Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina (Photo Credit: Photo by Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag as he crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Saturday night, May 16, 2015, in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 9, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #18 M&M`s Red Nose Day Toyota, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 8, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, catches fire during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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Racingbod - Unregistered

October 28, 2009 5:45 PM

Surely this would still be a problem without the chase? as the above comment says it's the same in any points table situation. Jenson got endless screen time trundling round in 6th and the points situation was all anyone could talk of since Turkey!

BoSox

October 28, 2009 8:08 PM

It's a lot like baseball, which has 162 games in one season. Because there are so many games, you end up looking at stats rather than individual games. NASCAR has too many events and would benefit from reducing the number from 37 to say 20 events. No Chase would be needed if it's seen as unnecessary.



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