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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]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with Ryan Pemberton after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, poses in Victory Lane with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Gray Gaulding, driver of the #20 Gemini Southern / Krispy Kreme Chevrolet, is involved in an on track incident with Brandon Jones, driver of the #33 EXIDE Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 Toyota No. 1 For Everyone Sales Event Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, is hit by Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, as he pulls into his pit box during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Doors / Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS races to a third-place finish Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Racing Chevrolet SS won the race and Jimmie Johnson driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished second. (Photo by HHP/Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)

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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.

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!



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