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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]
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, races with Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cameron Hayley, driver of the #13 Cabinets by Hayley/The Carolina Nut Co. Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cameron Hayley, driver of the #13 Cabinets by Hayley/The Carolina Nut Co. Toyota, races with Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Alex Tagliani, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads the field in a restart during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America on August 29, 2015 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #20 Hisense Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via 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!

George - Unregistered

October 28, 2009 5:12 PM

I've never understood the excitement of looking at the points table in any sport throughout the season. Formula 1 are guilty of it too. It's like a football fan getting excited by the league table rather than the game - it never happens. Only in motorsport i think.



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