Thursday, May 14, 2015

COMMENTARY: Chase Rules Not Designed To Punish

There has been considerable debate in recent days concerning the righteousness of NASCAR’s decision to allow Kyle Busch to attempt to qualify for the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Under NASCAR rules, drivers must take part in all 26 regular-season races, finish in the Top-30 in points, then either win a race or finish high enough in the standings to qualify for the 10-race postseason. This week’s decision essentially waives part of those Chase qualification standards; the part requiring Busch to take part in all 26 regular-season races.

As it now stands, if Busch can race his way into the Top-30, win a race or earn a Chase bid on points, he will be eligible to contend for the title. In short, NASCAR has given the Joe Gibbs Racing driver an opportunity to do in 15 races what his competition has 26 races to achieve. That’s a tall order – even for a driver of Busch’s considerable talent – and in the end, it may not be achievable. But Busch deserves a chance to try.

Here’s why.

NASCAR’s Chase guidelines were not designed to penalize drivers who suffer injury, illness or personal hardship during the course of a season. They were designed to prevent full-time drivers from winning a race, then taking a month off in an effort to enter the Chase rested and focused.

They were designed to prevent part-time carpetbaggers from coming into the sport, winning a restrictor-plate or road-course event, then fading back into the woodwork until Chase time, with a championship berth securely in hand.

Part-time drivers and teams add little or no value to the Sprint Cup Series. They make no commitment to the sport, and deserve no consideration in return. But a driver like Kyle Busch – who competes in dozens of races each year in addition to his Sprint Cup Series commitment – contributes greatly to the sport. He sells tickets, builds television viewership, radio listenership and gives fans someone to root for (or against) from February through November.

NASCAR understands this, which is why they built a little wiggle room into their Chase qualification requirements, allowing them to waive one (or all) of those guidelines for full-time drivers who suffer injury, illness or other unforeseen circumstances.

NASCAR has no interest in heaping additional worry on the shoulders of Brian Vickers, a young man who is already dealing with serious concerns about his health and livelihood.

A year ago, they were not interested in further traumatizing Tony Stewart, while he dealt with the significant emotional turmoil surrounding Kevin Ward, Jr.’s on-track death.

Earlier this season, they were not interested in punishing Kurt Busch for a “he said, she said” legal entanglement that resulted – after an agonizing period of legal grandstanding – in no charges, whatsoever. 

And they most certainly are not interested in penalizing Kyle Busch, whose only crime is loving the sport so much that he races wherever and whenever he can.

Most of us receive between 14 and 21 paid “sick days” each year from our employers; employers who understand the value of secure, stable workers who don't have to worry about their job in times of trouble.

Kyle Busch deserves no less. The Las Vegas native needed just 11 “sick days” to rebound from a potentially career-ending injury. For that, he should be commended, not punished.

Vickers, Stewart and Kyle Busch are victims of circumstance, and have done nothing wrong. According to those tasked with investigating and charging incidents of domestic violence in the state of Delaware, the same can now be said for Kurt Busch. All four men have dealt admirably with their respective personal tragedies, and now ask nothing more than to be allowed to resume their lives and careers, without being senselessly penalized for wrongs they did not commit. 


  1. It makes the so-called NASCAR "playoffs" completely illegitimate. NASCAR is picking & choosing who is eligible for the championship instead of it being decided on the track.

    You don't get "sick days" in competitive sports. It makes NASCAR racing a farce.

    BTW Kurt Busch missed races because NASCAR suspended him from competition, they didn't give him a few weeks off to sort out his personal life. I guess drivers who miss races because they failed a drug test should be afforded the same consideration.

  2. Anonymous2:27 AM

    Then why have a "waiver" when everybody and their mother gets one. Sorry, it stinks and could bump a driver and team who was there doing their job. Stuff happens, you have a good year, a bad year, there is always next year. This model makes NASCAR rightly or wrongly look more incompetent and dictator like and whishy washy then they already are. The perception of most fans is accurate, despite the cheerleaders cheers to the contrary. NASCAR is so PC, it is disgusting, everybody gets a feel good trophy...just because.

  3. Dwayne in Memphis10:31 PM

    The whole point of the rule was to make the Chase for full-time drivers. The point was to keep a one-off driver from winning the only race he was in. Anybody that thinks that Kyle or Kurt or Tony last year or any of the "names" of NASCAR are not full-time driver are just arguing to be arguing. Kyle was hurt, and he can only get in by following the same standards as everyone and finish in the top 30. Sometimes NASCAR is hard to watch simply because you can predict the griping by "fans" after some something or other happens. Can we not just shut up and enjoy the racing? The Chase is a gimmick to begin argue about discrepancies in the gimmick is wasted energy. Watch the races or flip it over to the NBA or NHL playoffs.