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Monday, November 10, 2014

Ryan Newman to contend for Championship in NASCAR-created controversial Chase


Oh boy, #NASCAR, what a race it was at Phoenix! 

Honestly, I don't remember anything but the last lap, and of course its controversial aftermath.

I suppose if I was a Jeff Gordon fan, I too would be disappointed. Disappointed is one thing, but the vitriol against Ryan Newman has shocked me. 

CHonTrack: Ryan Newman #31Get a grip people! I've watched replays, read all the articles, and even made a few comments to set the record straight. 

For the record, Ryan Newman did not wreck Kyle Larson. No one was more disappointed at the finality of the race than Jeff Gordon., but even he agreed that Newman didn't wreck Larson.

"Well, he ran him wide. I don’t know if I’d say he wrecked him. He certainly ran him up the race track," Gordon said in a post race interview. 

What Newman did was race hard, which is his job. The video of the incident shows that Newman drifted up toward Larson's #42 in an effort to get around him. It appears as if Larson got loose, hit the wall, recovered, while Newman sped past him, gaining the one point he needed to advance to the final round in his quest for his first championship. It must be noted that Larson not only finished the race; he only lost two spots in the process. 

While the terms, "bumped, rubbed, and moved out of the way" are appropriate, it is wrong to characterize what happened as Newman wrecking the rookie Kyle Larson. 

Newman did nothing different than any other driver in the garage would have and has done. In fact, Kyle Larson did the same thing to Marcos Ambros the lap before. 

There was a championship on the line for Newman. He drove as hard as he had to to remain in contention. 

There is one thing Newman did, however, that other drivers don't normally do. Newman issued his regret for having to race that hard. With his characteristic good humor, in contrast to his appearance, sitting against a curb disheveled and exhausted, Newman justified the move as payback for Larson doing the same thing to him, costing him a $9,000 win in an Eldora dirt race. 

Winning isn't necessary

NASCAR has said it wants to reward winning. That sent mixed signals, since each round of the Chase for the Championship took away the perks for previous wins. 

Newman questioned NASCAR's move to reset the extra points for past race winners during the championship contender rounds, which indicates his open-minded fairness, since such a change would have hurt him and Matt Kenseth, who was also winless this season. 

Newman cannot be blamed for contending for the championship with no wins during the season. In fact, consider that Newman had to work even harder to gain points without a win. His consistency in making the most out of whatever hand he was dealt made the difference. The stats prove that too, as he was second overall in passing for points, behind Logano who won five races. Gordon, who was just one point behind Newman in the current standings was only sixth best in earning points. That statistic is a legitimate one, because it gauges passing other cars for position. Using that criteria, which NASCAR has done this year, winning appears much less important. 

Since the cars are so evenly matched, which is also NASCAR's doing, the only way to win is through strategy, using every advantage, such as for gas mileage, tire wear, fast pit stops, leading laps, and often times, aggressive driving. 

Chase for the Championship created drama

This year's Chase for the Championship has done what NASCAR intended it to do. It has raised the level of excitement to a fever pitch. I've been watching NASCAR since the Chase began and never has the bar been raised so high. The last three races ended in controversy over aggressive driving, though this was mild compared to the previous weeks. 

There was no potential violence between Newman and Larson. Quite the contrary in fact, as I've been told that Larson congratulated Newman on making it as a contender for the Championship.

That can't be said for the last two weeks, where Brad Keselowski's aggressive driving actually drew blood. At Charlotte two weeks ago, Matt Kenseth went after Keselowski. Last week it was Gordon that chased him down, resulting in both being bloodied about the face. NASCAR even issued fines against some of the crew members of teams that participated in the brawl.

Make no mistake, the stepped-up emotions of drivers, teams, and fans this year, is the doing of NASCAR's tweaking of the Chase for the Championship. 

UPDATE--Kyle Larson quote: 
"Coming to the finish, there were a lot of cars racing really hard. I knew the 31 was right around me, and knew he needed to gain some spots to keep from getting eliminated from the Chase. It's a little upsetting he pushed me up to the wall, but I completely understand the situation he was in, and can't fault him for being aggressive there. I think a lot of drivers out here would have done something similar if they were in that position."