By Justin Melillo
April 9, 2014
Jimmie Johnson was the most recent to accomplish it in 2007. Jeff Gordon did it three times in the 1990’s. Multiple drivers, such as Petty, Pearson, Allison, Elliott, Waltrip, and Earnhardt, had all done it in the earlier years of the sport.
With the competition as tight as ever, NASCAR fans might not see another driver with double digit victories over an entire season anytime soon.
The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is only seven races old, and what’s unique about it is that there has been a different winner in each event. The last time NASCAR has seen this many different winners was in 2003, when nine different drivers saw victory lane before Kurt Busch became the first repeat winner at Auto Club Speedway.
This season, NASCAR implemented an update to its Chase for the Championship, where it virtually locks in any driver with a win during the regular season. With the amount of different winners over multiple manufacturers, it seems that the playing field has been leveled. On any given weekend, whether it’s the talent level or the Generation 6 cars they drive, anyone can end up in victory lane with the right strategy and poise to win.
In the “Chase Era”, it hasn’t been a common occurrence to see one driver go out and completely dominate a season. Yes, Jimmie Johnson has won 6 of the last 8 championships, but he didn’t dominate the entire season. Where Johnson excels is during the chase, where he has 24 victories since the inception of the chase in 2004, which is more than double than the next winningest driver during the chase, Tony Stewart, who has 11.
In 2007, when Johnson had his 10 win season, he won six races in the regular season, including the last two races of said regular season, and also won four in a row during the chase, which secured him his second title.
NASCAR wants to see champions that win races. However, these new rules have drivers hungrier than ever. Fans are seeing more winners, more strategy, and less dominance by any single team.
Among the seven drivers virtually locked into this year’s chase by virtue of their wins, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Matt Kenseth are not included on that list. These four drivers have won 11 of the last 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championships.
NASCAR made the right changes to level the playing field. NASCAR fans won’t likely see a 10 time winner this season, and probably not for a while. In the grand scheme of all these changes in the past decade, it’s exactly what NASCAR wanted, and what NASCAR fans have been asking for.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com