NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Stand Up For Chase System

Driver after driver spoke up today at Texas Motor Speedway in support of the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format despite the possibility of Jimmie Johnson becoming a three-time champion.

Speaking Friday from Texas Motor Speedway, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson said the Chase format – now in its fifth season – correctly rewards the top team with the season title.

“It rewards winning,” Burton said of media questions about whether the current Chase format should be changed. “It rewards running up front, it rewards leading laps, it does everything that you guys (the media) all thought was really cool. When somebody does it better than everybody else, don’t talk about how the point system is messed up, talk about how good they’re doing. That’s what the focus ought to be.”

Heading into Sunday’s Dickies 500, Johnson, the two-time and defending series champion, leads the current standings by 183 points over second-place Carl Edwards. He leads the third-place Biffle by 185 points and the fourth-place Burton by 218 points.

“We’ve worked very hard,” Johnson said, “and I know everybody has listened to me over the last 34 weekends talking about how hard we’ve worked this year. At the end of the day, we all know we didn’t get off to a good start. And we had to work very hard to be in this position. We’re here and we’re proud of it.”

“You can’t make a rule to keep one guy from winning the championship,” said Biffle in response to a media query about whether Chase teams should be able to discard their worst finish. “That’s never worked in our sport and this is an equal opportunity right here. No matter what you do, you cannot change. In this country, one guy is gonna have more money than the other guy, and one guy is gonna win more races than the other guy, and one guy is gonna win more championships.”

“In my opinion, the Chase does what it’s supposed to do,” said Earnhardt Jr., Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate and currently the 10th place driver in the Chase. “There’s no real true formula that anybody in this room could come up with to make the perfect Chase every time. I think that you’ve just got to give Jimmie and those guys credit for whatever they’ve been able to accomplish up to this point. They’re a dominant team in this sport at this time. You can’t handicap an individual for being great.”

“I don’t know why they would want to change it,” said Stewart, the 2002 and 2005 series champion who’s currently eighth in the Chase standings. “It’s pretty good the way it is I think. I like it the way it is. Everybody’s reset with 10 weeks to go and the best team that performs over the 10-week stretch is the team that wins. I don’t know how much more simple we could make that.”

“If they go on to win this thing, then they’ve done it better than everybody else,” Burton said of Johnson and his team. “That’s the end of the story. That’s what the story ought to be.”

“Me being a competitor and a fan for that matter, I want to see the driver-team, the whole combination that’s done the best job, win the championship,” said Kenseth, the 2003 series champion who’s currently ninth in the Chase standings. “That’s what I want to see. I don’t want to see somebody win the championship under an artificial system or something like one race.”

Two Chase races remain after the Dickies 500 – next Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, followed by the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16.

Johnson has led the standings for five consecutive weeks. He has two wins (at Martinsville Speedway and Dover International Speedway) and a runner-up finish (last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway) during that span. Johnson has a total of five top-five finishes and two top-10 finishes since the Chase began Sept. 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The Chase format debuted in 2004. It is this: The top 12 drivers following race No. 26 at Richmond International Raceway are eligible to compete for the series title during the season’s final 10 races. Drivers begin the Chase seeded according to their number of wins in the first 26 races. They receive 10 points for each victory.