ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s a good thing NASCAR doesn’t still stick to that archaic championship points system.
Winning championships through consistency is just plain boring, as NASCAR figured out in 2003 after one-win Matt Kenseth beat out eight-win Ryan Newman for the title.
They kicked around some silly playoff system called the Chase, but decided that wouldn’t work and squashed it.
They knew they had to make wins really count and did something about it.
So they changed the format from the convoluted system they’d used for years to one where the driver who ends the season with the most wins gets the championship trophy.
If only these scenarios were true?
Nov. 16, 2008 (actual champion, Jimmie Johnson)
In one of the most thrilling season-enders in the history of the sport, Carl Edwards captured his first Sprint Cup championship.
With eight wins each, Kyle Busch and Edwards battled for their ninth.
Both drivers missed some chances in the season’s final 10 races.
And as they raced around Homestead-Miami Speedway, through the cool South Florida air, you could see an epic battle in the works. Busch and Edwards raced side by side throughout most of the race, winner took all.
Nov. 18, 2007 (actual champion, Jimmie Johnson)
The teammates were tied for exactly the same number of wins with five races to go. Mentor Jeff Gordon had six wins and so did his mentee Jimmie Johnson. It all came down to what they did in the final five races of the season.
But then something possessed Johnson. He became unstoppable and won in Martinsville, then Atlanta, then Texas was his and so was the title. There was no way Gordon could have caught him once Johnson won in Texas even if Gordon won out. Johnson would have still finished with nine wins and Gordon with eight.
Time had run out.
Nov. 19, 2006 (actual champion, Jimmie Johnson)
Two years after winning his first Nextel Cup championship with eight wins in just his third season of Cup racing, Jimmie Johnson was at it again. Kasey Kahne pulled into the series with a win in Charlotte, increasing his win total to six wins, but Johnson followed right up with a win the next week in Martinsville. Six to five.
For the next three weeks, though, all Johnson could muster were infuriating second-place finishes in Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix and a ninth-place today, at Homestead. Kahne, 26, won his first Cup championship. Female fans and marketing agents rejoiced.
Nov. 20, 2005 (actual champion, Tony Stewart)
With three wins in the first 10 races, Greg Biffle started the season hot. He fizzled a little as the season progressed and during the summer Tony Stewart caught up. Stewart won five of seven races in June, July and August.
Then suddenly both stopped winning. They stayed tied at five wins. Other drivers threatened to move in, Jimmie Johnson picked up four wins, but none reached five. So at Homestead it came down to two drivers: Stewart and Biffle. One last race with everything at stake.
March 20, 2009
What if all that were true?