|11||+2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2196||1848||33||0||4||12||18||2||$5,716,030|
Ever since this new Chase format was revealed to us, we were told that it would put a new emphasis on winning. "Win and you're in!" And to some extent that's true, as far as moving on to the next level. But take a look now that we're down to the last round and you'll see that half of our top four drivers - both Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth are in with nary a win for all of 2014 so far. Meanwhile, Jimmie with three wins, Junior with four and Kyle Busch with four are out. Brad Keselowski with six and Kevin Harvick (who has been the fastest in the garage for most of the season) with three are teetering on the brink of being knocked out.
Are some teams gaming the system? We were told that now drivers would have to race every lap like it was the last one but it appears that some crew chiefs and drivers realized early on that, just like always, you were actually better off to play it safe and get good solid finishes than to push too hard for wins because in the end, consistency is just as important as it ever was. I wouldn't call it gaming the system because they are going by the same rules as everyone else but I would say that it is going around the obstacles rather than jumping over them.
It is betting the odds, of course, but if you're playing the consistency game, you know there will always be one spot based on points. In this round we're in now, we know there will be at least two slots open for Homestead since a non-Chaser won at Martinsville.
So it sort of boils down to whether a solid no-wins season is more rewarding in the long run than several wins if they come along with a few bad races and the answer to that question is clearly yes. Is that what you expected when you heard about this format? Are you satisfied with that answer?