WAID’S WORLD: NASCAR Critics Aside, Busch’s Title a Noteworthy Achievement

Conspiracy theorists and naysayers have always been a party of NASCAR and it is no different today.

They will complain about most anything. They will debase the sanctioning body’s rules, regulations, policies and competition conduct – that is, changing the rules as it goes along.

Their contention is that NASCAR is all about benefitting itself and thus has let racing slide to new lows.

It really doesn’t care about the welfare of its competitors or fans.

They say that they will not have anything more to do with NASCAR – especially watch it on television, where they have to endure endless commercials and abominable announcers.

Now don’t make the mistake of assuming I’m talking about everyone. Far from it. Fans are free to express their opinions about NASCAR and lord knows, the media weighs in almost daily.

What I want to stress about the conspiracy theorists is that they express opinions, not largely based on fact, for the sole reason of slamming NASCAR.

We all complain. These folks do it for a living.

Yeah, sounds like a stretch. Trust me, it’s true.

Consider Kyle Busch’s championship.

For the vast majority of us it was an amazing feat. I believe it will become a part of NASCAR lore.

Busch broke his leg and foot in a crash at Daytona. Busch was in great pain, but more than that, he thought the incident might well end his career.

Many thought it would take Busch half a season to return. But through rugged, painful physical therapy, he returned to racing after just 11 races had been conducted.

NASCAR ruled that Busch would be eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he won a race and finished among the top 30 in points.

Few thought he could pull it off. I was not one of them.

After two wrecks in three races Busch said his situation was grim. All he could do was be the best he could be for his team and be ready for 2016 if it came to that.

It didn’t. Miraculously, he won at Sonoma and followed that with three victories in the next four races.

He moved into the top 30 after he finished second at Watkins Glen. He was in the Chase.

But the naysayers spoke their mind. They said Busch should never have a chance at all to make the Chase. They said NASCAR should never adopt a point system that allows that to happen.

And the sanctioning body should never, never have given Busch any concessions.

This is ridiculous.

First any point system that offers an injured competitor the chance to return and do his best to win a title is a fair system. It doesn’t rule against the victim of an incident not of his making.

NASCAR did not give Busch a handout. It would have made the same concessions to any other driver in a similar situation. And do I have to say again that even with the sanctioning body’s ruling, many of us thought that would not matter. Busch would not make it, anyway.

But he did. His achievement must be duly recognized.

Speaking of the point system, and the Chase, they receive the harshest criticism from the naysayers.

To wit:

With the Chase, the first 26 races of the season mean nothing.

The Chase is not fair to drivers in that they can be eliminated from championship contention with one, maybe two, bad races.

Any championship must be decided over the course of an entire season rather than any “playoff.”

I agree with that one. Ideally, a title should be based on season achievement. But an appropriate system has never been found.

Over decades NASCAR altered how points were awarded. Its aim was to be reward consistency yet at the same time provide as much drama as possible. Close championship battles would be, hopefully, regular parts of a campaign.

Seldom happened. It won’t take you 10 fingers to count how many close season championship battles took place over the last two, or even three, decades.

In some seasons the title was decided one or two races before the final event of the year.

Which, by the way, helped set off firestorms of opinions, like the champion should be the driver who wins the most races. The champion should be the driver with the best average finish. Points should be awarded for winning a pole position … and so forth.

You can still hear, or read, those opinions today.

The Chase was brokered in 2004 to promote interest in a championship quest and quiet criticisms. It hasn’t.

But consider that the Chase is not much different from any other playoff in any other professional sport.

In any other professional sport, a team must earn its way into the playoffs, which means it must achieve success during the regular season.

Given that, in NASCAR those first 26 races are very important. A team must earn a berth in the Chase through victory or consistently high performance – success, right?

Teams face a “win or lose” situation when it comes to the playoffs in any other sport. Lose and they are out and it doesn’t matter what was accomplished during the regular season.

It’s similar in NASCAR. Chase teams must win or earn enough points to advance from round to round. Bad outings, for whatever reason, lead to expulsion.

Frankly, I don’t see much difference between NASCAR and the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB.

But I don’t see perfection. Conspiracy theorist and naysayers will quickly agree.

To be honest, there isn’t a point system NASCAR could create that would be perfect – or please everyone.

The reality is that, through the Chase, NASCAR has dealt the cards.

And after he overcame great adversity Kyle Busch came up with the winning hand.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

By Steve Waid

Steve Waid has been in motor sports journalism since 1972, the year he first started covering NASCAR, when he started his newspaper career at the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. From there Waid spent time at the Roanoke Times & World as well as NASCAR Scene, where he was the executive editor for 10 years. After retiring in 2010 he became the Vice President of Unplugged Auto Group for its website, and has now joined POPULAR SPEED as an editor and columnist. Waid has won numerous writing awards and other such accolades. In January of 2014 he was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.