Top 10 Reasons to Watch the Chase!

  1. Crowning a Champion: This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for since the beginning of the season all the way back in February. The fact that the champion won’t be known until the checkered flag is flown at Homestead-Miami Speedway makes it even better and more suspenseful. Prior to this format, the champion could have already been determined well before the season finale, and in most cases, if the championship hadn’t been determined yet, only two drivers were in contention. With this four-round format, four drivers have a realistic shot at taking home the trophy at the end of the day. Eliminating four contenders after each round is still intriguing. Also, there’s the possibility of a new champion, which means new champ die-cast.
  2. New Blood: There are five drivers in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup who weren’t there last year: Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon. Of the five, Stewart is the only driver who has been here before. They replace the following drivers from last year’s Chase: Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.
  3. Smoke’s Swan Song: After running more than 600 races over the course of 18 seasons, Tony Stewart’s career has come to this. By watching the Chase, fans will witness the last 10 races of a storied career. There is no doubt he’ll be a first-ballot inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible. Before he steps away from driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, does Stewart have one last hurrah in him? Will he go out on the highest of high notes by winning a fourth and final title in his last race? If so, only three other drivers in NASCAR history would have more. If he wins another race, he’ll reach the 50-win plateau, an achievement only 12 other drivers can claim.
  4. Johnson’s Bid for Seven: If Richard Petty is considered the “King of NASCAR”, then Jimmie Johnson should have the moniker “King of the Chase.” The 10-race Chase was first introduced in 2004 and has been a staple of every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season since then. So, if you do the math, heading into this season’s postseason there have been 120 races in the Chase since the inception of this format. What’s amazing about this is the fact that 26 of the races have been won by none other than Jimmie Johnson (21.67%). In 2007 – the year he took home his second of five consecutive titles – Johnson won four straight races in the Chase. In 2013, his most recent championship year, Johnson won twice in the Chase. Although he already has six championships and another one on his resume would tie him with Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most in the premier series, he’s gone on record saying he’d like to finish with at least eight titles. Will this be the year he ties two NASCAR Hall of Fame inaugural class members and take one step closer to that record-setting eighth title?
  5. The Legacy of the 3: Before the 2014 season, the last time the No. 3 car competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was in the 2001 Daytona 500. For the rest of that season and the next 12 seasons, Richard Childress kept the iconic car number tucked away from competition out of respect to the late Dale Earnhardt. In 2014, Childress brought the car number out of semi-retirement for his grandson Austin Dillon’s rookie campaign. Although Dillon hasn’t taken the No. 3 car to Victory Lane yet, he has the car in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time. If Dillon is able to win a race or two in the Chase and ultimately the championship, the No. 3 will receive an accolade it hasn’t had since 1994 – the distinction of being a championship-winning car.
  6. Wild Racing on Tap: This Chase is lining up to be one wild and crazy ride. From the tracks on the schedule that offer plenty of hair-raising action to the ongoing driver feuds, fans will definitely win this postseason. With tracks like Talladega, Martinsville and Charlotte on the slate, the excitement will be at a crest. Talladega and Martinsville will supply the aggressive driving and wrecks (with a possible “big one” thrown in for good measure) on two tracks that couldn’t be more different, while Charlotte offers the only night-time race in the Chase where sparks will fly in more than one way. From a personnel standpoint, it will be interested to keep a close eye on Stewart and Ryan Newman in the aftermath of their heated exchange prior to the Chase. Also, how will the No. 4 pit crew affect Kevin Harvick and his chance to go far in the Chase or even win his second title? I’ll also be watching how Kenseth and Keselowski race each other after wrecking last weekend at Richmond and the chase through the haulers during last year’s postseason madness. This is gonna be fun!
  7. Win One for the Chipper: Over all forms of motorsports racing, you would be hard-pressed to find a team with more combined success than Chip Ganassi Racing. In almost 30 years of ownership in the motorsports industry, Ganassi’s teams have won 18 championships, 11 of them in open-wheel competition. The one trophy that has eluded him is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy. Although his drivers haven’t won a NASCAR title, he’s still had plenty of success in NASCAR.  His drivers have 18 NASCAR wins, including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. This year, however, he has possibly his best chance at winning a championship with two drivers, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, in the Chase.
  8. The Little Team that Could: If you considered the favorites to win the title this year, you’d have drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports. No offense to the other teams with participants in the postseason, but these four teams are usually widely regarded in today’s sport as having the best chance at winning a title this year. Of course, this could change next year, five years from now or 10 years down the road. Of all the other teams with drivers in the Chase, Front Row Motorsports with their single driver, Chris Buescher, seems like the biggest longshot. The beauty of the Chase, however, is that with some strategic game plans and lucky breaks, Buescher could surprise us all and become the biggest upset champion in the sport’s history. Now, that would be cool.
  9. Toyota Goes for Two!: Last year, Kyle Busch brought Toyota its first driver’s championship. This year, Busch and four other drivers have the ability to make it two in a row. Busch and his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, as well as Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr., have been firing on all cylinders this year. Based on their success this season, all five of them have legitimate shots at bringing home the title. All four of them have multiple wins this season with Busch leading the way with four and Hamlin right behind him with three. Of the first 26 races, Toyota drivers have won 13 of them (50%). Only Busch (2015) and Kenseth (2003) have series championships.
  10. Nothing Beats Watching NASCAR (on location or TV): Okay, okay, I know there are a lot of NASCAR fans who also love to watch football, especially on Sundays in the fall when the Chase happens to be going on. Whether you’re watching a NASCAR race on television, streaming it live on some device or watching it in person at the track, there is just nothing that compares, including football. In every football game there are only two options. Either Team A or Team B wins; however, in NASCAR, you never know who’s going to win. Sure, you might have favorites and long shots, but you have 40 different possible winners. Chances are higher that your favorite driver might not win (whereas your favorite football team has a 50 percent chance at being victorious), but if he or she does, the feeling of excitement and elation is so much better. Plus, (and this has been written about by so many outlets that I won’t beat the point to death) there is no better race-day (or game-day) experience than what a NASCAR race offers a fan.
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