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How many races can a driver miss on a championship run?

First of all, I’d like to express congratulations to Kyle Busch on his 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Earlier this season when Busch was granted his waiver to attempt to race his way into the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field, I was skeptical as to whether no Busch should have received such a waiver, and honestly, I still am. The guy, after all, missed 11 of the 26 regular season races. I admit, I thought the debate was a moot point, at that time, because, while I saw him winning races soon upon his return, I didn’t see him getting into the top-30 in the points standings for those wins to get him into the Chase. But he did. And not only did he get into the Chase, Busch did what he needed to do to take the title.

By making the statement that I don’t think a waiver should have been granted, I’m not diminishing what Busch accomplished in his abbreviated season. I do think Busch is a deserving champion. He played within the rules and, within those rules, do what he needed to do to win the title. Well done, Mr. Busch. Well done.

My issue with it all is that Busch missed 11 races, yet was granted a waiver. I’m not against NASCAR issuing waivers for drivers who miss a race or two, or maybe even three or four. I’m not sure exactly where the line should be drawn, but I think it should’ve been drawn somewhere before 11.

Arguements for the waiver have included statements like early champions winning championships without running all the races. Well, to that I say, neither did anyone anyone else. There were so many races all over the country back then that nobody ran all the races. If running all the races, or at least all of them, had been a requirement, there probably wouldn’t have been a champion.

Another arguement had been that other waivers have been offered to drivers including Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and Brian Vickers. That’s true, but those waivers weren’t granted after missing a double-digit number of races. Vickers ended up missing almost all the season, but when his waiver was offered, he only expected to miss two races. The most races a waiver was issued for one of the aforementioned drivers was three races missed by Stewart last year. Three’s a far cry from 11, in my opinion.

Then, I’ve heard the comparison to other professional sports, such as one that goes something like this: If Tom Brady misses a few gaves due to injury and returns and the Patriots do what it takes to the Super Bowl, the Pats are still allowed to play in the Super Bowl. That’s true, but it’s not a fair comparison.

Here’s why:

The Patriots are a team and the rest of the team continues with or without Brady. If the Patriots forfeit almost half their regular season games, would they still advance to the Super Bowl? I doubt it.

Yes, NASCAR is a team sport, too, but the championship won by Busch is a driver championship, and him being out of the car or ineligible for a championship doesn’t exlude his team from competing for a title. What people who don’t follow NASCAR’s other two national series (Xfinity and Camping World Truck) may not realize is that there are two championships — a driver championship and an owner championship. The owner championship goes to the team. For example, in the Xfinity Series this year, Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 60 for Roush Fenway Racing, won the driver championship, while the No. 22 Team Penske team won the owner championship with multiple drivers behind the wheel of its entry.

That fact gets lost at the Sprint Cup level, because the same driver/team cobination takes both titles on a yearly basis, because on the top-level teams in the Cup level, the same driver is usually in the car all season. Busch not being granted a waiver wouldn’t have taken his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team out of championship contention. It would have still been able to compete for the owner championship.

Again, I’m not trying to take away from Busch’s 2015 Sprint Cup title. He’s a deserving champion, because, as I mentioned before, he played within those rules and won a championship within those rules.

I just think a rule modification may be in order — a modification that limits the number of races a driver may miss and still be granted a waiver. Just my two cents.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner

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Posted by on November 26, 2015. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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