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Idea for eliminating Denny Hamlin – William Byron – Michigan problem

I have a problem with what has transpired since the finish of the Irish Hills 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Denny Hamlin climbed into the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and won by a scant 0.012-second margin over William Byron, a series rookie in search of his first-career Xfinity win.
Yes, Byron just missed claiming his first-career win by a mere 0.012 seconds, a win that would’ve secured him a spot in the playoffs. Sure, Byron’s in a relatively comfortable position in the points standings to, almost certainly, get in without a win at Michigan, even if he doesn’t win over the course of the remainder of the regular season. But a win on Saturday would’ve locked-up a playoff spot, especially considering the rate of series championship-eligible drivers getting to victory lane this season not being very high. Heck, even that would be an overstatement. After all, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Reed are the only Xfinity Series regulars to get to victory lane this year, and they account for a whopping two wins. And what about those five playoff points Byron would’ve earned had he won Saturday — playoff points that he could carry with him throughout the playoffs?
Here’s the rub: Hamlin’s car failed post-race inspection because of an issue with the splitter. As a result, the win was considered “encumbered,” meaning neither the team nor Hamlin will reap any benefits of the win in terms of playoffs — no bonus points, win won’t get them in, etc. I guess I should’ve just said that the team won’t reap benefits, because Hamlin’s not an Xfinity championship contender; he doesn’t collect the points in the series.
The team does, though, so I’ll stop shy of saying that the penalty was a non-penalty, as I heard this morning on SiriusXM NASCAR radio. You see, the No. 20 team is one of those Xfinity teams with a “driver championship be damned” attitude; they’re going after the owner championship. You know, that championship that the race teams care about that fans pay little to no attention too, until those awkward awards banquet moments when multiple champions are honored.
Hamlin and the No. 20 Xfinity team weren’t the firsts to have a win deemed “encumbered” by NASCAR. That honor went to Joe Logano and his No. 22 Team Penske Ford team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series earlier this season. Logano still stands at one win that won’t get him into the playoffs or help him if he gets there some other way. The weight of that penalty seems heavy these days with Logano and company’s struggle that has left them, seemingly, treading water in the points pool. This may sound harsh, but I don’t feel bad for them. You break the rules; you pay the price.
To be honest, I didn’t feel all that sorry to the first loser to Logano back then. Maybe what transpired, then, didn’t seem so harsh, because Logano’s margin of victory wasn’t so small and he and his team are paying the price for their indiscretion, because, you see, the Logano issue came in a Cup race, and Logano competes for Cup championships.
Hamlin’s win or Byron’s loss, however you prefer to refer to it, was so small it was the smallest margin of victory (or defeat) in the Xfinity Series at Michigan since electronic scoring has been used in the series. With a margin so small, it’s easy to think that illegal splitter could’ve made that much of a difference. When you think about it, it’s like Byron was penalized more than Hamlin and his team for the No. 20 team’s rule-fudging.
What do you do, though? I sure don’t think different rules should apply to different competitors based on their statuses in the series. I think all competitors in a given race should race under the same rules.
Do I think this is an argument for “no Cup drivers in Xfinity, or Trucks for that matter?” No. The Camping World Truck Series is struggling as competitive teams/drivers have financial problems that have them shuttering operations, withdrawing from races or not knowing if they’ll be able to finish out the season. Call me paranoid for worrying that similar things may happen in the Xfinity Series if Cup drivers are completely eliminated from it.
I’m also not keen on the idea of stripping a win and automatically giving it to the next car in line. Depending on the rules infraction, some cars aren’t discovered to be illegal until a teardown a day or two later at the R&D Center. What if the second car was illegal, too? What if the win ended up going to a car that wasn’t torn down? Then, we wouldn’t know for sure whether or not the car that ended up with the win was really legal. NASCAR can’t tear down all 40 cars.
I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m not going to pretend to be. I don’t have a magic answer, but I did come up with and idea that makes sense to me right now. Who knows? What I’m about to say may seem completely ridiculous to me tomorrow, but for now, it’s making sense.
Here it goes:
Let’s do away with separate owner and driver championships. Each series should have one champion and both team and driver would be recognized for that one championship. As an owner, do you want to compete for a championship? Fine, put a championship-eligible driver in your car for the duration of a season. Want to put Cup drivers in a car to bring in revenue, increase chances of winning races, etc.? Fine, do it. But that car/driver combo won’t be eligible for the championship.
NASCAR is a team sport. Why have separate titles for team and driver?
There’s a part two to my idea, and here it is:
Since driver points are all that matter in my proposed one championship format, don’t bother awarding points to teams whose cars are driven by drivers not racing for championships in the series. Set up a points system in which the highest-finishing championship-eligible driver gets the max points, second series regular in the finishing order gets second-highest points, etc. Include all drivers/cars in the official finishing order, but when awarding points, use a version of the finishing order that excludes the Cup drivers in said Xfinity Series race.
Using the Hamlin/Byron situation from Saturday as the premise for an example — Byron would get max points as the highest-finishing championship-eligible driver.
As far as the whole “win and you’re in” thing and the playoff points awarded for wins — award those bonuses and priviledges to the highest-finishing regular in each race. For example, let’s say Allgaier has been the highest-finishing series regular in five races, so far, this season. That’s 25 playoff points, equal to the playoff points he would receive for winning five races under the current system. Also, under this proposed system, he’s considered a five-time winner, so he’s, most definitely, in the playoffs.
I’m not sure if I explained my idea well, but trust me; in my head, it makes perfect sense, at least for now.
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 (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on June 22, 2017. 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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