As we head to Richmond this weekend, the most competitive Chase race in history will feature 11 drivers in a quest for the final eight spots in the 12-car field. With just 105 points separating fifth-place
Indeed, it appears the competition between the sport's top teams has evened out after being heavily skewed towards a select few in 2008. Through 25 races last year,
But in 12 months, the sport's balance of power has evened out. Once the smoke clears on Saturday night at Richmond, the series could have a record eight organizations in the Chase for the first time in history (Stewart-Haas, Hendrick, Roush Fenway, Gibbs, Earnhardt Ganassi,
The parity extends to the men behind the wheel, as
Spreading the wealth on Victory Lane has also gone far beyond the guys competing for a spot in the Chase. This year has seen a single-car team win for the first time since 2003 (Phoenix Racing), while three organizations (Phoenix,
Certainly, the excitement has been muted due to the way some of these drivers have won. (Keselowski prevailed at a restrictor plate race, with engine restrictions evening out the competition, while Reutimann and Logano got a boost from Mother Nature in rain-shortened races). But when we look at the record books a year from now, their names will be etched in stone on the all-time victories list. It's far better than seeing the same driver pull into Victory Lane week after week ... right?
Those same fresh faces should extend into the 12-car Chase field.
In the past, these bubble battles to make the postseason have had minimal impact, as the title favorites were those who clinched weeks ago. But during this unique season, Hamlin is the only driver in the top 5 in points with finishes of 10th or better the last five races. The other three already holding a spot (
Clearly, this year's Sprint Cup season has been far from perfect: the half-dozen teams who start-and-park each week,