Coaches in basketball, football, hockey and baseball can only hope to face the dilemma at the end of the season of whether to rest starters before the playoffs or try to maintain momentum.
Racing doesn’t offer any chance to rest. And 10-point bonuses for each win during the regular season keeps crew chiefs from saving their best cars and taking more chances with setups.
Unlike other sports, success in racing’s regular season carries over into the playoffs. Each victory in the first 26 races is worth a
10-point head start in the Chase for the Championship, so it’s important for teams to stay wide open all the way to the finish line.
“You always want to win and you always want to bring your best stuff,” Matt Kenseth said. “Obviously, they rank you by wins and our sport is quite a bit different.
“It would be like in the NFL if they started your playoff game with some points, instead of starting 0-0. That’s kind of how it is. If you win here, you start the playoffs with some points, so, obviously, that’s really important.”
The top 10 drivers in the standings after the 26th race all advance to the Chase. So do two drivers with the most wins outside the top 10. The top 10 are reshuffled based on their wins, while the two wild cards must start 11th and 12th.
If the playoffs started this week, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart all would be tied for first with a 30-point lead over the non-winners and wild card drivers. Johnson currently leads the standings, while Keselowski is fifth and Stewart is eighth, but all have a series-best three wins.
Denny Hamlin would be fourth with two wins.
Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are second through fourth, respectively, but all would be tied for fifth with one win if the playoffs were this week.
NEW DEALS: While Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Marcos Ambrose continue to work on new contracts, Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray apparently have new deals in place.
Truex said he’s hammered out all the details to remain in the No. 56 Toyota at Michael Waltrip Racing; McMurray said he’s already signed a contract extension to remain in the No. 1 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I’m not going to say it’s done, but it’s basically done,” Truex said. “I’m very, very happy about that.”
McMurray said he actually signed a new contract last May.
“I haven’t really talked about it,” he said. “Nobody asked me and I didn’t really volunteer it.”
Logano apparently has a couple options – remaining at Joe Gibbs Racing in a yet-to-be-defined role or driving the No. 22 Ford next year at Penske Racing.
JGR is trying to find sponsorship for a fourth car to keep Logano in house. Kenseth will drive the No. 20 Toyota next year, and that currently leaves Logano in limbo.
Car owner Roger Penske hopes to have a driver selected to replace AJ Allmendinger in a month. Sam Hornish Jr., who’s filled in for Allmendinger after his suspension for failing a NASCAR drug test, Brian Vickers and Logano reportedly are the leading candidates for the Penske job.
Newman might have additional funding from Quicken Loans to replace the loss of the U.S. Army, and that might help him remain at Stewart-Haas Racing next year.
Ambrose is in the final year of his contract at Richard Petty Motorsports, but he’s expected to remain with that team.