What Would Have Been: Chase Edition

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 11: Top-ten drivers involved in the NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup, (L-R) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Elliott Sadler, Jeremy Mayfield, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Mark Martin pose following the NASCAR Nextel Cup Chevy Rock & Roll 400 on September 11, 2004 at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, VA – SEPTEMBER 11: Top-ten drivers involved in the NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

The Chase. Implemented in 2004, it has went through a handful of changes, a lot of controversy, and many Champions. People have praised it and criticized it. This latest Chase format, starting in 2014, seems to be the most controversial. Fans, drivers and others alike have had their opinions on the Chase. Does it drastically change the outcome of the season? Would the same driver who won in the Chase, win without it?

I’m about to break all of that down. Using the popular statistics site: Racing-Reference.info, I’ll show you the Chase standings each year, starting in 2004, and the non-chase standings as well.

Here is how it all breaks down:

2004 Chase:

Under NASCAR’s new format rules, known as “The Chase”, the top 10 drivers plus and any additional drivers within 400 points of the leader, by the end of the 26th race would be eligible to compete in a final “10-race playoff” to determine champion.

Points standings after the 2004 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Kurt Busch 6506
2 Jimmie Johnson 6498 -8
3 Jeff Gordon 6490 -16
4 Mark Martin 6399 -107
5 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 6368 -138
6 Tony Stewart 6326 -180
7 Ryan Newman 6180 -326
8 Matt Kenseth 6069 -437
9 Elliott Sadler 6024 -482
10 Jeremy Mayfield 6000 -506

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after the 2004 Ford 400:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jeff Gordon 5042
2 Jimmie Johnson 4995 -47
3 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 4869 -173
4 Kurt Busch 4795 -247
5 Tony Stewart 4701 -341
6 Jamie McMurray 4597 -445
7 Mark Martin 4597 -445
8 Matt Kenseth 4376 -666
9 Ryan Newman 4361 -681
10 Elliott Sadler 4315 -727

There were a handful of differences between the Chase and non-chase standings after the 2004 finale, the most obvious being the Champion.

2005 Chase:

Tony Stewart was the dominant driver going into the ten-race Chase with five wins. Going into the final race before the, Stewart had a 209-point lead over his 2nd place, Greg Biffle. When the points were reset going into the first Chase race, Stewart’s lead was dropped to a 5-point margin.

 Points standings after the 2005 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Tony Stewart 6533
2 Greg Biffle 6498 -35
3 Carl Edwards 6498 -35
4 Mark Martin 6428 -105
5 Jimmie Johnson 6406 -127
6 Ryan Newman 6359 -174
7 Matt Kenseth 6352 -181
8 Rusty Wallace 6140 -393
9 Jeremy Mayfield 6073 -460
10 Kurt Busch 5974 -559

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Tony Stewart 5199
2 Greg Biffle 4984 -215
3 Jimmie Johnson 4771 -428
4 Mark Martin 4676 -523
5 Carl Edwards 4597 -602
6 Rusty Wallace 4512 -687
7 Matt Kenseth 4451 -748
8 Ryan Newman 4409 -790
9 Jeremy Mayfield 4281 -918
10 Kurt Busch 4248 -951

The Champion would still have been Tony Stewart after a dominating season.

 2006 Chase:

No major changes were made for the 2006 Chase.

Points standings after the 2006 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 6475
2 Matt Kenseth 6419 -56
3 Denny Hamlin 6407 -68
4 Kevin Harvick 6397 -78
5 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 6328 -147
6 Jeff Gordon 6256 -219
7 Jeff Burton 6228 -247
8 Kasey Kahne 6183 -292
9 Mark Martin 6168 -307
10 Kyle Busch 6027 -448

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 5158
2 Matt Kenseth 5154 -4
3 Kevin Harvick 4838 -320
4 Tony Stewart 4727 -431
5 Denny Hamlin 4725 -433
6 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 4641 -517
7 Jeff Gordon 4567 -591
8 Jeff Burton 4535 -623
9 Kasey Kahne 4497 -661
10 Mark Martin 4484 -674

The Champion was still Jimmie Johnson in the non-chase standings.

2007 Chase:

NASCAR expanded the field of the Chase contenders to the top 12 drivers in the points standings after the first 26 races. Each drivers’ point were reset to 5,000 points, with ten-bonus points given for each race won. The provision letting all drivers within 400 points of the leader was dropped.

Points standings after the 2007 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 6723
2 Jeff Gordon 6646 -77
3 Clint Bowyer 6377 -346
4 Matt Kenseth 6298 -425
5 Kyle Busch 6293 -430
6 Tony Stewart 6242 -481
7 Kurt Busch 6231 -492
8 Jeff Burton 6231 -492
9 Carl Edwards 6222 -501
10 Kevin Harvick 6199 -524

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jeff Gordon 5455
2 Jimmie Johnson 5102 -353
3 Tony Stewart 4749 -706
4 Matt Kenseth 4718 -737
5 Denny Hamlin 4623 -832
6 Kyle Busch 4585 -870
7 Carl Edwards 4574 -881
8 Clint Bowyer 4556 -899
9 Jeff Burton 4549 -906
10 Kurt Busch 4371 -1084

Hendrick Motorsports would have still housed the Champion but Jeff Gordon lost out on his second possible title under the Chase format.

2008 Chase:

A merger with Nextel and Sprint led to the name change of the series to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Also, Coors Light replaced Budweiser as the Official Beer of NASCAR and the pole award sponsor.

Points standings after the 2008 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 6684
2 Carl Edwards 6615 -69
3 Greg Biffle 6467 -217
4 Kevin Harvick 6408 -276
5 Clint Bowyer 6381 -303
6 Jeff Burton 6335 -349
7 Jeff Gordon 6316 -368
8 Denny Hamlin 6214 -470
9 Tony Stewart 6202 -482
10 Kyle Busch 6186 -498

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Carl Edwards 5236
2 Jimmie Johnson 5220 -16
3 Kyle Busch 4984 -252
4 Greg Biffle 4747 -489
5 Jeff Burton 4709 -527
6 Kevin Harvick 4691 -545
7 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 4605 -631
8 Jeff Gordon 4537 -699
9 Tony Stewart 4487 -749
10 Clint Bowyer 4487 -749

Carl Edwards would have been the series Champion under the non-chase standings; Instead, Jimmie Johnson won his third title in a row.

2009 Chase:

No major changes were made for the 2009 Chase.

Points standings after the 2009 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 6652
2 Mark Martin 6511 -141
3 Jeff Gordon 6473 -179
4 Kurt Busch 6446 -206
5 Denny Hamlin 6335 -317
6 Tony Stewart 6309 -343
7 Greg Biffle 6292 -360
8 Juan Pablo Montoya 6252 -400
9 Ryan Newman 6175 -477
10 Kasey Kahne 6128 -524

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 5156
2 Jeff Gordon 5090 -66
3 Tony Stewart 5085 -71
4 Denny Hamlin 4806 -350
5 Mark Martin 4762 -394
6 Kurt Busch 4758 -398
7 Greg Biffle 4541 -615
8 Juan Pablo Montoya 4503 -653
9 Kyle Busch 4457 -699
10 Ryan Newman 4447 -709

Jimmie Johnson would still have won the Champion.

 2010 Chase:

No major changes were made to the 2010 Chase.

Points standings after the 2010 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 6622
2 Denny Hamlin 6583 -39
3 Kevin Harvick 6581 -41
4 Carl Edwards 6393 -229
5 Matt Kenseth 6294 -328
6 Greg Biffle 6247 -375
7 Tony Stewart 6221 -401
8 Kyle Busch 6182 -440
9 Jeff Gordon 6176 -446
10 Clint Bowyer 6155 -467

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Kevin Harvick 5274
2 Jimmie Johnson 4989 -285
3 Denny Hamlin 4865 -409
4 Carl Edwards 4820 -454
5 Jeff Gordon 4669 -605
6 Kyle Busch 4647 -627
7 Matt Kenseth 4640 -634
8 Tony Stewart 4628 -646
9 Kurt Busch 4459 -815
10 Jeff Burton 4423 -851

Kevin Harvick would have been celebrating his first title in 2010 instead of 2014.

2011 Chase:

After 26 “regular season” races, the top 10 drivers automatically advanced to contend for the Cup championship along with two “wild card” qualifiers, drivers ranked from 11th through 20th in drivers’ points who have the most regular-season race wins. The 12 drivers’ championship points are reset to a base of 2,000. Each of the 10 automatic qualifiers receives a bonus of 3 points for each win during the regular season, while the two wild card qualifiers receive no bonus.

Points standings after the 2011 Ford 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Tony Stewart 2403
2 Carl Edwards 2403 0
3 Kevin Harvick 2345 -58
4 Matt Kenseth 2330 -73
5 Brad Keselowski 2319 -84
6 Jimmie Johnson 2304 -99
7 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 2290 -113
8 Jeff Gordon 2287 -116
9 Denny Hamlin 2284 -119
10 Ryan Newman 2284 -119

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Carl Edwards 1278
2 Kevin Harvick 1200 -78
3 Tony Stewart 1191 -87
4 Jimmie Johnson 1188 -90
5 Matt Kenseth 1180 -98
6 Jeff Gordon 1150 -128
7 Kyle Busch 1124 -154
8 Ryan Newman 1103 -175
9 Kurt Busch 1087 -191
10 Brad Keselowski 1079 -199

We would be saying “two-time Champion Carl Edwards” after the 2011 season under the non-chase format.

2012 Chase:

NASCAR changed to fuel injection from carburetors, which had been used since NASCAR’s founding in 1949

Points standings after 2012 Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Brad Keselowski 2400
2 Clint Bowyer 2361 -39
3 Jimmie Johnson 2360 -40
4 Kasey Kahne 2345 -55
5 Greg Biffle 2332 -68
6 Denny Hamlin 2329 -71
7 Matt Kenseth 2324 -76
8 Kevin Harvick 2321 -79
9 Tony Stewart 2311 -89
10 Jeff Gordon 2303 -97

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Brad Keselowski 1259
2 Greg Biffle 1240 -19
3 Jimmie Johnson 1231 -28
4 Matt Kenseth 1218 -41
5 Clint Bowyer 1213 -46
6 Denny Hamlin 1167 -92
7 Kevin Harvick 1162 -97
8 Martin Truex, Jr. 1161 -98
9 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1144 -115
10 Kyle Busch 1133 -126

Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have been top-10 in the points standings.

2013 Chase:

The 2013 season was the first season using the Generation 6 racecar and marked the return to the qualifying procedure that was used before the 2005 season.

Points standings after the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 2419
2 Matt Kenseth 2400 -19
3 Kevin Harvick 2385 -34
4 Kyle Busch 2364 -55
5 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 2363 -56
6 Jeff Gordon 2337 -82
7 Clint Bowyer 2336 -83
8 Joey Logano 2323 -96
9 Greg Biffle 2321 -98
10 Kurt Busch 2309 -110

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jimmie Johnson 1248
2 Kevin Harvick 1207 -41
3 Matt Kenseth 1192 -56
4 Kyle Busch 1163 -85
5 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1144 -104
6 Carl Edwards 1118 -130
7 Clint Bowyer 1115 -133
8 Jeff Gordon 1087 -161
9 Greg Biffle 1077 -171
10 Kurt Busch 1071 -177

The Chase and non-chase standings were the most similar in 2013.

2014 Chase:

Chase field is expanded to 16 drivers for the 10-race Chase. The 16 drivers are chosen based on wins. If fewer than 16 drivers win races during the regular season, the remaining field is filled on the basis of regular season points. The bottom four of the top-16 drivers are eliminated from title contention after the third race (Dover) in what is called the “Challenger Round”. The bottom four have their points reset based on the standard points system, while the remaining 12 Chase drivers’ points are reset to 3,000 points. The new bottoms four are eliminated after the sixth Chase race (Talladega) in the “Contender Round”. Those who continue have their points reset to 4,000. Then the “Eliminator Round” the bottom four are again eliminated after the ninth Chase race (Phoenix), and the top four drivers have their point totals reset to 5,000 so that they are tied for the final race at Homestead-Miami for the title run. Of these four drivers, the driver with the best finish at Homestead is then the crowned series champion.

Points standings after the 2014 Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Kevin Harvick 5043
2 Ryan Newman 5042 -1
3 Denny Hamlin 5037 -6
4 Joey Logano 5028 -15
5 Brad Keselowski 2361 -2682
6 Jeff Gordon 2348 -2695
7 Matt Kenseth 2334 -2709
8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 2301 -2742
9 Carl Edwards 2288 -2755
10 Kyle Busch 2285 -2758

 

Non-‘Chase’ standings after this race:
Rank Driver Points Diff
1 Jeff Gordon 1253
2 Joey Logano 1216 -37
3 Brad Keselowski 1179 -74
4 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1175 -78
5 Kevin Harvick 1167 -86
6 Ryan Newman 1135 -118
7 Matt Kenseth 1131 -122
8 Kyle Larson 1080 -173
9 Jimmie Johnson 1067 -186
10 Carl Edwards 1059 -194

Jeff Gordon lost a third Championship under the Chase format.

Heading to Charlotte this season, Joey Logano would be leading the standings and Jimmie Johnson would have been sixth. The Chase, no matter what format, has drastically changed the outcome of the seasons. Should NASCAR get rid of the Chase? I don’t know, but looking at what could have been…

 

*the statistics and point standings in the article came directly from Racing-Reference.info.

Katie Copple

They say the best things are left unsaid. I say, the best things need to be put down on paper...or the internet in this case. I discovered NASCAR and the world of motorsports in college and it changed my life... and my career path. Now, when people ask me to describe myself, I tell them that I am a 20-something that has an obsession with racecars.

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