The Chase for the Sprint Cup was introduced to NASCAR to increase the competition mid-season, as well as to generate greater fan interest and higher television ratings. Certain changes have been made to the format since its inception in 2004, but The Chase continues to add drama to the NASCAR season.
The Chase was introduced in 2004 after Matt Kenseth won the Winston Cup in 2003 by such a large lead that much of the season lost its excitement, reducing ticket sales and TV ratings. Matt Kenseth had won only a single race all season, however, due to the point system and his consistent placing throughout the season, Matt Kenseth won. Because of his large point lead it was also a forgone conclusion, killing any possibility of a tight finish. On the other hand, Ryan Newman took first place in 8 races that season, but only finished in sixth place. This point system had proved more than once to be a dampener for spectators, who would rather switch the channel to watch the NFL. Thus the Chase for the Sprint Cup was introduced.
So how does the Chase for the Sprint Cup work? Once 26 races in the season have taken place, 12 drivers with the top points then qualify for The Chase. At this point the 12 NASCAR drivers’ points are adjusted to start with 5 000 points, along with an extra 10 points for each win the driver had during the season so far. These drivers will continue to compete for the last 10 races of the season. All 43 of the season’s drivers will still compete for wins and prize money under the standard point system. Drivers who win receive 190 points. Any competing driver who leads a lap in the course of the race will be awarded 5 bonus points. Also, 5 bonus points are given to the driver who leads for the most laps. At the end of the season’s final 10 races, the NASCAR driver with the top point total is named champion of the Sprint Cup Series. This Chase for the Sprint Cup format almost certainly results in a points’ battle right until the last race of the season, adding to the thrill of the sport.
Born in Summit, New Jersey, on 18 March 1937, Mark Neary Donohue Junior was a brilliant American racecar driver. Mark Donohue had a reputation for being able to set up his own car and drive it consistently. The bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering that he received from Brown University in 1959 must have certainly helped him in this regard. He started racing casually at the relatively young age of 22 in a 1957 Corvette – the car which gave him his first win. He started networking with a number of different SCCA drivers and eventually met Walt Hansgen. Hansgen was an experienced race driver who recognised Donohue’s talent and became his mentor. He encouraged Donohue to make good use of both his natural driving talent and his great working knowledge of vehicle mechanics – something which always proved to be an advantage to Donohue.
In 1965, Hansgen invited Mark to co-drive a Ferrari 275 at the Sebring Endurance Race. The team finished eleventh in the race and Donohue was catapulted onto the international sports car racing scene. The following year Donohue was signed up to drive a GT-40 MK II racecar for the Ford Motor Company. His first year with the company was rather unsuccessful and he finished 51st. The following year, he again raced for Ford – this year with much more success. Despite constant disagreements with his co-driver Bruce McLaren, the team managed to finish 4th in the endurance classic. In 1967, Mark Donohue dominated the United States Road Racing Championship in a Lola T70 MkIII Chevy. He was driving for Roger Penske – one of the most influential figures in his racing career. During that year he won six of the eight races he competed in. The following year, Donohue continued to enjoy a superior season – dominating in most of the races despite mechanical problems with his McLaren M6A Chevrolet.
Things continued to go well for Mark Donohue and before long he started his Trans-Am career which was also highly successful. He raced his first Indianapolis in 1969, finishing seventh and taking the rookie of the year award. The following year he finished second and in 1972 he won the race. During all this time he continued to drive for Roger Panske. In 1973, Donohue took to NASCAR racing driving in the Winston Cup Series. During this time Penske had been working with Donohue to help develop the 917/10 Porsche. Donohue offered his extensive enginnering knowledge to help make the Porsche the best car on the track – though not all the choices he made where good ones. Before long the two started working on the 917-30 – the car which came to be known as the ‘Can-Am Killer’. The body was completely reworked to make it more aerodynamic, while the car features a 5.4 litre turbocharged Flat-12 engine which could reach an output of 1500 bhp. The car dominated every competition it entered, except one, and is still today seen as one of the most dominant racing cars to ever be created. Donohue went on to enjoy a short Formula One racing career before his untimely death in 1974 in a racing accident. He was eventually inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.
Richard Lee Petty was born on July the second, 1937 in Level Cross, North Carolina, and is a well-known NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver. He won the NASCAR Championship seven times, has an overall record win of 200 races and he also won the Daytona 500 seven times. In 1967 he won a record of 27 races during the season, of which 10 were won consecutively, and nine Most Popular Driver awards. One can say that Petty is the greatest NASCAR driver to take part in these races. He also has a record for the most pole positions, 127 to be specific, and out of his 1185 starts he had over 700 top-ten finishes, which includes 513 consecutive starts during 1971 to 1989.
Richard Petty is a second-generation driver, his father, Lee Petty, being the first to win the Daytona 500 back in 1959 as well as a NASCAR champion. Richard married his wife Lynda Owens Petty in 1958 and together they had four children – Sharon Petty Farlow, Kyle Petty, Rebecca Petty Moffit and Lisa Petty Luck – as well as 12 grandchildren. Petty’s son, Kyle is also known as a talented NASCAR driver. The family still lives in Level Cross, NC where they operate Petty Racing as well as the Richard Petty Museum.
Richard Petty’s NASCAR career began when he was 21 years of age, on July 18, 1958. His first race took place at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds in Toronto where he finished 17th in an Oldsmobile. Both 1966 and 1967 were outstanding years for Petty, not only because of all his wins but because he was the first driver to win the Daytona 500 twice in a row. Over the years his dominance soon earned him the nickname “King Richard”. Richard started racing the Plymouth and in the end made it famous in the 2006 Pixar film “Cars”.
In late 1991, after many successful years as a NASCAR driver, Petty announced that after the 1992 season he would retire. Unlike other drivers Richard Petty drove the entire 1992 season. He organised a year-long “Fan Appreciation Tour”, which took him around the country where he participated in different events and ceremonies to thank his loyal fans.
Rated as one of NASCAR’s best ‘comeback drivers’ Ricky Craven started racing at the tender age of fifteen. Young Craven grew up in the state of New England and he began his racing career at the Unity Raceway, where he won two races in his first year and also garnered the Rookie of the Year award. At this young age his career skyrocketed, and in his second year of racing he won as many as twelve feature events and the track championship, following which he made the decision to run the Canadian-American tour, where he enjoyed even more success.
Shortly after this brilliant start, Ricky Craven suffered a number of failures. His bad luck lasted roughly four years, but he persevered and went on to enjoy some notable successes such as winning the Rookie of the Year Award at the Busch North Series. In 1991 he became the Busch North Series Champion, won two Busch Series races and made his debut at the Winston Cup. He decided to race the Busch Series full-time in 1992 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award yet again. In subsequent years he finished as a runner up in the championship standings and soon had several Winston Cup team owners knocking at his door. In 1995 he teamed up with Larry Hendrick Motorsports and Kodiak for a sensational season. He qualified for every race in the Winston Cup, finished in the top-ten four times and took the top rookie award. He also enjoyed an excellent year in 1996.
At the end of the year Craven was given the opportunity to drive for the Hendrick Motorsports team, which he immediately agreed to, and the new season started well. However, while practising for the Interstate Batteries 500 in1997, Craven crashed hard into the wall, suffering a concussion resulting in him missing two races. Before long he was back in the driver’s seat winning the Winston Open and finishing 19th in points. Unfortunately, things did not go so well the following year when the long-term effects of his concussion became evident and he was forced onto the sidelines until he recovered. He made one premature attempt at a return, winning the pole at the New Hampshire International Speedway before fading again. He went through a bad patch after this before returning to racing glory in 2000 when he won the Michigan International Speedway’s summer race, amongst other things. In 2003 he made NASCAR history at the Darlington Speedway, where he finished first in an epic battle against Kurt Busch. Following a season with Rousch Racing in 2005, and a failed attempt at winning the Goody’s 250 for FitzBradshaw Racing, Ricky Craven retired from the track and became a commentator and NASCAR analyst for ESPN and Yahoo! Sports.
On August the 4th, 1971, Jeffery Michael Gordon was born in Vallejo, California, but he was raised in Pittsboro, Indiana, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jeff Gordon is an American race car driver who has claimed the NASCAR Winston Cup four times and is the driver of the #24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS. Jeff is also co-owner of the #48 Lowe’s sponsored team, driven by the 2006 NEXTEL Cup series champion, Jimmie Johnson.
Jeff Gordon decided from a young age that he wanted to drive and his family fully supported him and his endeavors. They even went to the point of moving to Pittsboro, Indiana, where provisions are made for young drivers who want to race. Here Gordon was successful, winning three short-track races as well as being awarded with the USAC Midget Car Racing Rookie of the Year before the age of 18 years. Then in 1991,at the age of 20, Jeff was moved up to the USAC Silver Crown category becoming the youngest driver to win it.
Gordon had two excellent years with NASCAR Busch Series in 1991 and 1992 where he captured eleven poles in one season. In 1993, he had a full season in Winston Cup for Hendrick Motorsports, winning the Twin 125 Daytona 500 qualifying race, receiving the Rookie of the Year award and being placed 14th in points. Many critics questioned Gordon’s ability to participate in races of this caliber at such a young age, but in 1994, the critics were silenced when won the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in the Coca Cola 600, one of the most gruelling and demanding races. At the age of 24 he won one of his four NASCAR Winston Cup Championships. There are only two other drivers with more than four Cup titles. He was also the only NASCAR driver to have four Brickyard 400 victories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and one of five drivers to have four wins at the historic track.
NASCAR regards Jeff Gordon as one of its best drivers, especially with all that he has achieved at such a young age. At the age of thirty-five Gordon has collected 75 Nextel Cup victories, which is just one less of Dale Earnhardt Jnr‘s 76 wins and is ranked seventh on the all-time list.