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 1934 in Whitney, South Carolina, David Gene Pearson was rated as one of the top two stock car drivers in the world. He competed for the title against Richard Petty – himself a notable and excellent driver. During the course of his career David Pearson came to be called the ‘Silver Fox’ – a glint of light pulsing on the raceway. He made his racing debut on the Grand National racing circuit in 1960, where he took the Rookie of the Year award that year. Right from the start it was obvious that he was at the top of his game and he won the 1966, 1968 and the 1969 NASCAR Championships. His stiffest competition came from Richard Petty and their continual duels for first place are most memorable.
David Pearson’s NASCAR Winston Cup driving career started in 1960 and ended in 1986. During those twenty-six years he managed to achieve every accomplishment possible. In the majority of his races he constantly fought Richard Petty for first place and the two had a number of firsts and seconds to their names. Pearson won the national championships three times in the short four year period that he ran for it. He raced a staggering total of 574 events and he won 105 of them. He also enjoyed 113 pole positions during his racing career. The most memorable battle between Pearson and Petty occurred at the 1976 Daytona 500 when the two collided into the wall after slamming against each other’s front fender. Petty’s car spun off the track and he was left to watch helplessly as Pearson’s car limped across the finish line to claim first place.
In additiona to his numerous victories, Pearson also managed to receive a number of awards. He took the ‘Most Popular Driver’ Award in 1979 and 1980. In 1990 he was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and in 1998 he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. He was also made a part of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993. Pearson is one of only eight drivers to have won a Career Grand Slam in the history of NASCAR racing. Before retiring in 1986, Pearson built a family-run garage which incorporated his three sons in various roles and which won the Busch Grand National championship in 1986 and 1987. Unfortunately the team was disbanded in 1990 but most of his sons are still actively racing.
Kurt Busch was born in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 4, 1978 and is well known as a NASCAR driver. In the Nextel Cup Series he pilots the #2 Miller Lite Dodge and on a part time basis drives the #39 Penske Truck Rental Dodge in the Busch Series. The first NASCAR championship that Kurt won was in 2004, and in 2005 he drove the #97 Sharpie/Irwin Industrial Tools Ford for Roush Racing. With a win in the Busch Series he became one of sixteen drivers to win the top three NASCAR divisions.
Kurt Busch gained his first national exposure in 1998 at the Tucson Raceway Park during the Winter Heat Series, and following the tragic death of Chris Trickle who was killed in a drive-by shooting, Busch was accepted into the team where he proceeded to win the 1999 AutoZone Elite Division Southwest Series championship.
In 2000, at the age of 21 years, Busch started racing on the Winston Cup circuit. Here he drove in seven races but had dismal year-ends with no wins, no top five’s or top ten’s, finishing 48th altogether. In 2001 Kurt Busch ran for rookie of the year honors but won no races, however he did receive 3 top 5’s and 6 top 10’s. Kurt also achieved his first pole positioning when he gave the quickest qualifying lap in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and finished the year in 27th position. Busch almost won the 2002 championship finishing 3rd that year. The next year was inconsistent with good wins and bad losses, and was made worse with his continuing feud with fellow driver, Jimmy Spencer.
In 2004 Busch became the second driver to sweep both races at Loudon in one season. His achievements for the season included three wins, two poles, 10 top-fives, 21 top-tens and winning the inaugural NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship. Midway through 2005, Busch made known that he would moving from Roush Racing to drive the #2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing South (now Penske Championship Racing). He claimed three wins during 2005, with nine top-fives and 18 top-tens, finishing 10th in the final standings.
Driving for Penske in the 2006 season, Busch scored one win at Bristol Motor Speedway, being his fifth win at the track. He also earned six poles, 7 top-fives and 12 top-tens, finishing 16th in the final standings. In 2007 he qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, as well as clocking up two wins, one pole, 5 top-fives and 10 top-tens. 2008 saw some reshuffling of points in the Penske team to ensure Busch’s rookie team-mate Sam Hornish Jr clinched a starting spot in the first five races of the season. Busch claimed his fourth win for Penske Racing when he was in the lead of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 that was called on lap 284 due to rain.
2009 got off to a bad start with a multi-car wreck at the 2009 Daytona 500 in which Busch’s car was damaged. He nevertheless managed to finish tenth. He went on to qualify fourth for the second race of the season at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway, where he ran in the top five for most of the race, finishing fifth. Later in the year he claimed victory at the 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 after leading 235 of the race’s 325 laps. By March 2010, Kurt Busch had achieved four starts, one win, one pole, one top-five and 2 top-tens for the season, as he continues to drive for Penske Racing alongside team-mates Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish.
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.