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.
David Carl Allison was born on 25 February 1961 in Hollywood as the eldest child of Bobby and Julie Allison. During his lifetime he built a fine reputation as Robert Yates Racing’s best NASCAR driver, driving their #28 Texaco-Havoline Ford. Bobby Allison was a NASCAR driver, and it was inevitable that Davey Allison would follow in his father’s footsteps. The Allison family moved to Alabama and, together with Bobby’s brother, Donnie and two family friends, namely Neil Bonnett and Red Farmer, everyone in the racing circles knew them as the Alabama Gang.
After graduating from high school, Davey began working with Bobby Allison’s Winston Cup Team during the day, and at night Davey and his friends (affectionately known as the Peach Fuzz Gang) worked on Davey’s Chevy Nova. Birmingham International Raceway, in 1979, was the start to Davey Allison’s career. He had managed to secure a win in his sixth start and regularly won the BIR. By the year 1983, Davey had worked his way up to the Automobile Racing Club of America Series or ARCA. In the same year, he took the first place in both the ARCA events that took place at the Talledega Superspeedway, and in 1984 he received the ARCA Rookie of the Year, after the series title placed him second, and that same year he married Deborah.
Harry Ranier had been keeping a close eye on Davey, and had already chosen him to replace Cale Yarborough, who at that time was racing the Ranier-Lundy #28 Ford Thunderbird, but was leaving to start his own venture with Hardee’s. The date, 3 May 1987, would be remembered in the NASCAR history. The qualifying times for the Winston 500 that were held at the Talledega Superspeedway, set the scene for a spectacular show-down. Bill Elliot and Bobby Allison would start alongside each other, with first and second place, respectively. Davey Allison would pull away in third place. Bobby Allison drove over debris on the 22nd lap, cutting his rear tire and causing his car to slide, lift and crash into the spectator fence. The race ended up being red flagged for almost four hours, due to a few injured spectators. Bobby Allison walked away without injury.
Davey was still upfront when the race resumed, and Bill Elliot was forced to drop out of the race due to engine failure. Starting second on the restart, Davey managed to pass the race leader, Dale Earnhardt, and became the first rookie, since 1981 when Ron Bouchard won, to win a Winston Cup Event. Davey would go on to many disappointments, near death accidents and team changes, but he won a number of races in spectacular fashion. His wins include the Budweiser 500 in 1987, the Champion Spark Plug 400 and Miller High Life 400 in 1988, the Winston 500 and Pepsi 400 in 1989, the Valleydale Meats 500 and Mello Yello 500 in 1990, clocking up an amazing five wins in 1991, being the Coca-Cola 600, Banquet Frozen Foods 300, Miller Genuine Draft 400, AC Delco 500 and Pyroil 500, with another five wins in 1992, being the Daytona 500, First Union 400, Winston 500, Miller Genuine Draft 400 and Pyroil 500K. Davey ended his career with winning the Pontiac Excitement 400 in 1993.
On 12 July 1993, Davey Allison was underway to Neil and David Bonnet who were test driving a new car for David Bonnets Busch Series debut, in his new Hughes 396 helicopter. Red Farmer, another legendary driver, had joined Allison on the trip. On landing, the helicopter suddenly nosed up and crashed to the ground. Neil was able to free Red Farmer, but had to wait for Paramedics to free Davey. Davey Allison died on 13 July 1993, leaving behind his second wife, Liz, and two children. In 1998, Davey Allison was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Dale Earnhardt Snr was one of the greatest NASCAR drivers, known for his aggressive style of driving. Known by numerous nicknames such as “The Intimidator”, “The Dominator”, “Big E” and “Ironhead”, Dale Earnhardt was one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR. Aside from his distinctive personality and driving ability, Earnhardt earned his place in autoracing history with his Winston Cup Series victories and as the winner of 7 championships.
Ralph Dale Earnhardt was born on 29 April 1951 in Kannapolis of North Carolina. Born into a family where his father, Ralph, was a top NASCAR short-track driver, it is little wonder that Dale became interested in the sport. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. debuted in the Winston Cup in the year 1975, and in his first race driving an Ed Negre, he passed the finish line in 22nd place. In 1979 Earnhardt joined Rod Osterlund Racing, and during his rookie season, he won Rookie of the Year after gaining four poles and several great finishes. 1980 was filled with success for Earnhardt and he clinched the Winston Cup championship. Earnhardt moved to Richard Childress Racing in 1981, and although he had a bad season in 1982, he came back with remarkable strength in 1983. He gained his second Winston Cup Championship in 1986. Earnhardt saw a grand victory in 1986, once again winning, by 288 points.
The 1990s were off to a good start when Earnhardt won the Winston Cup for the 4th time in his career. He repeated this victory again in 1991, 1993 and 1994 – a total of 7 Winston Cup championship wins. He suffered a grave accident in 1996 which led the NASCAR officials to mandate the “Earnhardt Bar”. Fortunately Dale Earnhardt survived, although he had several broken bones. In 1998 Earnhardt finally gained victory at the Daytona 500, a win he had been aiming for for some 20 years. Earnhardt excited the crowds in 2000 with two thrilling wins, neck-in-neck with Bobby Labonte.
Sadly Dale Earnhardt Sr. was involved in a terrible accident in the 2001 Daytona 500 and lost his life. The death of Dale Earnhardt led to much media speculation, extensive coverage and great public concern. Following his death, NASCAR placed greater emphasis on safety with better restraints, safer barriers, strict rules for vehicle inspection and the development of a roof escape system.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. received many awards in his lifetime for his exceptional role in NASCAR, and in 1998 was placed second in NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Earnhardt was named Most Popular NASCAR Driver of 2001 and was an inductee of the Motorsports Hall of Fame Of America in 2002. Recently, in 2006 he was also inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. His son Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues in his father’s footsteps as a successful driver. Earnhardt also left behind three other children, namely, Kelley King, Taylor and Kerry. Dale Earnhardt Snr was certainly a force to be reckoned with on the race track and will always be remembered for his grand achievements.
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.