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 1955 in Dawsonville, Georgia, William Clyde ‘Bill’ Elliott is one of the most distinguished drivers in Winston Cup history. In his early days he started by helping out at his father’s shop which sold parts for racecars. His father, George Elliott, was an avid racing fan and he often took his sons along to work where they would help fix up different cars. Bill’s two brothers, Ernie and Dan, also did some racing in their youths, but it was young Bill who had the biggest passion for the sport – a passion which his father encouraged after Bill started converting a road car into a race car. According to George, it was his way of keeping Bill off the back roads of racing. He bought his son a 1963 Ford Fairlane and before long, Bill was whizzing around the racetrack.
Bill Elliott started racing regularly in 1974 when he took to the Dixie Speedway in Georgia. When he started winning, with his father’s support, Bill’s career reached new heights and just two years later, Elliott made his first Winston Cup start at Rockingham. His first Winston Cup win came in November 1983 at Riverside and in 1985, he clocked up eleven wins and 11 poles. He took the chequered flag at the Winston Million and his success led to him being garnered with several nicknames such as ‘Million Dollar Bill’ and ‘Wild Bill’. He also became the first NASCAR driver to be featured on the cover of Sport Illustrated – an accomplishment which boosted his career even further. Amazingly enough, even though Elliott had enjoyed numerous successes by this stage in his career, he had not won the Winston Cup Championship. He eventually accomplished this feat in 1988.
With a career going back to 1975, by March 2010, Elliott had clocked up 810 NASCAR starts and 44 wins. He had won the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Series, placed in the Top Five 175 times, and 320 times in the Top Ten with a total recorded winnings exceeding US$37million. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on 15 August 2007. On Memorial Day in 2009, Bill Elliott became the 7th member of the so-called “800 Club” by taking his 800th career Sprint Cup start at the Lowes Motor Speedway. He was also the first NASCAR Driver to be featured in a video game. No doubt his reputation as a unpretentious and friendly person had endeared him to thousands of fans and, when combined with his brilliant racing ability, will continue to hold him in good stead as he continues onward with his racing career.
In 1983 Morgan McClure Motorsports, or MMM, was formed by Larry McClure and his business partner Tim Morgan. They had purchased a racing car from G.C. Spencer, a NASCAR racing veteran, and recruited the brothers Ed, Teddy and Jerry McClure later in the same year.
Morgan McClure Motorsports entered into their first NASCAR Winston Cup race at the then Alabama International Motor Speedway, now known as Talladega Super Speedway, in 1983. The No. 4 MMM Chevrolet that was sponsored by Oldsmobile, was driven by Connie Slayter. Unfortunately, the car blew its engine, and the team had to settle for 40th place.
MMM’s familiar yellow No. 4 Oldsmobile was unloaded in June 1986, as they had secured a sponsorship from Kodak. This would be the beginning of an 18 year relationship between Kodak and MMM, considered one of the longest sponsorships in the sport. In July 1988, Wilson and MMM both had their career best finish at the Pepsi 400, which was held at the Daytona International Speedway. Wilson came in second, after leading the race for 19 laps.
The 1990s also proved to be successful for the team. In 1990 the made the important decision to recruit Ernie Irvan to drive their No. 4 car. In the very first race that he drove for the team, Irvan started from a 30th spot and moved his way up to finish third. Another big decision that was made that year was to go over to Chevrolet, and gain more support from the vehicle manufacturer. No matter what, there just was no stopping Ernie Irvan. In 1991 he won the Great American Race held at the Daytona 500, won the Budweiser held in Watkins Glen and made the partnership between MMM and himself a force to be reckoned with.
Through the following years, Morgan McClure Motorsports have changed drivers, and strategies, and each time they have proved themselves to be even better than before. MMM’s twelve year partnership with Chevrolet came to an end in 2003 and it celebrated its 20th year anniversary. The success and growth had started with a dream shared by two men, and three employees to become one of the most popular and well knows companies on the track today.
William Caleb Yarborough, was born in South Carolina on 27 March 1939. This legendary figure is a former NASCAR driver and owner in the Winston Cup Series and a businessman. Cale Yarborough is one of the only two NASCAR drivers to win three championships consecutively. His face has also been seen on the cover of the popular magazine, Sports Illustrated.
On NASCAR’s all winner’s list, the name Cale Yarborough appears at number five, due to his 83 wins. But his achievements do not end there. Yarborough won the Daytona 500 in the years 1968, 1977, 1983 and again in 1984. He also became the first NASCAR driver, in 1984, to qualify with a top speed of over 200 miles per hour, for the Daytona 500.
Many mistakenly believed that Cale Yarborough was related to LeeRoy Yarbrough, another NASCAR veteran driver. The truth is, that Cale Yarborough was the son of a tobacco farmer. He attended his first race, without a ticket, as a young boy. It was the Southern 500, and the year was 1950. He was so desperate to drive, that he even lied about his age, which NASCAR picked up and promptly disqualified him. Yarborough returned to the Southern 500 in 1957, and made his debut driving for Bob Weatherly. He was behind the wheel of the #30 Pontiac, and after suffering complications with the car’s hubs, he worked himself two places up from his 44th starting position, to finish 42nd. The Southern States Fairground in 1960, was the race in which he secured his first top fifteen place and at the Daytona 500 Qualifying Race, in 1962, he finished in the top ten.
Cale Yarborough signed on with Herman Beam in 1963, to drive his #19 Ford, and at Savannah and Myrtle Beach, he finished both races in fifth place. He started the following season with Herman Beam, but finished the season with Holman Moody. Yarborough drove for a few owners, and ended up with Banjo Matthews in the beginning of the 1966 season. He finished in second place, twice, consecutively but left the team to join the Wood Brothers, driving their #21 Ford. Due to Yarborough only driving in 17 races, he was placed 20th in the standings, even though he won the Firecracker 400 and the Atlanta 500. He also went on to win the Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers and the Firecracker 400. He ended the season with a total of six wins. This moved him up in the standings, to 17th position. In 1980, Yarborough secured fourteen pole positions, winning six races and lost, by nineteen points, to Dale Earnhardt, who took the championship. Darrell Waltrip replaced Cale Yarborough at the end of the racing season. Yarborough then announced that he would only run part time, which he did for the rest of his career.
He won many more races, and brought home the win for various teams, ending his career while racing for Harry Ranier. Hardee’s had offered to sponsor Yarborough as a driver and owner of #29. He raced his final season in 1988, after which he retired. To add to his interesting career, Cale played himself in two TV episodes of The Dukes of Hazard. The episodes were called “Cale Yarborough comes to Hazard” in 1984 and “The Dukes meet Cale Yarborough” which aired in 1979. He also starred in the movie Stoker Ace, with Burt Reynolds, in 1983. Cale Yarborough is a legendary driver that has had a wonderful career, and made colorful memories to remember him by. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.
Darrell Lee Waltrip is a former three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion as well as the 1989 Daytona 500 winner. At the moment Waltrip is working at Fox Broadcasting Company as a television race commentator. His racing days started off in Kentucky, but with his growing success it led him to move to Nashville, Tennessee. There he raced at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds on the Nashville Speedway USA, where he won two track championships. Darrell Waltrip did a lot to help promote races by appearing on the local television program, something many other competitors refused to do.
In 1972 Waltrip started in the Cup level driving an old Mercury Cyclone, which was his primary car during the first few seasons. At the Cup level races Darrell drove aggressively and was known for his outspoken style, which earned him the nickname “Jaws” as given by his rival Cale Yarborough. The year 1980 was the height of Waltrip’s NASCAR success but at the same time it was where he had to endure criticism from his fans. Eventually he used his wit and silliness to win their hearts over.
Darrell Waltrip had much success with Junior Johnson, a car owner, winning three national championships. However, there was concern with Waltrips involvement with Budweiser as it created this image of alcohol, fast cars, and success. With that Darrell Waltrip made a move to Hendrick motors. In 1989 Waltrip won the Daytona 500 for the first time in his entire race career. That same year a lot of pressure was placed on Darrell to win one more race, that being the Heinz Southern 500 in Darlington. If he did so, he would earn himself one million dollar bonus for having won four majors in one season.
However he did not cope well with the pressure as he also had the added strain of winning the Career Grand Slam. This led to him hitting the wall early on in the race, putting him out of the race as a contender. The year 1990 also proved unsuccessful. While practicing for the Pepsi 400, Waltrip spun out in another car’s oil and suffered a broken leg, two broken arms and a concussion.
Darrell retired from racing in 2000 and upon retirement signed up with Fox as an analyst on the network’s NASCAR telecasts.