Did Erik Jones mess up the playoffs by winning at Darlington?

One by one, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch fell by the wayside at Darlington Raceway. Suddenly, it was Erik Jones versus Denny Hamlin for the win, and Hamlin had much more at stake as a NASCAR playoff entrant.

Jones took the checkered flag. In the course of scoring his third career Cup Series victory, he also denied Hamlin an automatic transfer to the next stage of the playoffs.

NASCAR holds an open race as a last chance qualifier just before the All-Star race. Isn’t there a way to similarly separate the cars that aren’t in the playoffs from those that are still contending for the championship? (From KD via Gmail)

Would you watch an eight-car playoff race at Homestead-Miami? How about a 12-car race at Talladega? I strongly suspect the answer is “No”. Even a short track like Bristol would not be attractive with just 16 cars.

And, not to drag money, but NASCAR teams rely heavily on sponsorships (see: Busch, Kyle) to get them through the season. Companies won’t pay full price for a chance to see their car win the consolation bracket in the final 10 races of the season.

Erik Jones takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 4, 2022. | Logan Riely/Getty Images

The only solution fans are discussing is a return to the pre-playoff days of determining the championship on points for the entire season. Unfortunately, that brings us back to a scenario where someone could build an insurmountable lead with two or three races to go.

What’s that? Are you saying that is not a problem? Try to tell that to the Formula 1 execs that they will see TV ratings drop once Max Verstappen takes over the World Drivers’ Championship in Japan, making the US Grand Prix and three races after that are debatable.

While it’s true that Jones’ win ended up costing Denny Hamlin an automatic transfer to the next round, Hamlin still put up a bunch of points to move from sixth to third in the standings.

The current format is the least dirty fire suit in the NASCAR basket. Every driver deserves to compete for victory. As long as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. doesn’t spin Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go in the next two months, let’s go with what we’ve got.

Thank goodness NASCAR has gotten rid of Texas Motor Speedway. The All-Star Race belongs anywhere but there. (From SW via Gmail)

While I can’t say I disagree with the quality of the All-Star Races there, Texas Motor Speedway hasn’t been the only culprit. NASCAR has marred the event with clever formats that casual viewers and even hardcore fans can’t fathom.

But TMS has become a one-groove track that fans don’t flock to on race weekends. North Wilkesboro Speedway is going to lack some of the conveniences of modern tracks, but a $1 million first prize for a short-track race will be more fun than we’ve been getting. However, upon further review, $2.5 million would sound better.

As for TMS, my fear is that owner Speedway Motorsports will be tempted to follow its Atlanta Motor Speedway blueprint and point to the 1.5-mile superspeedway look to lure NASCAR back. Having witnessed two rounds of the demolition derby in Atlanta, I can guarantee we don’t need any more of that. God invented Daytona and Talladega for that kind of nonsense.

Did you see that the survey “reveals” that Florida and Alabama are the states where NASCAR races average the most DNFs? I bang my head against the wall (sarcasm) as I search for the common denominator. (From LN via Gmail)

NASCAR banned confederate flags, so it must be hurricane related, right? Nothing else can make sense.

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