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In NASCAR’s Chase, a title still requires a trip to the winner’s circle

Yes, even with NASCAR’s new format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it’s possible consistency can still earn a driver the chance to compete for the series championship.

In every format NASCAR has used since its inception to decide the championship of its premier series, consistently good finishes – lacking wins – could provide someone the chance to win the title.

Even this season, consistency can get a driver to the championship race but consistency can’t win a driver the championship.

Here’s why:

With two races left before the four-driver battle for the 2014 title is held at Homestead, Fla., Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth are the top four in Chase points.

Neither Newman nor Kenseth have wins this season, which has riled some fans who believed the new Chase format was supposed to emphasize winning.

This is where the worries should end. Consistently good finishes can still get you in the Chase – only 13 of 16 berths were filled by race winners – and consistency can still help you advance through each round, because not all spots are filled with winners.

The consistency bandwagon gets derailed at Homestead, however.

Why? Because the four drivers who make it to Homestead are again reset to zero points and the first driver of the four to cross the finish line wins the championship.

That means a driver like Newman, who has four top-five finishes in 33 races this season, would have to suddenly do at Homestead what he has been unable to do all year – beat the best competition in a head-to-head matchup.

A solid 10th-place finish at Homestead is unlikely to be the best of the four-driver group, especially when at least one of them – Logano – has finished fifth or higher in six of the seven Chase races and won two of them.

Drivers who have not run up front nor led laps all season long are not suddenly going to find the ability to do so in one race.

And in the rare chance they did, if someone like Newman went out in the championship race and out-ran three other top teams or even won it, would he not have done exactly what we aspire every underdog to do?

If someone steps up in the season’s biggest moment with the biggest performance of their career, they should be applauded rather than scorned.


Craven, Daugherty to remain at ESPN

Former Cup driver Ricky Craven has agreed to a new contract and will remain with ESPN as NASCAR analyst for “SportsCenter” and other ESPN news platforms.

Craven, who started with ESPN as an analyst in 2008, will make regular appearances in the ESPN studio around Cup races and to analyze breaking news as warranted. ESPN is in its final year of televising live NASCAR racing.

“Our news and information platforms will continue to provide NASCAR fans with coverage of the sport and insightful analysis going forward,” said Michael Shiffman, senior coordinating producer for “SportsCenter.”

Brad Daugherty, a former five-time NBA All-Star and college basketball standout, will also remain with ESPN and serve as an NBA and college basketball analyst beginning in November.

Daugherty will appear regularly on “NBA Tonight,” “NBA Coast to Coast,” “SportsCenter” and on additional programming. He will also serve as an analyst for most games in ESPNU’s ACC Sunday night package.

Voda to join NBC Sports

Longtime NASCAR on Fox broadcaster Krista Voda has signed a multi-year agreement to serve as host of NBC Sports’ pre- and post-race NASCAR coverage beginning with the 2015 season.

In addition to hosting the pre- and post-race shows for Cup and what is now the Nationwide series races, Voda’s on-air duties will also include regular appearances as host of “NASCAR America” on NBC Sports Network, as well as other assignments across NBC Sports and NBC Olympics.

Haas F1 names chief marketing officer

Haas F1 Team this week named Adam Jacobs chief marketing officer. Jacobs will lead brand strategy and partnership development for Haas F1 Team, which will make its debut in Formula 1 in 2016.

Jacobs comes to Haas F1 Team from Anheuser-Busch where he was the sports marketing manager for the company’s Budweiser brand in NASCAR and the Bud Light brand in the NFL and college sports.