Give the 55 and 51 shot at the Chase

March, 21, 2013

I'm officially lobbying for a NASCAR rule change. OK, maybe it's unofficial, but you're welcome to join.

After four races, two cars rank in the top 10 in the owner standings, but they aren't Chase eligible. For the No. 55 Toyota and the No. 51 Chevy, they're top 10 only in owner points because both teams have used more than one driver.

Here's the request: If those cars stay in the top 10 after the 26 regular-season races, let each team designate one driver to compete in the Chase.

As a combo group, they'll have earned it. So let them pick a driver to go for it in the playoff.

Yes, I know. It's not fair to a driver who raced in all 26 pre-Chase events. Who knows if the 55 or the 51 would have stayed in the top 10, or earned a wild-card spot, if each team had used only one driver.

But wouldn't it be fun to give them a shot at it? Each team does have a shot at the owner's championship, not that anyone pays much attention to that.

Maybe they could compete in the Chase in a separate category as a combined driver's champ if they won the playoff.

The 55 Toyota, part of the Michael Waltrip Racing stable, is shared by Mark Martin and Brian Vickers, who have already raced, and Waltrip, who will race in a few events later this season. The 51 Chevy, owned by James Finch, has used three drivers in the first four races -- Regan Smith, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon.

The 55 car ranks fourth overall and the 51 is tied for seventh.

Martin finished third at Daytona and Vickers was eighth last weekend at Bristol. Smith was seventh at Daytona and Allmendinger was 11th at Phoenix and 13th at Bristol.

These guys are getting it done. They deserve some recognition.

Look at it like this: A baseball team doesn't lose the game if the starting pitcher doesn't go nine innings, assuming it is still ahead at the end.

Giving these race teams a chance to compete for something more in the Chase would add an element to the playoff drama.

And there's another factor in this that could come into play sometime. Say a driver led the standings after 26 races, but got injured in the final regular-season event and had to sit out two or three races.

If this rule changes, a team could use a sub and still compete in the Chase. Otherwise, a sponsor spending millions of dollars would lose all the exposure it hoped to gain in the playoff.

So feel free to join my lobbying effort, not that it will do any good. Or tell me you hate the idea. Either way, it's an interesting topic and a fun debate.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?