Casual fans, those who know Kurt and Kyle Busch both won NASCAR championships but can’t necessarily tell them apart in side-by-side photos, are trying to get a sense of why 36 cars started on Sunday but only eight in qualifying.
It happens every year, and veteran fans help them understand the reality of sponsorship money and how sending eight cars to the starting grid would make for very boring races, even on a short track like Martinsville.
And then Kyle Larson comes along and turns Championship 4 into Championship 5, where he can win a race and a lot of money for his team but he hasn’t managed to defend the title he won a year ago in Phoenix.
Pass the aspirin, please.
Kyle Larson threw a wrinkle at the NASCAR Owners Championship
Sunday’s race at Martinsville splits the drivers in round eight down to the four that will compete for the Cup Series tiles the following weekend in Phoenix in what NASCAR calls Championship 4. Joey Logano is already in because he won two weeks ago in Vegas. Vegas. However, Kyle Larson added a level of complexity to the scheduled action in Phoenix on November 6 with a win over the weekend at Homestead-Miami.
The insane finish at Charlotte Roval in the sixth elimination race eliminated Larson from the Driver’s Qualification but didn’t knock his No. 5 Chevy out of the hunt for the Owners’ Championship. We can thank Kurt Bosh and Ryan Blaney for this quirk.
In the regular season, the driver and owner competitions are equal in the same season. But when Busch announced that he wasn’t physically able to make the playoffs (he qualified by winning at Kansas), he opened the door for Ryan Blaney. Blaney will be winding down this weekend, but is still looking for the Drivers’ Championship.
However, points in the Owners’ Championship standings apply to the car, not the driver. Busch’s No. 45 Toyota had enough points to continue contention for the Owners’ Championship, and 23XI Racing moved Bubba Wallace into a Busch car to contend for the title.
Although Blaney made it to the last eight in the Drivers’ Championship, his car was not part of the owners’ qualifying. That allowed Larson’s No. 5 Chevy to remain one of three Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top eight even after his misfortune in Charlotte. That’s how the win at Homestead-Miami put that car in the 4 Owners’ Championship.
The Angel Championship is a big deal in NASCAR
Phoenix’s top rated Championship 4 driver will take the crown that Kyle Larson took a season ago with the help of a flawless final pitstop. With it comes a wild celebration, followed by TV appearances, and potentially an endorsement opportunity or two. Additional money stipulated in his contract with the team and sponsors is also likely.
However, the real money at stake is tied to the owners’ championship because these arrangements are the basis by which NASCAR hands out a large, if unspecified, percentage of its money.
Hendrick Motorsports going into Phoenix knows Larson’s car can’t finish fourth in the owners’ standings. With Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevy and William Byron’s No. 24 Chevy still in the running, HMS is staring at a potential windfall.
Meanwhile, there are two other levels of competition going on. 12 cars that make it to the Owners’ Championship Qualifier but do not qualify for Championship 4 can finish anywhere from 5th through 16th.The tenth pips. That’s why 23XI Racing called on John Hunter Nemechek to replace Bubba Wallace in the No. 45 Toyota for Kurt Busch – got all that? — over the weekend at Homestead-Miami. That’s also why Hendrick called up Noah Gargson to fill in for Alex Bowman this month. HMS No. 48 Chevy 15The tenth In the owners’ ranking now, but two strong showings could bring that car up to 10The tenth. This means more money on HMS.
It was more complicated in the past
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Kyle Larson’s status as also a Drivers’ Championship contender but an Owners’ Championship contender in his No. 5 Chevy may be rare, but it’s not unprecedented. Nor is it a function of the NASCAR system that was installed two decades ago.
Instead, point to the beginning of the “modern era” in 1972. That’s when NASCAR cut more than a third of the races from its annual schedule, divested off the remaining small dirt tracks, and adopted stronger marketing tactics. This also led to stronger relationships between the drivers, their teams, and sponsors.
Although there will always be drivers hopping around during the season as a few owners fill the unsponsored slots on the calendar with drivers who can bring money with them, decades ago it was much more common.
Racing America points to Joe Weatherly in 1963 as an example. Going into the 1963 Cup season as the defending champion did not constitute job security with one team for Weatherly, only steady work for many. Weatherly competed in 53 of his 55 races, and drove for nine teams, including Bud Moore Engineering and Petty Enterprises.
At the end of the season, Weatherley stood at the top of the drivers’ standings again, but his owner’s points were scattered all over the place. Instead, Wood Brothers; The No. 21 captured the Ford Owners’ Championship as the team used five drivers at different times in the season.
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