NASCAR had a hard time beating Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe on back-to-back days and it had to be done. Penalties imposed by governing bodies have the intended effect of deterring future wrongdoing by them or others.
Unfortunately, NASCAR can unknowingly endanger everyone by forcing Elliott and Briscoe into situations where they absolutely need to win to make the playoffs.
Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe feel the wrath of NASCAR
Racing fans on social media called it out almost immediately when Chase Elliott busted Denny Hamlin at the Coca-Cola 600 early Monday morning. For a moment, it looked like Brad Keselowski might have catapulted Elliott’s Chevy #9 to Hamlin.
After one look at the replay, however, it became clear that the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion was getting no help on the abrupt left turn that rear-ended the No. 18 Toyota. Fans demanded a suspension, and NASCAR complied the next day by parking Elliott for the Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
On Wednesday, it was Chase Briscoe’s turn to feel anger at having his car impounded in Charlotte for a closer look at the research and development center. NASCAR penalized Briscoe 120 championship and 25 playoff points for a fake part. Stewart-Haas Racing was deducted the same number of owner points, and crew chief John Klausmeier was fined $250,000 and suspended for six races.
Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior VP of competition, said the inspection uncovered a counterfeit NACA engine duct allegedly from a single source. SHR announced shortly thereafter that it would not be appealing the L3 penalty.
Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe find themselves in situations where they absolutely must win
The penalty announced Wednesday by NASCAR drops Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Ford team in the Cup Series standings from 17th to 31st, giving him 172 points. With 157 out of 16 pointsth Given the place and stage points, unless he makes it to the playoffs, he has to trail the likes of Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman and Ty Gibbs by about 14 spots every week to make the playoffs.
Chase Elliott faces a similar dilemma. He was already missing six races while recovering from a broken leg, but Elliott has been running so well since his return that it was plausible he could make the playoffs without a win. He is now 81 points behind Bowman, who has 16 points to his creditth He’s ranked No. 1 after an injury he sustained himself, and he’ll lose even more ground by ingesting a bagel this week.
Elliott can make up some lost ground but has just 11 races left to overtake a dozen riders in points. It’s the same situation that golfers face as they head into the final round of a tournament: Being three shots off the lead doesn’t sound all that impressive, but you can’t reasonably expect to overtake all 12 competitors who start the day higher up the leaderboard; Someone will throw a 70 on the board even if you shoot a 68.
Putting drivers in situations where they absolutely must win can be dangerous
To reiterate, NASCAR really needed to punish Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe. We can argue about NASCAR’s consistency issues, but following the rules is a must. Massive penalties make this point clear.
However, what we have now is a situation where Elliott and Briscoe can’t act like Ross Chastain or Kevin Harvick. Despite being winless, these two Cup Series stars are ranked first and fourth respectively in points. You can expect top 10 finishes to both qualify and earn valuable playoff points for the overall standings after the Summer Daytona race.
Meanwhile, Elliott and Briscoe don’t have the luxury of focusing on points. If they’re near the top with 20 laps to go, their attitude will be that anything but a win equals a loss. That can mean taking risky moves that Chastain has earned a reputation for attempting – often unsuccessfully and at the cost of destroying others.
That adds risk to an already dangerous sport, so NASCAR may need to reconsider how it handles penalties.
Would it be better to let him miss the first playoff race instead of skipping Elliott this week? The downside is that if he doesn’t qualify for the playoffs, it’s not that big of a penalty. If he makes the playoffs, it also puts him closer to the winning mentality in Kansas and Bristol, so that might not be a better solution as a solution.
As for Briscoe, NASCAR has already ruined his season. Even if he wins by Daytona, his points deduction in the playoffs is insurmountable and he would need to win races to advance to subsequent rounds. This creates the same unhealthy desperation that can lead to more than the usual carnage at the end of the race.
Do you have a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello writes a mailbag column every Friday. Write to him [email protected]
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