NASCAR’s Mistake in Adding the 13th Chase Contestant

What a strange week. Just when I thought NASCAR was handling things right, things go haywire. After the events at Richmond (I won’t go into it—you know the story), I thought the sanctioning body had made some tough decisions in displacing Martin Truex from the Chase and adding Ryan Newman, but what happened today was almost unbelievable. Despite the sincere explanation of the officials of NASCAR, I just don’t see it. The rationalization that Jeff Gordon should be added to the field of 12 (make that 13 now) makes no sense. I’m not a mathematician (and you have to be to understand the complicated new point system, though they supposedly made is simple for the fans and drivers, let’s go through the changes.

After Matt Kenseth won the last regular NASCAR championship in 2003, it was decided changes were needed to mold NASCAR in the form of stick and ball sports and have a playoff. The problem was the problem whereby Kenseth only had one win that season and the thought of that wasn’t kosher. So, we went to a ten-race playoff where almost anyone could win just like the NFL, NFL, and NBA. Later on they added bonuses for wins and two more “wild cards” based on wins by drivers who came close. Huh? Now you can finish 11th or 12th and still not make the cut because of your win total. So we turn around and place a driver in the Chase because he’s won no races? And guys who have won are left out? I’m sure David Ragan is thrilled. Who’s running this show?

I have nothing against Jeff Gordon, but the crying over the last few days has been over the top. Once NASCAR made the decision to disqualify Truex and install Newman in the chase, Gordon’s car owner went to the media saying he was “robbed.” Gordon fans (and there are plenty of them left) went to social media to state their case for their driver. It was constant. One fan posted on a web site many times that his man should be in the Chase. NASCAR simply yielded to pressure, which is never good. Lots of scenarios show it would have been difficult for Gordon to gain a place in the Chase and no reason that NASCAR should have changed the rules, though they are very good at this and have for years, to add a 13th driver. Funny, but they did and made themselves look like the WWE in the process. It wasn’t necessary. It is sort of like the contrived effort to make sure the most popular driver somehow got in the playoff (you know what I’m talking about, surely), or seemed so.

Wonder what will happen next year if the same thing comes up again and another driver, maybe Junior, misses by one point? Will NASCAR add a 13th driver? Sort of like the Big Red Machine missing the playoffs by a half game in 1976 and adding them in because one of the qualifiers had a pitcher use PED’s. NASCAR has set a precedent and they will be sorry for that in the future.

I’ll end this tirade with one question. How many times have teammates swapped the lead to get the bonus points? How many times have teammates back in the pack let a teammate pass them as victory is in sight? Going back in history, you have to ponder these points. A friend today told me money talks, and he has a point. If the driver missing the Chase had been David Ragan, would they have added him after a controversy? You can bet your life it wouldn’t have happened.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Fleshman
Ron Fleshman
Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as He can now be found at Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.

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  1. Jj, I respect that you’ve been a fan for so long but you’re gonna give yourself a heart attack by getting so worked up. People have different opinions, part of life and racing. Gordon should be in the Chase only if Logano was kicked out like he should’ve been. Karma got that 22 team at Chicago so he’s bascially out anyway.

    And, since you’ve been a fan for sooo long. I’m sure you remember all the discrepancies with the 24 and 48 teams over the years. Did you defend them, or call them cheaters like you have Bowyer and MWR.

  2. The man raced from two laps back and was in the race and actions of cheaters changed that plan and simple. From the news I watched Gordan handled himself better then most would have.

  3. Being a fan since l964 gives you no license to claim you are an authority. I have been one since 1950. Ever see Marshall Teague race? Why won’t you put in print my reply that chastised you? You are wrong about the 24. The whiners are writers and other haters of Hendrick Motorsports.

  4. The morons have spoken. Gordon earned a spot in the chase except for the cheaters. The whiners (want some cheese) are really coming out now. Whether he finishes 1st or l3th he legitimately earned a spot.
    I know there are many Hendrick haters and that’s okay. You know your deficiencies. NA$CAR did it right. Jay you can’t guarantee anything except you don’t like Gordon. Truex didn’t do HIS job, if he had he wouldn’t be whining either.

  5. As a Jeff Gordon fan, what can I say? In Nascar as in all sports (and life) there is no absolutely fair. Money and fame (whether it is from 20 years ago or 2 years ago) talk.

  6. I am beyond shocked at the stupidity as to what the decision the other night has wrought..first and formost letting Jeff Gordon in the Chase. Second thing, Nascars stupidity being played by the HMS plea’s and mob mentality to allow Jeff to the party that he didn’t get an invitation to. Some how Nascar was informed of audio (wonder who, sarcasm) and next thing you know scandal number two pops up..”CHEATING”. How in goodness name can a standard racing strategy for decades now become’s cheating, because a HMS driver did not benefit from it? And well placed irresponsible wording by the media and twitter idiots..Penske and Furniture Rows are cheaters. It doesn’t get an more manipulative in the public arena boys and girls. NOBODY CHEATED! You cannot unrung the bell from what MWR did or didn’t do on purpose, a million things during the race got those drivers to that point. And by doing what they did they said they had a crystal ball and knew the outcome, MWR just got in the way. You cannot make change based on fantasy or a what if, and thats what they did. I don’t know what the racing is going to look like, they made no real new rules and Nascar still has the final say..AND THAT IS BAD. HMS played them well. And, for all you people screaming “cheaters” your driver or team because they are not a HMS or a satellite team will find themselves in this very position, normal, legal and accepted..till it adversely effects one of HMS’s own. Bet on it. ANd a thousand times no, Jeff had 25 races to show up and he got help too (cheater Jeff, fair is fair..right?) on the 26 race…Bunch of pious hypocrites.

  7. It does my heart good to hear the Gordon haters whine(woould you like some cheese with that?) Have you guys had your heads under a rock? (or somewhere else)

    Hey Jay, how about if Logano or Bowyer wins the title? They should both be run out of the chase for cheating. An asterick should be added if Bowyer wins it. He is the CHIEF cheater, period. Should have been thrown out of it. Fleshman, you are a d—– liar. Jeff Gordon has not whined about the decision, more than once just letting it pass. You hate Gordon, and you know it.
    Whether he finishes 1st or 13th, the right decision was made to let him in. There should not be 13, only 11, Logano and Bowyer, (Mr. Vulgar and Profanity) out.

  8. Dead On! IF this were McMurray or Ambrose or Menard, I guarantee they would not have been added to the Chase. Gordon has been mediocre all year, no wins. I will say that if either Gordon, Bowyer, or Logano win the title, there will be a HUGE ASTERICK beside there name.

    • If you know racing, what happened is normal operating procedure, Mike Helton even said so today and yesterday. And no wrong doing was found. This is dangerous to have someone playing within the confines of the rules and then suddenly it doesn’t fit a particular scenario calling foul and illegal. You cannot change the rules mid game, and thats what Nascar did. All for a HMS driver of course.

  9. I used to be a Gordon fan, back in the rainbow warrior days.
    Now all he does is whine like my 7 year old daughter, If the 24 team and driver did their jobs this would be a mute point.
    Martin Truex is the one getting robbed, all through Nascar history drivers have helped other drivers, Cry baby Gordon included.
    Stop laying down for morons.
    Kick Gordon back out, he is done anyway, hang up the helmet.

    • Obviously you were NEVER a Gordon fan back in the day because he complained so much back then, NOW he just takes care of business. Not the driver he was fifteen years ago but PROVEN one of the best stat wise. And what kind of father would comment about their child the way you did on public social media, you are pathetic! Get you out of fatherhood! Now Letting a teammate “pass” you on the track for position is fine but to be a “MORON” as you put it and purposely spin out is TOO obvious and downright cheating and the right call was therefore decided upon…Do yourself and all true Nascar fans a favor and become a Non NASCAR fan…Signed, a Tony Stewart fan!


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