Chase needs some Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

So as you know we have six out of the 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup races in the books. I'm sorry, but things need to be spiced up a bit. C'mon, we are talking about a championship here. In addition to the prominence and attention of being our national champion, you sure don't want to forget that the winner is going to get somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.5 million.

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The gloves have to come off and you have to start racing harder. It's time to get down and get junkyard-dog mad. Remember how Dale Sr. was? When there was a possible championship on the horizon and he could see it and feel it, well he never hesitated. He was like a dog with a bone. He went for it. He latched on and never let go. That's what you have to do. C'mon, this thing is coming to an end. Are they just going to let Jimmie Johnson walk away with it? Who has been able to put any pressure on him to keep him from it? Nobody so far from what I can see. It just goes back to what I have told you for a few years now. The days of the rivalries seem to be over. To me that's just sad. Where's Richard Petty vs. David Pearson? Where's Waltrip vs. well, everybody? Where's Dale vs. Rusty Wallace? Where's Rusty vs. Bill Elliott? Where's Dale vs. Jeff Gordon? Where are the rivalries of the past? I am not saying you have to be mean and drive dirty, I'm just saying there simply doesn't seem to be any passion in the championship battle anymore. To use my old buddy's line, where is there a Chase driver that is trying to "rattle Jimmie and Chad's cage?" Where are the head games? There's got to be somebody out there willing to step up out of the politically correct box and do it, right? Now all you hear folks talking about is "next year." Next year? That's sad in itself since we still have four races to go THIS year. But I will go down that road a second, too. Maybe Brad Kesolowski and his wild and crazy driving style will be the breath of fresh air we need next year. Maybe Kyle Busch with his crew chief change can get back up there and mix it up some. Now that he has a year under his belt as an owner and a driver, plus has his teammate running well, too, maybe Tony Stewart will come back out and be the Tony the Tiger of old. Maybe he'll come back out all grouchy and snippy and stir things up. I mean these guys have got to get tired of following Jimmie Johnson every year. They have to be sick of him walking away with the championship every single year. Where's the heart? Where's the passion? It just isn't happening.
Maybe there will be somebody next year that figures out how run those 10 Chase races like the No. 48 does. Now I know some of you are sick of hearing it, but I am going to keep saying it until something changes. As long as we run the same point system at the same tracks we run now, nothing is going to change. Folks, if I can see it, why can't the powers-that-be see it? Everyone agrees the car needs a little work on it. OK, so let them work on it. Under the current format, one bad race and you are all but eliminated from the Chase that you worked so hard for 26 weeks to get in. Look at poor Kasey Kahne. He goes into the first race of the Chase in something like fifth spot in points with lots of momentum. His motor breaks, he drops like a rock to 12th spot and 161 points behind then-leader Mark Martin. It was the proverbial kiss of death for his 2009 championship dream. He has never recovered to even be considered a factor. Where's the difference between the old and new point system? This new format was to blow some excitement into things and keep the championship from being a runaway. But for the life of me I still can't grasp why everyone else can't see that the last race of the regular season at Richmond is the most exciting race of the Chase and it's not even IN the Chase. That's wrong folks. Well anyway, now we head to Talladega. We all know anything can happen there and usually does. If you are a historian of the sport you know that big crashes have been happening at Talladega since the joint opened. That's nothing new there. Cars have literally gone out of the track or up in the catch-fence years before Carl Edwards did it this spring. They've complicated matters in recent years by putting that yellow line rule, the out of bounds, all the way around the track. Now the strategy at Talladega is to start the race, fall to the back, out of the eye of the storm. You ride back there all day long and then when it's time to go, you put the whip to your horse and fly to the front and let the chips fall where they may. See, that keeps you out of harm's way all day long. You let those other guys race hard up front and cause the Big One and then you aren't anywhere near it. If I was Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. by golly I would be calling on the ghost of C.W. McCall and boys, we'd have ourselves a convoy. But of course our convoy would be tail-end Charlie on the field for most of the day. That's the strategy I would use.
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The other interesting twist that has come of late at Talladega is two cars running nose to tail can literally run 8-10 miles faster than the big pack. More guys need to use that to their advantage when it comes time to go. Talladega's all about sitting on a hot stove all day long and sweating ice water. It's the ultimate high-speeds chess match. The one thing I have liked that NASCAR's been doing recently is something I have preached forever — let the race finish under green. We saw it at Martinsville when they didn't throw the caution on John Andretti's spun. They did it at Daytona a couple years ago. They did it at New Hampshire. The last lap of the race is for the win. Obviously it is the most important lap of the day. The outcome needs to be determined by the cars and drivers on the track, not by someone up in the tower. You can't freeze the field and quit racing on the last lap, it's just that simple. So it's Halloween weekend and we are at Talladega. How cool is that? You can count on some trickers and some treaters for sure. You can count on strange things there. Remember back in the day, driver Bobby Isaac literally parked his race car and got out because he said voices told him to do it. For fun, or at least I hope it was for fun, my buddy Rick Humphrey, who is the track president at Talladega, brought in a Creek Indian Medicine Man to offer a prayer of protection, restoration and return balance to the place. Now I guess I should explain to you newer fans that Talladega was always rumored to have been built on an ancient Indian burial ground and the spirits have cursed the place ever since. There are two or three other myths about the place so you mix all that up and then throw in the fact that it's Halloween, well this should be exciting. Someone on Sunday is going to walk out of that joint with the ultimate Halloween treat. But trust me folks, it won't be a big bag of candy. He'll be walking out of there with a big ol' trophy and bigger bag of hard-earned cash.
Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, John Andretti, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin

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