Game 7 moments. That’s what NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said he wanted when the sanctioning body created the new winner-take-all format for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup prior to the start of last season.
And I don’t have any doubt that this year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway will produce some genuine Game 7 drama. After all, with four drivers starting the race tied in points and the top finisher winning the title, how could it not be compelling?
But we’ve got to get there first and right now, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are sucking the air out of the Chase.
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JGR drivers have won eight of the last 10 races, nine of the last 12 and 12 of the 27 so far this year. Kudos to them — they won 12 races in 2013, just two last year and have drubbed the competition over the past three months. They deserve credit for their success, as does Toyota.
But in a sport that prides itself on the closest competition imaginable, one team winning all the time doesn’t create much excitement.
The show has gone from, "Who will win this week?" to "Which JGR driver will win this week?"
So far at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards and his No. 19 JGR Toyota was fastest in two of three practices and qualified on the pole.
In the final Happy Hour round of practice Saturday afternoon, Edwards had the best 10-consecutive-lap average speed, followed by teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Busch, by the way, won the July New Hampshire race and if he wins again on Sunday, JGR will set a record by winning its fourth consecutive Sprint Cup race with four different drivers.
I say it’s time for a game seven moment on Sunday at New Hampshire.
Time for a team to gamble on fuel or tires, or make a ridiculously fast late-race pit stop.
Time for one driver to put a fender to the leader on the final restart.
Time for an underdog to make a bold strategy call in pursuit of victory.
No disrespect to the JGR guys — they deserve the success they’ve earned over the summer — but the Chase would suddenly get a whole lot more interesting if a long shot or two came out of nowhere and found Victory Lane in the next couple of races.