FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Jimmie Johnson says NASCAR’s new championship format has ”seemed bizarre,” but the eliminated six-time champion knows he has to think about the big picture for racing.
Johnson was among 16 drivers who initially made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He’s already out of contention for his seventh season title even with three wins and 1,119 laps led this year. Four-time race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. also can’t win the title after the first two championship rounds cut the field to eight drivers.
”It has seemed bizarre since the onset. I, though, feel that I need to take a different approach and think of it differently and think of what is good for the sport,” Johnson said Friday. ”This is really being put back in the fans’ hands. At the end of the day, if there are more people tuning in and watching, we are creating the drama, sponsorship is in the sport, then it is what we need to do. I made that conscious decision when Brian France called me and told me where things were going for this year.”
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Among the eight drivers still in contention are Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, neither of whom has won a race this season. Newman, who has led only 41 laps all season, was in 16th place when the chase started – two spots ahead of Kenseth.
After Texas and then Phoenix next week, only the top four drivers in the standings will be eligible to win the season title in the finale at Homestead.
”I understand that from an economic standpoint (that) tracks, NASCAR, the race teams for sure, are in a bind and we are in a tough situation,” Johnson said. ”So we need to make some change.
”This is the decision they made and we have certainly seen the drama. It seems like attendance is going in the right way, ad buys are going the right way and TV viewership is up,” he said. ”Is it what we all as racers think should happen and is it the best way to go about, falling back on the history of our sport in determining a champion? No, but we have to pay attention to who is sitting out in the stands, in my opinion.”