NASCAR’s new Chase format downgrades great finishes

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJune 15, 2014 

— It’s probably a by-product of NASCAR’s new Chase format more than anything else.

Brad Keselowski has finished second, second and third in his past three Sprint Cup Series races and in any other season that would be a necessary ingredient toward running for the series championship.

With a Chase format now based almost exclusively on wins, great finishes are good for team morale, but he’s uncertain of any other benefits.

“We have consistency, which is good. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean much right now at this time of the year in terms of points,” said Keselowski after his third-place finish in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

“It does mean a lot in the sense of overall morale and our ability to really make a push as the fall comes for the Chase. That’s important to us, even if it might not show a tangible result in the short-term.”

Keselowski has already picked up a win this season, early in the year at Las Vegas. That victory has all but cemented the 2012 series champion’s participation in this year’s championship battle.

Any wins Keselowski collects before the 26th race of the season at Richmond, Va., will help in his seeding when the Chase begins. Jimmie Johnson, who got his third win of the season on Sunday, would be the top seed if the Chase began this week.

Sunday’s race turned on strategy as is typically the case in many races at Michigan. That opened the door for teams that were not necessarily the fastest to capitalize on circumstances to pick up a victory.

“I sympathize for the crew chiefs here,” said Keselowski, who is also fifth in the series standings. “This is such a tough race to call strategy-wise and you’re really at the mercy of the yellows at the end and where they fall.

“I think Kevin (Harvick) was probably the guy to beat today and probably he feels that way, too, I would imagine, and the way that yellow fell, it kind of completely killed him.

“But that’s just the way it is.”

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