After a long season full of issues coming from a global pandemic, the season has finally ended in probably the best way NASCAR could’ve imagined. Chase Elliott the sports most popular driver pulled off exactly what these playoffs were made for.
Chase won his way into the final race of the season and had a walk-off win to earn his first championship. That being said, you can’t please everyone and a large chunk of the fan base is still saying this wasn’t a “true championship.”
The reason being, Kevin Harvick the regular-season champion was not even among the Championship 4 contenders. After possibly the best season of his career and being the championship favorite for the whole year, he wasn’t even able to take a shot at it.
“Not the real champion.” Has been typed among but-hurt fans over Elliott’s victory, but is this true? How was Elliott’s season compared to Harvick’s?
Regular Season Stats:
Top Fives: 17
Top Tens: 21
Average Finish: 6.6
Top Fives: 3
Top Tens: 6
Average Finish: 12.3
Regular Season Stats:
Top Fives: 10
Top Tens: 15
Average finish: 12.8
Top Fives: 5
Top Tens: 7
Average Finish: 8.8
Breaking it down between the regular season and playoff season, it becomes clear that Kevin Harvick suffered a major fall off during the last 10 races of the year. Meanwhile, Chase Elliott started his best run of the season.
While this is not an Earth-shattering revelation, the stats difference is much more significant when you consider that these small differences matter so much more in the three-race segments. Even just the four spot average finish can make all the difference. However, that’s not the total point.
While Elliott’s regular season was fairly average, his playoffs were the best of any of the other 16 drivers who entered it. Harvick’s dropoff when it mattered most is an anomaly, but his team had since week 5 to start preparing themselves for the playoffs, and after a dominant 26 race stint, what differences did these 10 races make?
Elliott and his team came into the playoffs more prepared and to me, that’s what makes him the true champion. Harvick and his team knew what they had to do, this schedule had been out for a year. They knew what Harvick’s best and worst tracks were in the playoffs, and they had plenty of time to get ready for each track in each round. Not only that, but they had more than an adequate amount of points cushion.
Isn’t this what the playoffs are about? Get into them and perform your best and who knows what could happen. It’s all about earning your keep, cinderella stories are nothing new to the sports world.
To be honest, this wasn’t much of a cinderella story, Elliott came into the playoffs 5th in the standings. He was running well all year. A true Cinderella story can come from the 2007 New York Giants who entered the playoffs as a wild card and defeated the undefeated Patriots. The 2007 Patriots could be likened to the dominant Kevin Harvick.
In most sports, we would be cheering for this unlikely victory, but because we’re not used to this system in NASCAR, all we can do is critique it based on the old system.