Even though drivers like Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have proven this season to be consistent contenders for wins – together amassing 13 in the Cup Series regular season – there are no guarantees on closing the year with a series title.
Long gone are the days of amassing points over the course of a 30-something race season and even with the advent of a “playoff format” in 2004, only more recently has the series championship been decided by a winner-takes-all season finale race.
A different approach
While Harvick, who clinched the Cup Series regular season title following race No. 25, is still a favorite to be one of the four drivers competing for the championship at Phoenix Raceway in November, topping three other contenders in one race remains a novel concept.
“Winning a championship today isn’t how Earnhardt and Petty did it,” said Harvick of seven-time Cup champions Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. “I think it’s a much different style of winning a championship than what it used to be.
“When you look at the point standings from this year, you see why the playoffs were put into effect in trying to make sure that we had an intriguing 10 weeks of racing as we went toward the end of the year. It’s very difficult to get yourself to the last race of the season and be one of…