Imagine you are Matt Kenseth and you have just won the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.
All week leading up to the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship you are being told that the season title is on the line at the big track.
You win and then you look at the standings and find yourself in last place — exactly where you were before the race started.
And there is pre-race points leader Brad Keselowski who finished seventh and yet he increases his championship lead to 14 points over Jimmie Johnson, who stays in second place despite his 17th-place finish.
Such is the way the points system works in NASCAR.
It is not about winning, it is about how the guys in front of you in the standings fare.
Look no further than Jeff Gordon to see how the system is tilted in favour of drivers who are at the top of the leaderboard.
Gordon has had the best average finish of any of the 12 Chase drivers in the past three races — a second at New Hampshire, a third at Dover and another second at Talladega.
Yet he has gained only five points in that impressive stretch on Keselowski all because in the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway — where Keselowski was the winner — Gordon crashed his No. 24
Chevrolet after 190 of 267 laps to finish 35th.
At 42 points out of first place with six races remaining most experts agree Gordon’s hopes of a fifth Sprint Cup crown remain remote, at best.
At least he has a chance, however, unlike some early Chase favourites.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who came into the Chase with a head of steam and his best season of results in ages, has fallen down to 11th place, 51 back of Keselowski after his 20th-place finish at Talladega.
This Chase is over for Earnhardt as it is for Greg Biffle, who held the top spot longer than anyone coming into the Chase and for Kevin Harvick, who hoped to rebound from a so-so season to contend in the Chase.
Both Biffle and Harvick are 49 points back of Keselowski and are toast.
Five young Canadian open wheel drivers will get the opportunity to strut their stuff at legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday and Thursday in the Mazda Road to Indy test in front of team owners and managers looking for talent to fill seats for the 2013 season.
Topping the list of potential future stars is Indy Lights driver David Ostella, for Maple, Ont., USF2000 Ontario champion Michael Adams, from Courtice, Ont., USF200 driver Dalton Kellet, of Stouffville, Ont., Quebec USF200 champion Nathan Bloc, from Beachburg, Ont., and Mathew DiLeo, a regular on the USF2000 tour from Innisfil, Ont.
Two days after slamming restrictor plate racing at Talladega, Earnhardt now says he regrets that he called the race “bloodthirsty.” In an interview with SBNation.com on Tuesday Earnhardt said: “It was a bit heat of the moment, and I kind of regret getting that emotional about it. But I was just really upset about how that all went down.” ... JR Motorsports, owned by Earnhardt, has re-signed primary sponsor TaxSlayer.com, the online tax preparation service to a long-term sponsorship agreement for the No. 88 Nationwide Series Chevrolet ... IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske says he hopes to keep Ryan Briscoe in the third Penske Racing Chevrolet in 2013 but needs to find sponsorship to make it happen. Penske told AP auto racing writer Jenna Fryer that he has already signed Will Power and Helio Castroneves to come back next season. Briscoe had an up-and-down 2102 season with one win, finishing sixth in he championship ... Speaking of IndyCar, the series will limit teams to 10,000 miles of testing next season after allowing unlimited testing this past season ... NASCAR will not penalize Kurt Busch any further for his antics at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday where he tried to get his wrecked car back to garage after being told by safety workers to stop.
MARK MARTIN HITS ANOTHER MILESTONE
It was seven NASCAR Sprint Cup seasons ago that Mark Martin announced he was retiring from the sport.
He even had a “Salute To You” final season tribute to his fans in the No. 6 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford.
So how did that retirement go?
Well it lasted about five minutes after the 2005 — and supposedly his final — season.
This season Martin has been driving the No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota on a part-time basis — he is in the seat for 25 of the 36-Cup races.
All the while Martin — at age 53 — keeps on adding to his NASCAR records.
On Saturday at the Bank of America 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Martin will start his 850th career NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
There is a whole garage full of Cup drivers who can only dream of such a milestone, but Martin is taking it in stride.
“That’s just a number,” he said this. “It doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Martin said it is results, not starts, that motivate him.
“The number of starts doesn’t impress me,” he said. “It’s what you did in those starts that can be impressive or not. The fact that I have started a lot of races doesn’t stack up very high on the impression metre for me.”
In a 30-year career Martin has 40 victories, 55 poles and 270 top-five finishes.
There was plenty of concern this past weekend when the promoter of the NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve announced that the race was cancelled for 2013, and likely beyond.
That came just weeks after the same promoter cancelled the IZOD IndyCar Series Edmonton Indy.
In both cases the promoter cited he could not continue because both races lost money.
I admit I have not seen the books, but I have seen big crowds — more than 50,000 at Edmonton and more than 60,000 at Montreal — at both races this past season.
There are promoters across the board in NASCAR and IndyCar who would kill for those kinds of numbers.
But rather than dwell on the negative, let’s look at the positive.
NASCAR bosses have said they love Canada and Canadians obviously love NASCAR, so it won’t be long before an announcement is made that the Camping World Truck Series will be at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in 2013 and that the Nationwide Series will be at the same venue in 2014.
After all if the management team of Ron Fellows, Carlo Fidani and Myles Brandt can get about 35,000 into CTMP for a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race, imagine what they could do promoting a Truck or Nationwide race.
VETTEL WARNED AGAINST COCKINESS
Formula One Red Bull Renault boss Christian Horner is warning his star driver Sebastian Vettel not to get to cocky about closing in on world championship leader Fernando Alonso.
Alonso has gone from odds-on favourite to win the championship to a slim four-point lead over two-time champion Vettel after a pair of first lap crashes — at Spa Francorchamps and Suzuka — in the past four F-1 grands prix.
“I think that Fernando is a very shrewd and formidable opponent and over a season luck tends to balance itself out,” Horner told autosport.com. “Fernando has been unlucky, (but) luck tends to balance itself out over a 20-race season.”