by Julian Spivey
One thing NASCAR fans know is there’s always a controversy in NASCAR. Always. The more the sport tinkers around with the rules of the sport the more controversy there is and NASCAR has done a lot of tinkering around with the rules in the last few years.
The big controversy surrounding the final race or championship race this season that crowned Kyle Busch as the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was whether or not he was deserving of actually being the champion because he missed almost one-third of the series’ season. Busch broke his leg and foot at the season opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway in February and didn’t return to the series until late May at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In all, Busch missed 11 of the Sprint Cup Series’ 36 races, and almost half of the 26 races that consist of the sport’s regular season.
NASCAR drivers are supposed to compete in all races to be considered eligible for the championship, but the sport also has the ability to give a driver an injury waiver. This happened last year with Denny Hamlin despite missing a race with an eye injury. Some wondered whether NASCAR would grant Busch a waiver despite missing so many races and shortly before his return they did grant him that waiver. All Busch had to do to get eligible for the playoffs was win a race and finish the first 26 races of the season in the top 30 in the point standings. Busch went on a torrid pace winning four races in a five race span and wound up making the top 30 in the standings rather easily, because there frankly aren’t 30 teams in the series that are worth anything at all (that rule should at least be limited to the top 25 in the standings).
This is where the controversy comes in. Some fans just don’t believe a driver is worthy of being a champion without competing in all of the races. Others feel like Busch is well worthy of being a champion because he won five races during the season. Most within the sport – drives, owners and even media don’t seem to take issue with the fact that a driver who missed 11 races won the title. The majority of fans, however, do seem to care.
I’ve had my opinion on this topic ever since it was announced that Busch would be given the injury waiver. I didn’t like it. To me a champion must compete in either every race or at least a very high percentage (say 90 to 95 percent) of them. If you miss a race or two due to injury fine, I guess. But, double digit races are far too many to miss and still be a worthy champion.
I didn’t know whether I wanted to write this article or not, because I saw the majority of the people within the sport were annoyed by people who had this opinion. I didn’t feel like I was wrong, but didn’t necessarily want to waste time on something that nobody agreed with. And, then I posted a poll to this website’s Twitter page and found that 65 percent of NASCAR fans agreed with my take on the issue.
Since NASCAR’s modern era began in 1972 there hasn’t been a single champion of the sport in 40-plus years win a championship while missing a race during the season. Now all of a sudden Busch is a champion although he missed 11 races. It just doesn’t sit right to the old school NASCAR fan.
Now don’t mistake me. I don't mean to bash Kyle Busch. He's an all-timer and played within the rules the sport set forth for him. I just hate those rules so much. It isn’t Busch’s fault he became champion this season. He did exactly what he was supposed to do and he’s a championship-caliber driver. I think he’s incredibly worthy of being a champion in NASCAR’s premier series, just not this season.
Those trying to combat people like me who have this opinion are using the “he played within the rules” argument and we all realize this. This is why we aren’t faulting the driver, but the sport. Those using that argument don’t seem to be leaving open the option of the rule being a bad rule. NASCAR is full of bad rules. In my opinion, the fact that an entire 36 race season basically comes down to a one race crapshoot for the championship is a horrible rule. The fact that a driver can miss one-third of a season and win a championship is just another bad rule.
One unnamed NASCAR writer on Twitter asked me for justification over why I didn’t feel like Busch was a true champion. The justification I told him was very simple – if you miss as many races as Busch did you simply are not deserving of a title. There’s really no more too it. That argument should at least suffice as a valid opinion, even to those who disagree with it.