Matt Kenseth took a lot of heat when he won a Cup title in 2003 despite never winning a race. For Kenseth, it was all about consistency, as he snagged a season-high 25 top-10 finishes.
So it makes one wonder if Carl Edwards will endure the same type of grief if he ends up winning a title in similar fashion. Edwards has won only one race this year — in the regular season — but leads Tony Stewart by eight points despite the fact that Stewart has three victories in Chase races.
NASCAR has tweaked its Chase format over the years, and Edwards deserves to be where he is because of his consistency.
But there's going to be a part of this that doesn't feel right if Edwards wins a championship without winning any of the 10 races that are part of the playoff format — the time in all sports when things matter the most. Ask the New England Patriots, who went into the Super Bowl in 2008 undefeated yet lost to the New York Giants.
"He better not sleep too long the next three weeks," Stewart said of Edwards after winning in Martinsville last weekend. "It's no disrespect to him. He's a great competitor, he's a great guy, he's with a great organization that deserves their shot at that championship too.
"We've had one of those up-and-down years and we're having a run in this Chase now where we're hungry. We're hungry for this. I feel like our mindset into these next three weeks, we've been nice all year to a lot of guys, given guys a lot of breaks. We're cashing tickets in these next three weeks."
Meanwhile, Edwards keeps chugging along — he has finished 11th or better in all seven Chase races.
NASCAR has an ever-evolving Chase format. Maybe there will be another tweak to ponder in the years ahead.
Russ is the father of Rusty, Mike and Kenny Wallace. He was also an accomplished driver on the dirt tracks, winning 200 features during a four-year stretch from 1974 to 1978. He earned very little income racing, however, and supplemented his earnings by working various jobs.