NASCAR Hall of Famers Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett weigh in on prospect of winless champion


As you’d probably figure, NASCAR Hall of Famers and current TV analysts Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett were both complimentary of the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format during a 30-minute meeting with the media today at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But when posed with the question of how NASCAR could explain things if a winless Ryan Newman claimed the Sprint Cup title this Sunday, Jarrett appeared to be stumped.

“Good question. Sometimes, there’s just not complete explanations for everything,” he said. “I mean, the whole thing was set up to reward winning.”

And yet Newman – who has collected just four Top-5s and a mere 41 laps led this season, and has not finished better than third over his last 51 races – can win it all by beating Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Denny Hamlin in the Ford Ecoboost 400.

So what would Jarrett do to ensure that such a scenario could not exist?

“I proposed something to NASCAR and maybe I’ve said this to a number of y’all before…My solution to the situation – and we’ll use this year – Ryan Newman’s here but the only way he could become the champion if he wins this race,” he said. “Otherwise, the other three are the ones racing for the championship, to finish ahead of each other.

“Obviously, that doesn’t help this year, so to kind of answer the question, I don’t know. You can’t even say – a lot of times, you try to make the comparison with the Patriots going undefeated [in 2007] and then losing the Super Bowl. Well, the [New York Giants] won games before then, so they had to win. You can’t even do that [comparison].

“So, there’s just not an explanation other than you gotta give ’em credit.”

As for Wallace’s thoughts on the subject, he said that Newman has proven that you can get the job done either way: Winning or consistency.

“If he doesn’t win [Sunday], he’ll probably be consistent – and there’s a good opportunity he could win,” he said. “But I’d hope that the public is educated by now that there’s two ways to do it. I’m sure some of them aren’t. But I know for the excitement and for the goodness of the sport – I mean, it’s crystal clear, if you win, you punch your ticket and get to advance. Plan B is to be consistent.

“So, I’ve always looked at it that way. If you win, cool. If you don’t win, you better be damn consistent. Two things, not just one thing. But I know the hype going in was ‘You gotta win, you gotta win, you gotta win.'”

So if Newman does take the title, will this mean yet another tweak to the Chase?

Earlier today, Brian France said the probability for such in 2015 was “very modest to zero,” but Jarrett said that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it ensured that the champion had at least one race win in his pocket.