Jarrett nearly uncatchable

April 10, 2001 10:31 AM
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With the 2001 Winston Cup season almost a quarter of the way finished, it appears to be a two horse race for the season points championship.

Dale Jarrett (2-1) and Jeff Gordon (3-1) appear to be running too well to be caught. It sounds ridiculous that after eight races with 28 to go, the rest of the field must already start hoping for a succession of mishaps by the leader, but that is the way NASCAR’s silly scoring system has always been, and they don’t seem willing to change anytime soon.

Dale Jarrett’s third win of the season lengthened his lead in the standings to 123 points over second place Gordon, and 187 points over Sterling Marlin (5-1) and Johnny Benson (8-1), who are both tied for third. Steve Park (10-1) and Rusty Wallace (12-1) round out the fifth and sixth slots not far behind third place.

The problem with the scoring is that it doesn’t allow for drivers to have bad days. The current system rewards drivers more for their consistency than their dominance. When the system asks for consistency, it takes away some aggressiveness from the top drivers who are just trying to stay on the track and maybe get a top five. Terry Labonte won two championships that way. The last two champions, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte, won championships that way. All were great champions, but they played the system, not necessarily the races.

By using the current point structure, the best way to alter it and make a season long chase for the championship would be to throw out the three worst performances by each driver. By doing so, there wouldn’t be this dark shadow created for some of the top drivers laying up to score points. It would be nice to see the final race of the season come down to a duel for the championship among two or three drivers.

With so many of the regular top drivers out of contention this year, there will be some strong performances down the stretch. Bobby Labonte is one driver that can be expected to let it all hang out in attempts to salvage something since he’s really got nothing to lose. The season is not over.

There will be plenty of great weekly action providing excitement, but the championship could add so much more to the equation than it currently fails to do.

The Cup Series gets the week off, the first of only three on the entire season. The Busch Series will take center stage on the newly built Nashville Superspeedway. The track distance is only 1.3 miles, but to differentiate itself from Nashville Speedway USA, they are calling it a superspeedway.

The only Cup regulars that will be driving are Tennessee native Bobby Hamilton Sr. (7-1), Todd Bodine (7-2), Kenny Wallace (8-1), Kevin Lepage (25-1), and Busch Series points-leader Kevin Harvick (3-1). Harvick has been outstanding thus far. He has a win on the season and has been the only driver to finish in the top 10 in six of the seven races. Things will get hectic for Harvick starting next month when the Busch and Cup series race at different venues on the same weekends. Harvick says he will make every race.

The top Busch regulars are teammates Jason Keller (8-1) and Jeff Green (7-2). Green’s switch to Ford looked liked it was a bad move early on, but now things seem to be back to normal. This was about the same point last season when Green took control of the series and ran away with it. Greg Biffle (5-1) has been equipped with a great car and has used his aggressive style to impress. He’s still searching for his first career series win and this type of track might be the perfect spot for him.

The only other series to wager on is Formula 1. The San Marino Grand Prix takes place Sunday morning. Michael Schumacher (5-6) is the defending champion, but look for Mercedes to roll after their huge win two weeks ago in Brazil which snapped Schumacher’s six-race win streak.

 

ODDS TO WIN 2001 WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP

Drivers

Stations

Hilton

Jeff Burton

25/1

25/1

Tony Stewart

7/1

8/1

Dale Jarrett

2/1

5/2

Bobby Labonte

8/1

7/1

Jeff Gordon

3/1

2/1

Ricky Rudd

12/1

18/1

Mark Martin

18/1

12/1

Rusty Wallace

12/1

10/1

Ward Burton

30/1

20/1

Jeremy Mayfield

45/1

25/1

Mike Skinner

65/1

60/1

Jerry Nadeau

28/1

40/1

D. Earnhardt Jr

30/1

30/1

Steve Park

12/1

12/1

Bill Elliott

60/1

12/1

Matt Kenseth

60/1

80/1

Johnny Benson

10/1

10/1

Terry Labonte  

75/1

60/1

Sterling Marlin 

  FLD

5/1

John Andretti  

FLD

85/1

Ken Schrader  

FLD

50/1

Jimmy Spencer

FLD

70/1

Field

8/1 

20/1