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NASCAR CHASE FORMAT CHANGES, RIVALRY UPS INTEREST
Thu, 17 Nov 2011 11:27 AM EST

Following several adjustments to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format, NASCAR finally seems to have achieved exactly what it was going after – a ‘Game 7’ moment that has turned the season finale into can’t-miss-it TV. Basketball lines

With a two-driver title fight for the championship heading into Sunday’s final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it’s Carl Edwards going for his first-ever Cup title over two-time champion Tony Stewart in what promises to be an exciting battle between the two well-known NASCAR drivers.

Edwards heads into the finale just holding on to a three-point lead over Stewart. They finished second and third at Phoenix on Sunday to knock out everyone else from the competition for the title, ensuring that one of them, and not five-time championship winner Jimmy Johnson, will take the Cup home from Homestead.

The tight race has also brought out the best in NASCAR, which moves into its championship weekend with some exciting story lines (many being generated by Kyle Busch alone) that have boosted interest in the sport. Through the first eight Chase races, ratings are up more than 7 percent from 2010. Basketball betting lines

NASCAR has made numerous changes to the championship format this year, including changes to the points system and participation rules, in an effort to create a system that would resonate more with sports fans,

The Nationwide Series will crown a new champion on Saturday and, because of the new participation rules, it won’t be a track superstar. Because drivers were allowed to collect points in only one series this year, the title focus has been on the Nationwide and Trucks Series regulars.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a 24-year-old in the Roush Fenway Racing system, looks to win his first NASCAR championship with a finish of 37th or better in Saturday’s race. Stenhouse’s title bid was helped in Phoenix when Jason Leffler wrecked Elliott Sadler in a race that ended with Sam Hornish Jr. as winner.

There will be a new winner in the Trucks Series, too, as Austin Dillon goes into Friday night’s finale with a 20-point lead over Johnny Sauter and a 28-point advantage over James Buescher.

The Trucks champion might have been Ron Hornaday Jr., had he not been deliberately wrecked by Kyle Busch two weeks ago at Texas. The accident took the four-time Trucks champion out of the race, earning Busch a weekend suspension, a hefty fine and a lot of bad press for both him and NASCAR.

NASCAR has insisted that Busch was suspended specifically because of what happened with Hornaday, and not because it was another misstep in a career checked with impulsive and often bad behavior.

And when Brian Vickers wrecked Matt Kenseth in Sunday’s race, it was generally believed to be payback from their on-track collision at Martinsville last month. But NASCAR said nothing was afoul.

Kenseth didn’t buy it and neither did most fans, who failed to see any major difference between Busch’s behavior and Vickers’.

It’s just another subplot in what’s looking to be an exciting close to another NASCAR season.


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