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Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup explained

January 17, 2014,

As the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup turns 10, get the history, format and more


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A 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup decides the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

The Chase was implemented in 2004 to involve more drivers in the championship hunt, and intensify fan interest and drama in a playoffs-style atmosphere during the season’s stretch run.

After race No. 26, the top 10 drivers in points earn a berth in the 10-race Chase. Spots 11 and 12 -- the Wild Card spots – go to those drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins, provided they are in the top 20. Once the Chase field is set, each driver has his points total reset to 2,000. For those in the top 10, three bonus points are added to that total for each victory during the first 26 races. The tiebreaker for drivers with the same win total is second-place finishes followed by third-place finishes and so on.

A rundown of the Chase’s first 10 years:

- In 2004, the Chase ended with Kurt Busch edging Jimmie Johnson by a scant eight points to win the series title.
- In 2005, Tony Stewart edged out Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards by just 35 points.
- In 2006, Johnson beat Matt Kenseth by 56 points.
- In 2007, Johnson beat Jeff Gordon by 77 points.
- In 2008, Johnson topped Edwards by 69 points, becoming only the second driver in NASCAR history and the first in 30 years to win three consecutive series titles. Cale Yarborough was the first driver to win three consecutive series titles (1975-78).
- In 2009 and 2010, Johnson again made NASCAR history by becoming the first driver to win five consecutive series titles (2006-10).
- In 2010, Johnson also became the first driver in Chase history to overcome a deficit going into the season finale to win the championship, beating out Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.
- In 2011, Stewart claimed his third series crown by winning five of the 10 Chase races, including the season finale. His year-ending victory forced a points tie with Carl Edwards atop the standings; Stewart won the tiebreaker with five wins to Edwards’ one.
- In 2012, Brad Keselowski won claimed the title by 39 and 40 points over Clint Bowyer and Johnson, respectively. Keselowski was the first first-time champion in the series since 2005 when Johnson won his first title in only the second year of the Chase.
- In 2013, Johnson claimed his sixth title by 19 and 34 points over Kenseth and Harvick, respectively. Johnson joined Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers with six titles and begins 2014 in a quest to tie the NASCAR Hall of Famers with seven premier series championships.