At halfway through the Chase races, Jimmie Johnson appears to be breaking out into a commanding lead, at 90 points in front of second place Mark Martin. Jeff Gordon finds himself 135 points out of first place, while fourth place Tony Stewart is 155 points out of first.
Any of these drivers, as well as Kurt Busch (-177) and Juan Pablo Montoya (-195) can still technically win the Cup, but the momentum is definitely on JJ's side right now.
Were NASAR still using the old points system, or as some call it, the pre Chase points system, Tony Stewart would be 117 points in front of second place Jimmie Johnson, while third place Jeff Gordon would be 139 points out of first place. Mark Martin would find himself a whopping 460 points out of first place, and basically without a prayer of winning a championship in 2009.
Obviously, the points race is closer under the current Chase system, but were NASCAR running under the old system, there would be a different odds on favorite with only 5 races remaining in the season.
Jimmie Johnson's driving style and late season dominance have worked well with the current Chase points system. Even his owner, Jeff Gordon, has stated that Jimmie is better suited to the Chase format than Gordon is. Case in point; Jeff Gordon's last Cup came in 2001, before the Chase system was implemented. Jimmie appears to be well on his way to winning 4 Cups in a row, all under the Chase points system.
Will NASCAR decide that the 48 team is too dominant and try to tweak the points system yet again? All indications point to 'no.' Some fans are complaining, however, and one has to wonder if the noise level reaches a certain volume, NASCAR will once again try to level out the playing field.
Personally, dynasties in NASCAR don't really bother me. We've had them before with Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, and before JJ came along, Jeff Gordon. Right now, Jimmie Johnson simply seems to be the best at winning championships in the current system, just like Jeff Gordon made the old points system work in his favor.
Once again, whether the Chase is good or not for NASCAR, or whether it's fair or unfair, it is what it is until NASCAR decides to do something different.
photo credit: Russ Hamilton Jr. (Associated Press)