A family man, driver and broadcaster, Ned Jarrett participated in many careers, but now he is forever a hall of famer.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Ned Jarrett
An emotional Ned Jarrett comments on his many racing and broadcast accolades.
Bruce: Consistency has put RCR driver in position to win a championship RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota HOMESTEAD, Fla. – When Ryan Newman qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup earlier this year, along with 15 other drivers, his inclusion in the field caused nary a ripple. The fact that he had failed to win a race wasn't a sore spot for most fans. He was one of three Chase drivers, along with Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle , who were winless through this year's first 26 races. No one said he or Kenseth or Biffle didn't deserve to make the Chase. But a funny thing happened on the way to Sunday's Championship 4 and the Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN), the title-determining race scheduled for here at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Newman and his Richard Childress Racing No. 31 team continued to advance without making it to Victory Lane. Biffle fell by the wayside early, failing to finish any higher than 16th in the opening Challenger Round. Kenseth made it all the way to the Eliminator Round, but couldn't overcome a 25th-place finish at Texas. Others that had won, either during the first 26 races or once the Chase began, eventually fell by the wayside as well. In the meantime, Newman clicked off just enough top-10 finishes (five) in the nine Chase races to keep himself in the title picture. Now, he stands one finish away from potentially being crowned 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Without winning a race. And some folks think that's absurd.His competition has won races this season – Joey Logano five times, Kevin Harvick four. Even Denny Hamlin can claim one victory. NASCAR has never crowned a premier series champion that failed to win at least one race along the way, although the possibility has always existed. Four former champions won only once on the way to the title – Bill Rexford (1950), Ned Jarrett ('61), Benny Parsons ('73) and Kenseth ('03). Likewise, winning the most races in a given season hasn't guaranteed a championship trophy. Since 2004, six champions failed to win the most races in a season, but still won the championship. But, as others are quick to point out, they did win "some" races. Perhaps it's notable that following Kenseth’s title, officials rolled out the first Chase format in 2004. Winning had its privileges even then – each checkered flag during the regular season earning the winner bonus points used to determine how those in the Chase field would be seeded. Never were they "as important" as this year, though. Win a race, earn a spot in the Chase (as long as the driver met all other criteria). Win a race in the Chase, and move on to the next round. Points weren't tossed to the side, but they were no longer the golden ticket they had been for so many decades. Or so it seemed. Absurd? Or an unexpected turn of events? No one had any idea how this year's new format would play out. The only sure thing was win and advance. But what if you didn't? We saw Chase drivers win all three of Challenger Round races; we saw two drivers escape elimination with last-chance victories; and we saw non-Chase drivers, shut out in the first two rounds, win two of three races in the Eliminator Round. No two rounds were the same. Uncertainty was everywhere. Sunday, four drivers will have an opportunity to capture the sport's top honor. None faces a must-win situation -- finishing ahead of the other three will suffice, although that's a tall order on any given weekend, no doubt even more so with so much on the line. All four have earned the right, including Newman. His lack of wins this season wasn't an issue when the Chase got underway back in September. And it shouldn't be an issue now. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceVie FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Ned and Dale Jarrett remember Dale's first NASCAR Cup Series win for the Wood Brothers in the 1991 Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
NASCAR Hall of Famers think new format has been great, added excitement RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace each won championships at NASCAR's highest level under a season-long cumulative points system, years before the advent of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. This year's format is a drastic change from the system of their heyday, with eliminations, rewards for winning and consistency all part of the equation. Even though the current complexion of the Chase represents a dramatic shift, both retired drivers said they'd have welcomed a shot at the title under this year's revised rules. "I would've loved to have been a part of it," Jarrett said. "I think all your champions will tell you the reason they're champions is because of how they thrive and handle pressure-packed situations, and I think we're seeing exactly that. I get ramped up doing the telecasts so I can't imagine what it would've been like driving." The two NASCAR Hall of Famers swapped stories and offered their thoughts about the state of the sport in a rollicking half-hour news conference Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN). Both former drivers will share in calling the championship finale in their roles as TV analysts. Wallace and Jarrett each won one title in NASCAR's premier series a decade apart, with Wallace reigning in 1989 and Jarrett's crowning moment coming in 1999. For selfish reasons, Wallace said he would have preferred if the idea had been hatched for the new-look Chase during his racing career. "For me, they told me if we'd had this format while I was driving, I'd have won three championships with the amount of wins I've had," Wallace said. "So yeah, I like this a lot. I think it's an exciting series with what they're doing now." Wallace said several fellow members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame would have adapted well to the new format, reeling off the names of Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as drivers who relied on a healthy mix of winning plus consistency. Jarrett added the name of NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Terry Labonte to the list, but went back even further to marvel at what Hall of Famers Fireball Roberts or Junior Johnson could have accomplished under Chase rules. "I think that it would've fit all different eras if we had this type of format in those times," Jarrett said. Both agreed that the new format has increased the intensity of the racing this season, some of which has spilled over to post-race confrontations. Jarrett said that some of those same issues cropped up during his driving days, but that the spotlight's glare wasn't as wide as today's, with social media and traditional media expanding the number of eyes focused on the sport. Wallace pointed to Ryan Newman brushing aside rookie Kyle Larson last weekend as an instance of the hard-edged racing that the new Chase format has created. While some of the extracurriculars go over the line and result in punishment, Wallace said there's still a balance in what qualifies as acceptable and what isn't. "It has changed a little bit, but I think the drivers being able to get out there and have a lot of contact and not being penalized for it is a good thing nowadays," Wallace said. "The fighting, the beating each other up -- I'm not a big fan of that. I do like controversy and I do like excitement, and I think that was OK to tolerate. Everybody's going to have a different approach." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation