In 2004, NASCAR changed how a driver wins a championship. In 2003, when Matt Kenseth won his championship, he won one race, and was consistent, and had enough points a couple a races before the end of the year to win the championship. There was no excitement going into last races of the year. This isn't as big of an issue in the other two series.
Now the drivers raced the first 26 races, and then a 10 race championship. Some years have been exciting, others just okay. The media would talk about the drivers being mathematically in or out. Last night's Truck Series was still a good example, where even if the second place driver could win the race, the points leader only needed to finish fifteenth to win the championship. Last year changed this, because drivers were eliminated after each three sets of races, and the last race, the four drivers going for the championship, their position in the championship points were to be based where they finished in the final race. Last year, the championship was decided on who won the race, as two drivers were fighting for the win.
Each of the drivers this year have a great story to becoming the championship.
- Jeff Gordon will be retiring from the Sprint Cup Series this year. He is considered one of the great drivers of his era, and will easily be part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame when he is eventually nominated.
- Kyle Busch wrecked in Daytona and missed the first 11 of 26 races. With several wins, he was still able to earn enough points to be part of the championship. Previous years, he struggled during The Chase, but not this year.
- Martin Truex Jr. drives for a single car team, who is based out of Denver, CO. Almost every other team is based on the east coast. The makes him the underdog.
- Kevin Harvick is last year's champion, and is trying to be one of the few drivers with back to back championships, and to prove he is not just a one championship driver.