OK, first of all: Yes, the rumors are true. I was right.
(Last time it happened: 1975)
I was right, Kyle Busch was the man to put your chips on if it came down to one race, which is what NASCAR's endlessly tweaked playoff system finally does. And that's a good thing. Not everyone thinks so, but it is.
Found that out in a Twitter exchange with a couple of people, who seemed to think it was a joke that a man who broke his leg before the season even started should have had a shot at winning the title anyway. Apparently, because he missed the first 11 races, Busch was supposed to spend the rest of the season driving around out there to no real purpose. Sorry, son, but them's the breaks. Pun intended.
But NASCAR rightly gave Busch a waiver that exempted him from the rule that says a driver must compete in every race to be eligible for the Chase. That rule, NASCAR explained, was never intended to punish a driver who, through no fault of his own, was forced onto the sideline due to injury. Thus the waiver, of which Busch took full advantage.
He went on to win four races in the regular season and then the season finale Sunday at Homestead, sealing his first Sprint Cup title. No one besides Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson, who each won six races, won more than Busch. And even at that, NASCAR decreed he still had to finish in the top 30 in points to get into the Chase, even though he had only 15 races to do it.
This does not sound like NASCAR gave him some kind of freebie. Strangely, opinions on this varied.
For some, the fact Busch was allowed a waiver somehow became NASCAR changing the rules in midseason, even though it didn't. A waiver is not "changing the rules." The rules remained the same for Busch as for any Chase contender. He got in on ability and results, not on a hall pass from the principal.
Look. I have my issues with NASCAR. I think its product is sometimes manipulated, particularly in regard to on-track and off-track feuding. In that regard, I think punishing drivers for doing what you have implicitly endorsed is, to say the least, a bit two-faced.
(Not that I entirely buy some of the "feuds." The only thing phonier than a NASCAR driver brawl is a baseball brawl)
That said ... I think Busch won this title on his own merit. No farce was involved -- unless you consider the New York Giants winning the 2012 Super Bowl after going 9-7 in the regular season a farce, too.
Like the Giants, Busch had to first make the playoffs, then win the playoffs. He did. No one made everyone else pull over so he could go past. No one gave him more points for winning a race than anyone else got. He beat the people he had to beat when he had to beat them. What else is there?
So, no, this result is not a joke. But to have kept him out of the Chase when he was demonstrably one of the top 16 performers in the 2015 regular season?
Now that would have been a joke.