How much attention should be paid to drivers not in contention?

In case you hadn't noticed, NASCAR is in the midst of a great three-way battle for the championship. And that means that there are nine drivers in the Chase and 31 others who didn't qualify who are out of contention. How much should they be talked about?

One of the arguments made against the Chase by fans is that the coverage centers around those going after the title and that their driver — if he's out of contention or out of the Chase entirely — gets ignored. And this piece from Jim Utter, along with quotes from Tony Stewart, support that notion.

But how much attention should guys not in contention be given? Yes, NASCAR is different because every team competes at the same time every week, unlike in other sports such as baseball where the Kansas City Royals are mostly ignored by mid-April. Quite honestly, that's the way that it should be.

Yes, the sports media like to focus on storylines and certain subjects way too much at times — hello, Brett Favre — but for the most part, media attention is earned. There's a reason that Jimmie Johnson is the focal point of Chase coverage. Think back a little bit to when Johnson was title-less. (It was just four years ago!) He was just one of 10 drivers going for the championship.

In an interview with From the Marbles earlier in the year, ESPN's Marty Reid used AJ Allmendinger as an example of someone who had gotten a lot of coverage in the first two races of the Chase. Why? Because Allmendinger was running well.

On the other hand, Joey Logano's running well now, too — with finishes of seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and third over the last five races — but he's been overshadowed by the championship battle. (Not to mention Carl Edwards, whose win at Phoenix was, well, largely ignored.)

This could be the stretch where Logano turns himself into a legitimate Chase threat for the foreseeable future. Still, there is just one race to go and the four-time defending champion is on the ropes. What's the bigger storyline here? (And let's be honest, if Logano had run well enough to make the Chase in the first 26 races, you can be damn sure that he'd be a major topic right now)

Sit back and enjoy the last race of 2010. And if you feel your driver is being ignored — and one of those in contention even thinks he's being disrespected — then you better hope that he picks up the pace in 2011. You don't get noticed for being average. There's a reason guys who consistently finish 20th don't sell tons of merchandise.

OK, maybe that's not the best example. But you get the point.