Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NASCAR’s Pointless Proposal

NASCAR's Brain Trust Seems Ready To Change Chase Again
So what’s the point behind NASCAR’s apparent decision to change (for the third time in 10 years) the way it selects a national champion?

According to Charlotte Observer, NASCAR’s favorite outlet for trial balloons, The Chase field will be expanded to 16 drivers this year (Sweet 16?).  Win a race and you’re in.  If 16 drivers don’t win races (likely), the remaining positions will be filled by those with the most points. 

After that, four drivers will be eliminated – based on points – after the third, sixth and ninth races of The Chase.  The national champ is the top-finishing driver from the Final Four (hmmm, where have I heard that before?) at Homestead.

Why?  What’s the point?

If the point is to create an exciting “game seven/Super Bowl “ for the final race of the year, this will probably do it.  Of course it will cheapen the championship beyond recognition.  If the 16th place driver, a driver without a win during the regular season, somehow makes it to the final and then is the highest finisher of the Final Four – and again, possibly without a win – does NASCAR really think people will view him as the Sprint Cup Champion?  He may have the Cup and the money, but he won’t be the champion.

If the point is to make for better or harder racing, that’s an insult to the drivers and teams.

If the point is to derail Jimmie Johnson, why not just add weight to Johnson’s car?  That’s the way they do it in sports car racing (now also controlled by NASCAR) and horse racing.  Keep adding weight until he can’t possibly win.

If the point is to provide three more opportunities for the type of shenanigans that played out at Richmond last year, this should do the trick.   It would have to be done with a little more flair and finesse than the ham-handed attempt by Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing, but does anyone really think, with everything on the line x3, that type of manipulation won’t be tried again?

Not surprisingly, the Observer has been fairly supportive of NASCAR’s balloon.  But most of the comments in the chat rooms, racing forums and in response to articles about the change have been negative.  Mostly extremely negative.  But don’t think for a moment that will change NASCAR’s mind.  They have shown a repeated willingness to go against wishes of its core audience.  The casual fan, the ones NASCAR hopes to attract with the changes, could care less.  They’re not even aware a change is under consideration.  

Unfortunately, NASCAR isn’t the only organization affected by this pointless madness.  Formula One seems to be committed to making the last race of the season a “double points” event, with perhaps two other double points races added during the season.  Not surprisingly, Sebastian Vettel calls the idea “absurd.”  He’s right.

Even the National Football League is considering a point change.  Touchdowns would be worth an automatic seven points.  No more extra points.  But if a team wants to go for an added point (the old two-point conversion), that would be good for one point.  Total of eight.  If you go for it and miss, subtract one point.  Is nothing sacred? 

Since everyone seems to have an idea about how to make the NASCAR championship more exciting, how about this: make the final race of the year an Australian Pursuit Race.  You know, put the fastest cars at the back of the pack.  Whenever a car gets passed, it’s out of the race.  Last car running is NASCAR’s national champion.  The Australian pursuit race was a staple of short tracks in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and you still see them now and then.  They're certainly exciting.

So why not an Australian Pursuit Race for the NASCAR title?  They seem willing to try everything else.




  1. Every time you think Nascar can't get any more irrelevant or absurd....

  2. I guess I'm in the minority. I think the 16 car playoff format is a terrific idea. Did it cheapen the Super Bowl win of the Packers in 2010 even though they made it to the playoffs via wild card? No it did not. I did the math for the past two seasons and the champs would have been Matt Kenseth (2013) and Kyle Busch (2012)...if all finishes remained the same. Both would have been deserving of the championship. David Ragan (2013) & Marcos Ambrose (2012) would have both dropped out in the first rounds. Plus, I think it will add some excitement, particularly on the dreadful 1.5 & 2 mile cookie cutters.

    1. Just remember in all other sports you don't play all your competition every week so a playoff is a viable way to crown a champion.

  3. Has NASCAR considered the possibility that a crash or engine problem for the final 4 could result in their new champion finishing 30th or worse in the final? That would be exciting!

  4. So.... assume for a minute.... Johnson and Earnhardt make the chase... and then both men have three poor finishes in the first three Chase races.... both are eliminated in the first 'round.' They upped the number to 12 to get Jr and Gordon into the Chase in the first place. What are they going to do if Jr and Johnson go out in the first round? and their new qualifying method couldn't get any more complicated if they tried. Idiots.

  5. You are correct about Nascar ignoring fans, what business does that unless it is clearly motivated by the bigger bucks that TV revenue and the like bring? It just shows Nascar does not care about it's core fan base, the teams, or it's product. If there was ever a time for teams and sponsors to flex their muscles, now would be a good one. Enough of this garbage. Idiots all of them in Castle Daytona.

  6. When will NASCAR realize that the problem isn't with how the champion is decided, but with the racing itself. No matter what system you put in, if the basic product isn't good, it is irrelevant. As a long time short track racer and fan, I find Cup races to be yawners for the most part. There is very little good racing going on. Contrary to what the announcers would have you believe, two cars side by side, with one on the white line and the other up by the guard rail is not exciting. I could go into a long explanation of the things I feel need to be changed, but there isn't enough time or space here. Suffice to say, the new proposed system, and the Chase in general, is not going to draw more interest from the casual fan. The Chase was brought in to help NASCAR compete with the NFL, and to garner more attention in the traditional Stick / Ball media (example, Newsday on Long Island). It has done neither. I would guess that Bill France SR and JR are spinning in their graves at a higher RPM than a Cup engine at Pocono.

  7. If NASCAR wants to mimic the "ball: sports, why don't they also only allow the drivers eligible to win the championship participate in the chase and see how all the sponsers like the idea then. The also rans shouldn't be allowed to influence the outcome in a race in a winner take all format.

  8. Come on Art, who do you think you're writing to?

    Probably 90% of today's NASCAR fans don't know what an Australian Pursuit race is, let alone ever seen one.

    As they're gimmicking up a gimmick, I'm voting for another staple for desperate promoters.

    The second car wins race.

    That having been said, I'm in complete agreement.

  9. Obviously, a lot of people feel strongly about this, both here and elsewhere. Thanks for your comments.

  10. If the 16th place driver is running well enough to make top 12 after 3, top 8 after 6 and top 4 after 9 races, he/she deserves a shot at the championship. Its no different than Smoke winning 5 races and the championship in '11 after barely qualifying for the chase. I didn't hear many complaints then that he wasn't the true champ.

    You're also confusing those who comment negatively on forums, chatrooms and articles with NASCAR's 'core' fans. I think you would find internent commentators do not form a representative sample of NASCAR's fan base. Not everyone uses the internet, not everyone who has an opinion shares it.

    As with anything, people are resistant to change. Personally, the thought that 4 drivers have a chance at the championship in Homestead is much more exciting to me than when the 48 needing to finish 22nd or better to clinch regardless of what anyone else does.

    That being said, it might work and it might not. I'll reserve judgement until i see it. But i'm still going to watch.