On Thursday, NASCAR made official the Chase format that I was dreading. You know, the one that included an expansion to 16 drivers, eliminations every three races and a points reset before the final race to where the champion was determined by highest finisher among the four still in it in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. If you want a more detailed description, click here.
I don’t think this new format is all bad. I don’t have an issue with the expansion to 16 drivers. I also don’t have an issue with eliminations, to a point. The one aspect of this whole thing I’m having a hard time accepting is the points reset for the four remaining contenders heading into Homestead, making it seem as if the championship is decided by a single race.
Yeah, sure, I realize the rest of the season is still at least somewhat important. After all, winning in the first 26 races gets drivers in and performance is what allows the drivers to continue advancing through the Chase. Still, I have a hard time accepting the fact that, in the end, it all comes down to how drivers run at a single track. Yeah, I realize that in stick-and-ball sports, the NCAA champion comes down to that final game. And in the NFL, there’s the upcoming Super Bowl. But heck, even in Major League Baseball and the NBA, a team isn’t doomed by one game, even when the finals are reached. Even when it comes down to two teams battling for the championship, there’s a series of games, not just one. Besides, racing is by no means a stick-and-ball sport.
I’m all for bigger rewards for winning, and on paper, that’s what this new system rewards. Win in the first 26 races and you’re pretty much in the Chase. Win in the Chase and you advance to the next round.
But couldn’t giving wins more weight be achieved by awarding even more points for wins? I think that would be the option I’d go for. I think consistency should still count for something. I think maybe NASCAR went a little to far in the opposite direction.
Or did it?
More than a few people have thought it fun to go back to 2013 and apply this new system to see how things would have shaken out last year. Those who have been complaining for several years now about Jimmie Johnson’s dominance would probably be happy to know that the new system wouldn’t have just given the 2013 Sprint Cup to Johnson.
At least Johnson would have still been in the running in the final race, though, which is more than could be said about Matt Kenseth. That’s right, last year’s winningest driver (Kenseth) wouldn’t have even had a shot when teams rolled into Homestead. He would have already been eliminated. Neither would Kyle Busch, who tied with Kevin Harvick for third-most wins on the season. Harvick would have, at least, made the finals, but not Busch.
As a matter-of-fact, under this new system, the 2013 Sprint Cup Series champion would have been….. drum roll, please….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. That’s right; the system that is supposed to be all about winning would have given winless driver Earnhardt the 2013 title last year. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? I guess, in the end, Junior Nation would have been happy with this system, had it been implemented a year earlier.
I guess that just goes to show that, no matter the system, there is at least an outside chance a winless driver can actually win it all. Still not sure about it, though. Guess I’ll just have to give it a chance and see how things work out come November 2014.
What do you think? Let us know on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner