The New Chase Format: My Thoughts

Marcos Ambrose

(WOMR file photo)

It is a fact that NASCAR’s sanctioning body has changed, or modified, it’s point system when it felt it was necessary during its 60 plus years of existence.  However, the new format change is the most radical change in the entire history of this sport!

As I have written, under this latest change, winning races is the only thing that is now important.  No longer will consistency ever matter during the course of a season!

To win the championship under the new format, a driver needs to produce at least four victories. That’s one win in the first 26 races, and then one win in each elimination round to reach the season finale where the title recipient will be determined.  Another scenario could be winning one race in the “regular season”, the first 26 races, thereafter during the Chase, finishing consistently in the top 3-5 in each of the remaining races, prior to Homestead, and thereby making the cuts at races 3, 6, and 9 of the Chase.  Then, in the season finale the only requirement for a driver to win the coveted championship is to finish ahead of the other three competitors vying for the title.  That could mean either a victory or a top-10 finish.

To think that a team could have a “surprise” victory in the first 26 races, as was the case for Front Row Motorsports and David Ragan, and that would allow that team the opportunity to be running for the Chase championship, all the while resting in 28th place.  That is very unpalatable to me!  As we all know, the restrictor plate race tracks, Daytona and Talladega, evens the playing field, and the smallest of budgeted teams have an equal chance at winning those races.  Notwithstanding that fact, winning one of those races really does not necessarily qualify that team, in all honesty, to be able to race for the championship with “the big dogs” of NASCAR!

I am trying to keep an open mind on this radical change in the way the Sprint Cup championship is awarded, however, it is quite possible that now the Sprint Cup championship could very well could be diluted with the way that some teams may be admitted into the Chase. Additionally, the team that could dominate for the first nine races, and leading the points at Homestead by a large amount, could leave Homestead in fourth place!  I am having trouble trying to wrap my head around that concept!

Therefore, in my personal opinion, with this new Chase format, NASCAR should award a trophy to the driver that is leading the points at the end of the first 26 races, “the regular season”. That would award the driver who performs at a consistently high level for the entire “regular season” some recognition, in addition to The Chase award.  That would acknowledge the two parts to the NASCAR 36 race schedule!

On first blush, it appears that NASCAR is trying to cultivate a higher level of drama that it already has for the Chase.  How much more drama could have been generated in the 2012 Chase when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards actually tied in total points?  It does not get any tighter of a race than that!  Yet, NASCAR is trying to increase the drama level.  Hmmmmm!

Just remember, there is the old saying that goes something like this: “be careful what you wish for, your just may get it”!

With this new format, your star could burn red hot bright, and yet fizzle out way too soon.  Or you lie just below the radar, but performing exceptionally well, winning it all and going out in a “blaze of glory”!


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