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« Don’t get too excited about those NASCAR changes just yet: PART I- The CoT | Main | Wrong time to be ride hunting for Harvick, Kahne, Hamlin and others »

Don’t get too excited about those NASCAR changes just yet: PART II- The Chase

By admin | January 26, 2010

By Richard Allen

In recent days the suddenly new and improved, fan-friendly NASCAR has announced that they are replacing the rear wing of the Car of Tomorrow with a blade spoiler, they are doing away with the no bump-drafting rule on restrictor plate tracks and they are going to let the drivers show some personality.

These changes come along with the previously announced plans to fix the start times of races at an earlier and more consistent hour.

While these changes are noteworthy for an organization not known for admitting its mistakes, there is still much to be done.

Yesterday, I wrote about the need for change on the Car of Tomorrow. That vehicle is possibly the most despised part of modern day NASCAR by long time fans. And if the CoT is not the most despised piece of the new NASCAR, then the Chase for the Championship is.

After the 2003 season in which Matt Kenseth had the title locked up well before the season was over NASCAR decided they wanted the championship battle to go down to the last lap of the last race. To assure that they instituted a so called playoff type system known as the Chase for the Championship.

Drivers now race, or rather accumulate points, over the course of the first 26 races. After that point, the top-12 are locked into the ‘playoff’ which determines the season champion over the course of the last ten races.

When I first heard of this idea I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. But then, I’ll admit that I became very much intrigued by the Chase. After the first year it was used when Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon battled right to the last lap of the last race it seemed as though NASCAR had found a winner.

However, what has happened since has been that teams have figured out how to play the game. Since a team’s success or failure over the course of a season is based on whether or not they make the Chase, drivers begin points racing right from the very outset of the season. Where there was once a system in which one driver, such as Kenseth in 2003, coasted to the finish over the course of a few races to add up points, there is now a system in which 43 drivers are coasting for points all throughout the first 26 races.

To create drama over the last ten races, NASCAR has destroyed the first 26 races.

Throughout its history NASCAR has often been criticized for not placing enough emphasis on winning. Consistency has always been key in the sport. Under the old points system a driver could win a season championship by essentially 5th placing his way to the title. However, once eliminated from real contention, or after having fallen behind by a significant number, the other drivers had nothing to do other than race for wins.

Now, drivers always feel as though they have a chance at a championship as long as they can stay near the top-12 in the standings, even after falling far behind. Consider this, approximately one-third of the field in any given event are racing for points and trying to position themselves in the top-12 of the standings rather than placing emphasis on winning the race itself.

When NASCAR talks of changes they are making for the betterment of the sport they are really talking about superficial changes they are making in the hopes of fooling enough people to coax them back into the grandstands and to their televisions. A spoiler, the allowance of bump drafting and earlier start times are nice and they are changes that needed to be made. However, they are not changes that get at the root of why people are moving away from this sport in droves.

NASCAR needs a points system that will create racing for wins, not racing for points. Drivers are far too content to settle rather than risk. There needs to be a reason for them to take risks.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and the Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

10 Responses to “Don’t get too excited about those NASCAR changes just yet: PART II- The Chase”

  1. Bill B Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Very good summary of the downside of the chase regarding points racing. As long as a substantial percentage of the field has the illusion (and that’s all most of them have) that they have a chance to win the championship, points racing will trump winning.

  2. Gina Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Good article, Rich. Yep, that sums it up very well. NASCAR has now become like most other sports, ones that I don’t bother to watch until the playoffs come around. Points racing - yuck!

  3. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I just dont understand why they just never gave like 50 points or more for winning a race back when I started watching NASCAR. Then when Kenseth basicallt brought about the change,I thought for sure they would do this. But it must have made too much sense!! I then like you thought I’d give the chase a try but the moment they went from 10 drivers to 12 getting in (for “some unknown reason” *wink-wink*) I knew we in trouble and knew it had to be a matter of time before someone just figured out you could just coast and or test the first 26 races then just do well on the 10 chase tracks. Enter–Chad-n-Jimmie. Now here we are with a 4 straight winner and all kinds of bad ratings and ettendance figures (count me as a contributor). The sanctioning body has just lost way too credibility to be taken seriously unless they make or undo something major. Until that time they can just harvest that crop they planted.

  4. SAB Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    The other problem I have with the chase is that it locks driver IN to the top 12. If first place is pretty well set, the rest of the top 12 know they are guaranteed to finish no lower than 12th. Everyone outside that has no chance to pull up into the top 10 or 12. So, Nascar has effectively eliminated any competition for any spot other than first. Yippee. I don’t find that exciting at all.

  5. Bill B Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Maybe NASCAR should drop the number of people in the chase down from 12 to maybe 5 or 3. That would lessen the percentage of drivers racing for and fixated on points down to about 10% instead of 28%.

  6. Charles Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 2:05 pm


    Richard I agree a change needs to be made, but look even if you pay more points to win, that will not have a big impact on the main problem when attending or watching a race!”boring racing” The fastest cars will lay back at first of the race and only go to race at the end of the race, so and the action will be at the end! Thus another stradegty session!

    You will again in this system have to sit for 3 hours to see the last 30 minutes of action!

    Do away with the Chase! and create a point system that pays points to lead laps would give incentive to make action on ‘RACEDAY” better and probably help the action in the early and mid portians of a race! When points are paid for racing and exchanging the lead instead of coasting “would be racing for points’ each lap! Thus better racing!

    I think we need to remember why we attend or watch a Nascar race, most when they get in their seat are wanting to see a good race thats entertaining from the begaining to the end and passes for the lead! I have yet to go to a Nascar race to see who was winning the point title!

    Regardless on how the Champsionship is decided it should never get in the way of a exciting race!

  7. Richard in N.C. Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    As I recall one of the prime reasons for going to the Chase was all the complaining from the giant brains in the media about how boring the Matt Kenseth runaway was. I still think the Chase is a good idea, but could use some tweaking, like increasing the points for winning or finishing in the top 5. The Chase is such a clearly bad idea that the PGA and NHRA both have stolen it.

    A big part of the problem is how lucrative the Cup championship has become compared to the prize money for wins.

  8. Marybeth Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Can you imagine F1 with a Chase? Nope. They would become a laughing stock. Ditto for other race series. If Chad & JJ are so good they can win with or without the Chase. If Nascar keeps the Chase & JJ wins again there will be louder murmurs of credibility & WWE…& nothing will stave off the exodus from Nascar.
    On Brian France’s behalf, perhaps he is not the one running Nascar. Maybe someone else is. Maybe BF is just the front guy who does and says what he is told.

  9. Josie Says:
    January 28th, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I don’t know exactly how to “fix” the Chase..(one hates to attach the word “fix” to “Chase”..too many black helicopters). But..maybe..since NASCAR was aiming to compete with the “playoffs” many stick and ball sports have..they should go all the way…have a “real” playoff system. Race the first 31 races “normally”..then take the top 10 cars for the final five races and “eliminate” two cars each race..thus when you are in the 36th race you will have only two cars in contention for the Championship. Make sense? I also don’t think “points” should matter..each race you are eliminated on your position..bottom two finishing positions are eliminated each you have to race for the win (or best finishing position) to continue in the “Chase”. It’s kind of like “last man standing”. At least this way one car can’t hit on something good a race or two and run away with the title..and if you have a not so good Chase race you are not completely out of the running. Each race of the Chase you hang in there you have a chance to do better the next round. At the end you have your Champion..the last man standing..and the rest of the Chase contenders are ranked on their “drop out” order. I personally like just a straight points system the entire season..but since NASCAR insists on making it “fancy”..”last man standing” seems as good as what they are doing now..and gives the fans a chance to root for their driver as if each Chase race was the first! It also could be “musical chairs”…at the end of each race the two drivers who didn’t “get a seat” are out! At least this way the Chase would only be five races long..and I think it would hold the fans attention better then ten races.

  10. Ricky Shelton Says:
    January 29th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    I think if they are going to continue with this ludicrousness of the “Chase”, then the 12 drivers should be on a different points system the last 12 races, 12 for the highest finish down to 1 for the lowest finish, regardless of where they finish in relation to everyone else. I haven’t tried this scenario in the last 4 “Chases” to see how it would have played out but I think this would be more exciting than what they have had. But too much emphasis is put on the Championship and it has killed the racing. It will never be like it used to be but they do have room to make it better, they just won’t or don’t know how!!!!