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Rumored changes would make NASCAR championship into more of a joke

By admin | December 6, 2010

By Richard Allen


The NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet has just concluded and Jimmie Johnson was crowned as the champion for the fifth consecutive time. In 2010, just as they have for the four previous years, he and his Hendrick Motorsports team proved they are the best over a ten race stretch at the end of the season.

To many, that is all they proved. According to these opponents of the current system, modern day Sprint Cup champions lack the same legitimacy of those who won a title determined over the course of an entire season. More than a few NASCAR fans and critics consider the Chase for the Championship format to be little more than a contrived joke. And if that is the case, next year could provide even more folly.

If the rumors floated out toward the end of the 2010 season are to be believed, NASCAR Chairman Brian France is considering what he calls “minor tweaks” to the championship playoff. If these rumors are indeed true a major change would have caused a complete upheaval because the minor tweaks seem ridiculous enough.

Supposedly, the Chase field is to be expanded from twelve to fifteen participants. This would be the second time such an expansion has taken place. At the Chase’s inception in 2004 only ten drivers qualified for the final ten race dash. In 2007, that number was raised to twelve.

Many believed the 2007 expansion came about as a result of the fact that over the previous two seasons the likes of Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had failed to make the top-10 by the end of the season’s 26th and playoff deciding race. Those critics said that the sanctioning body was tinkering with their own system to ensure that the sport’s most popular figures would be in the Chase each year and thus create the most fan interest during the fall season when NASCAR must compete with the NFL for television viewers.

Another expansion of the Chase field would bring about the same criticism as Earnhardt, the sport’s most popular driver, has failed to make a championship playoff in each of the previous two seasons. Many would label the expansion a ‘Junior Rule’ calling it an attempt by NASCAR to keep his many fans interested as long as possible.

Another problem with a Chase expansion would be that as of the end of the 2010 season there were only 31 teams set to run the full schedule in 2011 as true participants, meaning not as start and park teams. Essentially, half of all full time Sprint Cup runners will make the very diluted playoff next season unless new teams emerge in the very near future.

In 2010, Mark Martin went into the 26th race of the season in 15th place of the overall standings a full 666 points behind leader Kevin Harvick. That means a driver between 600 and 700 points behind will suddenly be brought to equal or near equal with the leader after that 26th race. That would be tantamount to allowing a 6-10 team into the NFL playoffs.

And besides the expansion of the Chase field, NASCAR is considering another change that they believe will assure a close points battle right to the very end of the season, much like that of 2010. According to the rumors, there will be a second re-setting of the points among fewer drivers with three or four races remaining.

Now, those who criticize the current format as one that names a champion who only has to be the best over ten races have a three or four race dash to the Sprint Cup trophy to look forward to.

Perhaps NASCAR is not attempting to fashion itself after the NFL after all. It seems as though the sport’s top brass have been watching ‘Dancing With The Stars’ or ‘Survivor’ instead.

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Hendrick moves not made solely for purpose of appeasing Junior, Gordon

Gustafson may offer Gordon his last shot at championship glory

What is the significance of five championships in a row?

Will strong finish by Edwards result in 2011 success

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17 Responses to “Rumored changes would make NASCAR championship into more of a joke”

  1. Liz Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    What NASCAR should do, change the format a bit–for the last 10 races, whoever wins the most races should get the trophy. If there is a tie, than, consider who got the most pole. Forget about points.

  2. Bob Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I think you’re spot on with changes making it more a joke. That would certainly be my perception. Media Personalities who shall not be named running around calling Jimmie Johnson the greatest of all time need to take a class in statistics. Jimmie is certainly great and you can’t take anything from what he’s achieved, but you have to put it in perspective. Winning 5 in a row in a format so driven by luck shows that he’s the “Luckiest” driver in history. That isn’t to say he wasn’t also the best the last 5 years when it counted. But a small problem here or there could have made a huge difference and he didn’t have those issues. Jimmies 5 championships were earned over 50 races while it took many more races than that for Petty to win just one of his early championships. Anything that increased the randomness of the eventual winner will just further cheapen the championship (see Kurt Busch) NASCAR is damn lucky that it WAS Stewart (x1) Johnson (x5) who won the next championships during the chase era, giving faux credibility to a gimmicky chase.

  3. jerseygirl Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    If France goes through with these changes, then let’s not even bother to call this a sport any more. Just draw a number out of the hat between 1 and 15 and that’s where you wind up in the points.

    It will be as legitimate a way to determine a champion as this crapshoot will be.

    they could just let the fans vote — that way, Jr would have a championship every year, no matter what.

    I’m supposed to buy tickets to watch this crap?

  4. Hutch Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    This is an easy fix:
    At the end of 26 races the drivers in the top 12 in points plus Dale Jr. make the chase. Even if Dale Jr. makes the chase on his own he will be advanced to the number 3 slot unless somehow he naturally finished in first or second. He would not be allowed to slip below fifth and if his points back from the leader ever exceeded one full race differential all chase points would be reset.

    Next we would have different Sprint Cup trophy levels like the WWE has belts:
    Sprint Cup Champion (the Jimmie Johnson award)
    The US Champion Cup
    The Intercontinental Champion Cup
    The Tag Team Cup

  5. Jim Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Lets see, 15 races-10 races or 5 races, give points or don’t, race or don’t race, I don’t care, I won’t be watching!

  6. gary Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I do like the idea of resetting the points whenever Jr falls behind. Also like Hutchs other ideas for different cups. Shouldn’t Gordon be a winner along with Johnson for the Tag Team Cup? They shared garages and pit crews. Kyle Bush could be eligible for the Nut Cup, and Martin could’ve won the Gray Cup. The possibilities are endless.

  7. oldnascar Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I have a Better system. Run the frist 26 races. Give the Cup JJ and call it the end of the season. Then we all can watch the NFL.

  8. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Rich, I feel that Brian has not won a lot of friends (including the Ross and Rachel Kind) in his lamedog reign as all my friends are in Central Iowa, not Central Park because I wish the championship was a SCCA Runoff and they held the banquet at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

  9. DMan Says:
    December 6th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Welcome to the “game” of NASCAR. Bozo Brian is the first person in history to turn a full-fledged sport into a gameshow. I wish we could vote him off the island.

  10. Gordon82Wins Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Hearing about some of the proposed changes to the playoffs, I can only conclude that Brian France is either so detached from the fans that he may as well be living in a hut in Kenya like Obama’s brother, or he is so astoundingly arrogant that he is willing to wreck the sport his father and grandfather built to preserve his ego.

    NASCAR does a poll every time they think people might be coming around to liking the Chase so they can say how popular it is. Even this year, with the Chase working exactly as intended, 55% still hate it. And that’s of the remaining fans. NASCAR immediately shut down the poll and they’re still insisting people love it.

    Changing the Chase to a 15-driver playoff with an elimination format would turn the championship battle into such a joke that people would be laughing at NASCAR for their ridiculous efforts to make the sport exciting. If France wants to preserve his ego, the best thing for him to do now would be to leave the Chase alone and hope people forget that he thought this idiotic playoff system would be a good idea.

    Someone grab this guy’s ear and tell him that the whole point of “game sevens” is that they don’t happen every year. Thank God this guy isn’t running baseball.

  11. John Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Yeah, right, whatever.

    I just don’t care anymore.

  12. The Mad Man Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Depending on what site has a poll on the play-offs, I’ve seen it as high as 90% against the play-off format. So if you average it out, it comes out to 72.5% against it.

    Here’s a play-off idea. 36 races, 43 points positions, and whoever has the most points at the conclusion of race 36 is the champion.

  13. Charles Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Nascar doesnt get the real problem !

    The real problem is Nascar needs better racing on raceday!

    They should demote anytime of Chase System and start a concerted effort to make the ‘Race Day” better and more exciting for the fans! Not the Chase!!!!!

    Making the Race Day experence more important than the Chase is why fans go to races anyway is what needs to be fixed!

    TV ratings and track attendence has been falling off early in the year or season!

    Like I said before should create a system to start paying points to lead laps in order to make ”Raceday more important” than the Chase not the other way around!

    Again just ask youself when you buy a ticket or watch a Nascar event on TV two simple question!!!!!

    Am I here to see a good race?

    Or am I here to see who wins the Chase?

    Paying points to lead laps would surely have a good impact on Raceday Racing in which is why we attend and what has been missing!!!!

  14. JC Says:
    December 8th, 2010 at 2:36 am

    I think Charles asked the right questions. What are the fans here to see? The racing on the track.

    A championship race takes place on some magical board someplace.

    If you really want to make an exciting championship finish, then have a race that is winner-takes-all. Something that we can actually see happen on the track between the drivers and cars.

    The Chase was designed for the media…. who - surprise surprise - love the Chase. It gives them their hype and stories they want. They will basically call those who disagree with them morons or tell them to get with the times.

    What is with the idea that change is always a good thing? Change is always progress! Sometimes tradition is better.

    And as far as the excitement of this year’s battle…. the race did not live up to the hype. That championship was over long before the race was.

    I was willing to give the Chase a chance when they first came up with it. It’s been seven years and has failed to improve anything.

  15. Dan Says:
    December 8th, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Make the racing better. Shorter races. Run stock cars, like they used to.

    If you need a “chase”, all cars that don’t make the chase, go home, just like the NFL playoffs. Then 2 eliminated until one car stands.

    Hey! The Packers are on…L8r!

  16. X-Na$car fan Says:
    December 8th, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I really think they should do away with the Chase & make the champ the driver who wins the most races over 36 races. No points - winner take all. After all - 2nd is the 1st loser. If they made the driver with the most wins champ - the racing on the track every week would be much better if they’re running for wins & not points. And isn’t that what we all want to see???

  17. Kevin Says:
    December 9th, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    The Mad Man: “Here’s a play-off idea. 36 races, 43 points positions, and whoever has the most points at the conclusion of race 36 is the champion.”

    What a novel idea! I was going to post the exact same thing. If only Brian France could come up with something like that…

    I have been a loyal fan, watching nearly every race over at least the last 10-15 years (and I’m only 25). I’ve put up with the nonsense longer than some people have because I still enjoy watching the drivers, and I love to see a surprise like the kind of season McMurray had. But I’ve just about reached my tipping point, and if Brian France makes these ridiculous changes to the chase, it’ll send me over the top.

    Most likely, next year, I’ll watch certain races at the tracks I love the most, but I seriously doubt I’ll watch the full season again–for the first time in a very long time.