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As football season approaches, Jimmie Johnson could help NASCAR by not ruining the Chase

By admin | August 29, 2011

By Richard Allen

College football season is set to begin this coming weekend as NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series races in Atlanta. The next week, and just in time for the Chase for the Championship cutoff and the playoff run itself, the National Football League will kickoff its 2011 campaign. Needless to say, the beginning of football season is a matter of concern for NASCAR due to the fact that the sport will have a competitor for television sets that it has not had throughout the first 2/3 of its season.

It looked as if NASCAR might catch a break earlier in the year when a lockout of NFL players by their owners appeared to be a virtual certainty. However, that issue was resolved and the season will go off as planned. So, each Sunday afternoon there is about to be the possibility of casual fans turning away from, or not turning to at all, the week’s NASCAR offering.

In recent years, NASCAR has made drastic changes to keep its viewers in place. Adjustments to the Sprint Cup schedule have taken place on multiple occasions in an attempt to maneuver races away from areas in which the tracks would find themselves in direct competition with college or NFL teams for ticket sales. And, races have been juggled in an attempt to have the most appealing tracks running up against football games on television.

However, the most drastic change of all occurred in 2004 when NASCAR decided to do away with the points system that had been in place for three decades and replace it with a playoff system called the Chase for the Championship. In 2003, driver Matt Kenseth and his team removed all drama from the title issue by running so consistently, if not spectacularly, that they essentially had the trophy locked up with weeks remaining in the season.

NASCAR now artificially resets the points with ten races to go in an attempt to assure a down to the wire championship battle. It was hoped this system would keep the attention of the fans so that they would not abandon the sport for other forms of entertainment once the title was decided.

Trouble has been that one driver and team have made the new system almost as lacking in drama as the old. Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team have clearly learned how to play the playoff game better than everyone else. The #48 crew has amassed an unprecedented five consecutive Sprint Cup championships.

That team and driver have done their work so well and so efficiently that they have perhaps caused more people to turn away during the latter stages of the season than any one-sided runaway under the old format ever did.

Maybe the best thing that could happen for NASCAR in 2011 in terms of on-site attendance and television ratings would be for Johnson to fall from contention early on in the Chase and assure that someone else was going to win. Otherwise, many will see the final ten races as simply more of the same and turn away, as they have in recent years.

People get tired of routine sameness, even sports fans. If the sport is to see the maintenance of attendance and ratings the Chase for the Championship was meant to deliver the playoff will likely have to deliver a new winner. And even then, it may still be too late in coming.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “As football season approaches, Jimmie Johnson could help NASCAR by not ruining the Chase”

  1. Richard Allen Says:
    August 29th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Somehow, I don’t foresee Johnson being out of contention at any point throughout the Chase.

    My annual “Why pick anyone other than Johnson” piece will be out soon.

  2. Charles Says:
    August 29th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Dont be suprised if Jeff Gordon is moved up to outrun Johnson and a sernio for next year 5 titles a piece and who will break the tie?

    I know this sounds far fetched, but I would not discount it or be surprised!

    I think its time for some other teams start to dethrone Hendrick, it would be good for the sport!

    But after saying all of that, really I dont care anymore who wins it, the way the sport has “discounted itself” being a Nascar Champion has lost its prestage and glory it once had!

    The Chase was designed for drivers not fans!

  3. jerseygirl Says:
    August 30th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    sports fans tend to like an underdog and yes, the same old, same old 10 race chase has become a bore.

  4. joebob Says:
    August 30th, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I don’t see JJ making any difference on the ratings. They are still far better than they were when the title was earned at Phoenix. Last year there were three with a shot at Homestead. JJ even came from behind to win there. Last year was probably the closet in recent memory.
    No one faulted Rocky Marciano for winning all the time or even Larry Holmes. The fact they were able to win year in and out actually increases interest because of the rarity that it ever happens. I know these are just your opinions and not based in fact but you should also realize many do not agree with your prejudice.

  5. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    August 31st, 2011 at 3:13 am

    I know people are just as sick as I am of Rick Hendrick winning all the time when it counts and I know, I would prefer to tell NASCAR to reoverhaul their Points System so that they pay more for wins and on top of that , save the Bonus Points for Major Races and I would like to see more of a Championship Weekend as I feel the Short Tracks need more attention,Rich.