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The Chase is doing the opposite of what it was designed for

By admin | September 25, 2013

 Matt Kenseth clinched the championship in 2003 before the final race even took the green flag.

By Richard Allen

After Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup(then Winston Cup) championship by a comfortable margin in 2003 by piling up consistent top-10 finishes with only one win, NASCAR’s leadership decided to implement a new system that would assure a tight points battle down to the final race of the season. However artificial, the new format is supposed to create excitement for fans, and perhaps more importantly, television.

But in 2013, the Chase for the Sprint Cup seems to be failing in its mission to send more than a few of the field of twelve drivers hurtling toward the season’s final event with a chance to win the title. Instead, after only two races the championship battle appears to have already narrowed itself to three drivers.

After last week’s race in New Hampshire, Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, have proven to be a powerful force in the 2013 version of the NASCAR playoff. Those two, along with perennial favorite Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports are threatening to turn this into a three horse race very quickly.

As of now, Kenseth holds a 14 point lead over Busch and a 18 point advantage over Johnson. The next closest driver is Carl Edwards, but he isn’t really all that close. Currently, Kenseth’s former teammate at Roush Fenway Racing is 36 points off the lead.

But consider this. Kenseth was in 6th place of the standings prior to the Chase realignment following the Richmond race. Had the points not been re-set, fans could be treated to the epic charge of a red hot driver over the last ten races as he climbed past other drivers one by one. That charge could have culminated with a great comeback story in Homestead.

Instead, the Chase not only evened Kenseth and his team up with everyone else, but the bonus points he was awarded for winning races during the ‘regular season’ actually gave the best car a head start. Is that what the masterminds(Ha!) of the Chase envisioned?

I know, I know. Some of you can’t wait to get to the comments section to tell me that it isn’t over yet. Talladega is the wildcard that could even things up.

Well, first of all, these three top contenders have proven to be pretty proficient on the restrictor plate tracks of late and the best cars run out front at Talladega, ahead of the potential danger.

Secondly, Talladega is three races away and at the rate things are going, Kenseth, Busch and Johnson will be so far ahead that a bad race won’t matter.

The fact of the matter is, the Chase for the Sprint Cup is supposed to be a device that assures those who are interested in such things a tight points battle right to the very end. This year it’s doing the opposite by putting the best drivers out front to begin with and letting them run away from the pack.

Would anyone be surprised to hear of some big change for the Chase in the off-season if this one turns out to be less than dramatic? Eliminations?

Topics: Articles |

29 Responses to “The Chase is doing the opposite of what it was designed for”

  1. Annie Says:
    September 25th, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I wonder what the “knowledgeable” pitchfork crowd screaming about Richmond from their moral pulpit’s say about “The Chase”? For those raging about “manipulation”, this is the biggest manipulation going. Are your voices from the moral pulpit o.k. with it.. because Nascar does it?

  2. Leto Says:
    September 25th, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    “The Chase is doing the opposite of what it was designed for.” Not really, but I’ll get to that specifically later.

    If there wasn’t a Chase though, the anti-JJ crowd would be outdoing themselves whining about how he’s ruining NASCAR more and more since he’d be leading the points (even with the 4 bad races to end the regular season).

    There’s no point in saying though “Without the Chase, we’d have [blank]” because teams would likely race completely differently. There wouldn’t be the conservative strategies that a bunch of mid-Chase-pack teams start using to get locked into the Chase and all that. Hell, as it is, JJ and the 48 team pretty much use the first 26 races as a test session for the Chase races when it actually matters.

    Not to mention that the only big difference between the Chase and non-Chase points at this point would be that, instead of a 3 car runaway of Kenseth, Kyle, and JJ, we’d have JJ, Carl, Kenseth, Kyle, and Harvick within ~35 points.

    10 drivers are within a single race of the leader due to the Chase. Without it, there’d be basically only 5 drivers within TWO races worth of points.

    And the bunching up of the Championship, making it so that more drivers had a realistic chance of winning the title at this point in the season is what the Chase was designed to do.

    The Chase has done exactly what it was intended to do, actually. The people that don’t comprehend that are the ones that have always hated the Chase and seem to think that their incessant whining is going to make NASCAR magically get rid of the Chase.

    The Chase is Brian France’s baby within NASCAR. It’s not going away any time soon.

  3. Steven Says:
    September 25th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    The key word to me in your article regarding the chase is “artificial”. Throw in mysterious caution flags and Danicant and it’s no wonder why old time fans like me are disillusioned with big time racing.

  4. Bill B Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Get rid of the chase and points. He who wins the most races wins the championship. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

  5. SB Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 6:50 am

    The ‘chase’ was a bad idea to begin with, and is probably a big reason that so many fans are not impressed with JJ’s 5 in a row titles….10 race titles, not full season titles. The chase has encouraged the media to focus on the ‘chasers’ to the virtual exclusion of the other 30 teams on the track, and narrow focus even further as leaders pull away. The $ and publicity of being in the top 12…er, 13, encourage teams to be conservative to get into the top 10, or blatantly manipulate race results. That’s something to be proud of?

  6. GinaV24 Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 7:47 am

    The chase was a gimmick installed by NASCAR to, once again, attempt to manufacture excitement and make it more like “stick & ball” playoffs. Except its not because in stick & ball it’s two teams, not multiple cars & when the teams are eliminated, they go home, not continue to be there each week. It was and is a stupid concept.

    Going to the races used to be exciting all on its own, then NASCAR spent so much time making all the cars generic that it sucked the fun out of all of it.

    I agree with SB, Johnson’s “championships” are 10 race trophies, not full seasons.

    I’d like to see Brian’s bright idea go the way of the dodo bird.

  7. GinaV24 Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Leto, you can call it whining, I call it trying to set things right. I’m sure you are right, as long as BZF is running things, it won’t go away, but NASCAR is still bleeding fans, so someone needs to tell the Emperor he has no clothes.

  8. Md racer Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Actually the Chase was thought of to increase Attendence and tv ratings to combat football. It has failed miserably in accomplishing that. In fact the regular season ratings have in access of 5,000,000 viewers and Loudon drew less then 4,000,000 viewers. Brian has managed to bring the fastest growing sport in America to a screeching halt. And they are looking everywhere but in the mirror for reasons. The economy has nothing to do with tv viewership and they have lost over 2,000,000 tv viewers since he inherited command.

  9. Charles Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Since the chase is here to stay, give the drivers in the chase their own points system. Chase drivers points should be given in relation to other chase drivers. The Highest finisher gets 12 the lowest 1, plus the usual bonus points. That way one bad finish or blown engine doesn’t take a driver out of the chase.

  10. Robert Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I’ve started calling it, Ringling Brothers and Brian France Circus! Seems appropriate.

  11. Pokey Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 9:40 am

    If it wasn’t for the Chase, we would have never had the situation we had at Richmond. If there were bonus points given to the Chase drivers for their position in the standings after Richmond, you can bet Bowyer would not have spun his car and all three of Jeff Gordon’s Hendrick teammates would not have sandbagged at Richmond to make sure Jeff finished ahead of them in order to help him into the Chase. This finish fixing will always go on in NASCAR, but if the points in the “regular season” actually meant something, there would be far fewer opportunities to try to manipulate the outcomes. And NASCAR can’t do anything about field filler drivers tossing debris onto the track to cause cautions in timely situations for their “friends” running closer to the lead. As for Matt, Jimmie and Kyle running away from the field, Matt is my driver and I am in hog heaven right now.

  12. John C Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Remember, Talledega is still to come!!! Whoever comes out of that race unscathed should have the edge for the championship. Not crazy about that track being in the chase for the fact it could ruin my drivers chances but it can be the big equalizer and keep other drivers in the race for the championship.

  13. John Cooke Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 10:15 am

    The Chase started the downhill plunge of NASCAR. I along with all the fans I have talked to hate it! But, if you got to have it, make it simple. You win a race, you make the Chase! Four races at the end of the season, one short track, one road course, one intermediate, and the last race at Daytona. That might give some of the excitement back that is sorely missing now.

  14. Mike Boyle Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I was never a fan of the chase, and still am not. Even though, I am a huge Kenseth fan. The points system just needed a tweek, not a overhaul. Award more points for winning races, and consistency. You shouldn’t make the chase because you win a race. It should be based on winning, and running good all year. The whole idea that Gordon could win the championship this year is absurd. He doesn’t deserve to be in it, nor do a few others. They did not perform to championship level all year, so why let them have a crack at it now?

  15. Bill B Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Md racer,
    You are correct with regards to the NFL. No one is going to beat the NFL, ever. The best way for NASCAR to handle the NFL is to not compete against them directly. That means Saturday night races once the NFL starts. No matter what NASCAR does with the chase they ain’t beating the NFL.

    John C,
    Talladega rarely lives up to being “the great equalizer”. It has the potential but it just doesn’t usually go down that way. Most likely one of the top three will be involved and the result will be a two man race and several other chasers that were already a race behind in the points being two races behind.

    John Cooke,
    So David Ragan should be in the chase as result of a crapshoot win at Talladega? Get real. That doesn’t give more legitimacy to the stupid chase.

  16. Kb Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Oh we old timers racers understand “The Chase” perfectly and it still stinks. Besides the contracts Emperor Brian has in the pot, once they expire, why does “The Chase” have to be here to stay? Enlighten me, and please don’t say because Brian wants it.

  17. Leto Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Gina, how exactly is it “setting things right” when people continue to whine and moan about how Jimmie is ruining things? You *never* hear that line used in regards to any other sport when one team is dominant. And it’s not like without the Chase that Jimmie wouldn’t have won all those races… in fact, he’d probably have won quite a few more since the 48 team is notorious for testing a lot of things during the first 26 races for the Chase.

    Whether you like it or not, Jimmie won the title under the rules that everyone played by. NASCAR didn’t alter the rules so that he would win. If you want to blame anyone, blame the 42 other cars that couldn’t beat the 48 team.

    No one says that the Patriots are the rightful Champion from the year they finished the regular season 16-0. So why is it that so many NASCAR fans whine about Jimmie having won the title under the Chase?

    MD Racer, the peak for NASCAR attendance and TV ratings was AFTER the Chase started. So how exactly did the Chase ruin that?
    Not to mention that the attendance and TV ratings in the last 10-15 years have a pretty damn strong correlation with the strength of the economy. Things crashed for most everything at the same time back in 2008. The NFL, MLB, etc all are having attendance and ratings issues for a large number of their events, yet people continue to moan about NASCAR’s troubles. It’s just a simple matter that people don’t have the money to go to these types of events when it can cost several hundred bucks just to go, and there simply aren’t as many people that can even watch the events because they no longer have cable. Coupling the move to have more and more races shown on cable with the cord-cutter movement is going to drop NASCAR’s ratings even more.

  18. @Haylard Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 11:53 am

    There’s a lot of new bandwagon anti-chasers this year because of the shenanigans at Richmond. Shenanigans, tomfoolery if you will. NOT a scandal or scam. I am a long time anti-chaser and glad there’s some more of you out there. My reason is simple: non-chase delivers the TRUE champion. NASCAR doesn’t need playoffs because everybody plays everybody every week. Top 10’s matter as well as wins. People who crave tight points battles to the end are more worried about drama and not as much about racing. NASCAR continues to bend over for the mob mentality which is why they continue to tweak the system to appease the last round of pitchforkers. It’s especially ridiculous having 13 this year and it will only get worse now. They should keep the wild cards but go back to a maximum of 10.

  19. Just Me Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    The simple fix to make the chase exciting would be to have the 12 (or 13) chase drivers on their own points system. The best chase finisher in each race would get 12 points. The worst would get 1. So worst case, the worst finishing chase driver would only lose 11 points to the best one at each race. Come race 10, any one of the drivers have a chance to win the championship. Maybe throw in an extra point for a win.

  20. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Is there still a site out there that tracks the championship by the “old system”? I knew there used to be.

  21. Overa88ted Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    The 10 race Do-Over GIMMICK Chase is a JOKE!

  22. Bill B Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    “MD Racer, the peak for NASCAR attendance and TV ratings was AFTER the Chase started. So how exactly did the Chase ruin that?”

    That is very easy to answer. NASCAR’s ratings were in a steady rise long before the chase entered the picture. If ratings rose after the chase it was the momentum of that rise that kept it going for a couple of years. Long time fans didn’t like it but they were willing to give it a chance. Eventually they decided they didn’t like it and stopped watching. That started the negative decline. I’ll also mention that the COT kit car tipped the scale for many to finally back away and gave the decline even more momentum. But the chase started the decline and if you really want to go big picture, it was Brian France ripping out the guts of something that was working that killed the rising trend. It just takes a couple of years for people that were serious fans to go cold turkey on something they were hooked on and was a large part of their lives.

  23. lee Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    I wonder if the writer would be saying the same thing if is was JJ instead of Matt.
    I never liked the chase since day one.

  24. Tony Geinzer Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    I would like to see more out of the Box Car Designs or let the manufacturers have more say in their cars, again. I find the Chase deserves one word: ENOUGH!

  25. RacingFan Says:
    September 27th, 2013 at 12:04 am

    I don’t believe that the Chase will be killed in the near future. What would have to happen is for the France family to get fed up with Brian and take his position away from him. They have all the money they could ever spend, so I don’t know if they have the incentive to do that. Perhaps if they felt that NASCAR could completely crumble, they might, out of concern for their grandchildren’s fortunes decide to act.

    What usually happens when a major change (such as the creation of the Chase) occurs in any situation is that there are unintended consequences. The teams are going to get much better at hiding their manipulations. Holding up opponents, running slightly slower, points racing, etc will be perfected. It will be almost impossible to prove, but fans will sense it.

    We are already seeing the better racing abilities of the current car that occurred earlier in the season is vanishing because of more and more aero push, as the engineers massage the cars. I had to laugh at the commentators on the radio last Sunday. One was saying that Jeff Gordon’s speed just before the end was due to his being out front in clean air, which is the king of speed. Another commentator said to him that no, Gordon’s speed was due to the ability to handle in the center of the corner. After Jeff was shuffled back into the field by a bad pit stop, he was never heard from again.

    The point is that we have not seen the end result of the current car, or the Chase yet. Teams are trying every angle to master the Chase championship system, and they are smart enough to make changes that may unintentionally kill it, just like what they are doing to the current car.

  26. @Haylard Says:
    September 27th, 2013 at 6:31 am

    If the Chase is going to stay then I am open to #19 Just Me idea of only counting the Chase drivers against each other with 1-12 point system. When you pigeon-hole great drivers into a playoff…why should a great driver be penalized more when they have a problem just because Gilliland, Kvapil, and Danica limped it around for another lap or 2? Keep the seeding system based off wins. Didn’t need this idea when it was full-season…that was enough time for everyone’s bad luck to even out.

  27. Steve Says:
    September 27th, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Ah but Rich, there will be no sandbagging when we get to Talladega because all drivers will be giving 100% each and every lap, right? …..wink wink

  28. Keith Says:
    September 27th, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    The Chase is a joke in any other sport you don’t play some of your competition all season long and playoffs make sense but in Nascar you race every team who is going for the championship every week.

  29. Offkilter Says:
    September 27th, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    If i remember correctly, under the old points system it was sometimes a 2 car battle for the cup and the points leader only had to complete a lap or two to close out the deal the last race. The drinking phrase of the race in those days was ” mathematical chance”. And wasn’t the title wrapped up before the last race of the season some times? The chase isn’t perfect, but it hasn’t allowed that to happen. The chase in some ways has brought light to some of the mid-pack action of a race inside a race when a front points car is having an off day. This in turns gets cameras devoted to some really good racing instead of just the front 3 cars. Aside from Stewart’s run a couple of years ago, i think the top 10 finished in the chase where they would have under the old system. The only way to truely make a series where the teams show up to go flat out for the win at all costs is to not have a points system.