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NASCAR’s supposed new Chase system is really just a joke, right?

By admin | January 22, 2014

Winning the Sprint Cup trophy will take as much game show skill as racing ability under this rumored system.

By Richard Allen

In a story first posted by the Charlotte Observer late last week, details of a proposed new system to be used to determine the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion were unveiled. To say the least, the changes are very different from the Chase for the Sprint Cup format that has been used since 2004. And further, the new system would render the original season-long system barely recognizable.

NASCAR only commented to say that they would not comment until whatever changes are to be made were official.

According to the story written by Jim Utter, the Chase field will be expanded from its current number of twelve to sixteen. Winning a race would be the primary qualification for making the playoff with overall points filling out the field should there not be sixteen event winners within the first 26 races of the season.

From that point, those who make the playoff would enter into a contest that will see the bottom four drivers eliminated after three races. Another four would be dropped after the sixth Chase race and still another four after the ninth event. Going into the season finale, the four remaining drivers would decide the championship in a winner-take-all single event.

Upon reading just how absurd the proposal was, my first thought was that this must be some sort of publicity seeking joke. Surely it was an attempt to float something out that was far too ridiculous to be true only to garner attention for the real announcement that would come later, an announcement that would make it seem as though NASCAR had heard the outcry of fans and reined in their initial proposal to settle upon something less radical. 

But then the realization set in that such an idea would be giving far too much credit to the powers that be in Daytona Beach.

If this rumored system proves to be true, it will complete the evolution of NASCAR from what was once a legitimate sport to what is now little more than a Sunday afternoon reality themed game show. As has so often become the case, those who lead NASCAR appear to be putting all of their eggs in the basket of quick pop gimmicks rather than that of long term planning.

Once again, fans who grew up loving this sport have been sold out in the never ending “chase” for a demographic that this sport will never catch. About a decade or so ago, NASCAR began to believe its own publicity releases that far overstated the sport’s popularity and television viewership. And as a result, they began to sell themselves to the country’s big corporations in hopes of landing big money.

For a brief time, that strategy seemed to work. Grandstands were filled in the new palace like “cookie cutter” tracks built near major metropolitan areas and sponsors appeared to be on waiting lists to get involved. However, that bump provided by curiosity seekers is now gone and the sponsors are leaving at a rate that exceeds those coming in.

But again, the powers that be are believing their own press releases. This “dip” in attendance is surely just the byproduct of a lagging economy, right?. TV ratings will soar when the new network package goes into effect, right?. Sponsors will come back when the grandstands fill back up, right?.

All it will take to kick start that inevitable upward trend is the next great idea, right? Turning a championship that was earned by drivers like Petty, Earnhardt, Yarborough, Elliott and Kulwicki into a copy of American Idol or Survivor will provide that bump, right?

NASCAR chairman Brian France has often touted “Game 7 moments” as something NASCAR needs. The NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball have those type of moments so why can’t NASCAR? Mr. France seems to forget that this is not football, basketball or baseball that he sits at the head of. And, when those other sports have their “Game 7 moments”, they are not so manufactured as this newly proposed system would be. This sport was not built for that and if he thinks a final race showdown will provide those moments, he is setting himself and his sport up for disappointment.

As has been the case for several years, NASCAR contests long races over the course of a long season in a bad race car on bad race tracks. That’s their problem. Until they get away from the gimmicks and address the real issues, their audience of desired demographics as well as their long time fans will continue to dwindle.

So this new Chase system is really just a joke, right?


Topics: Articles |

20 Responses to “NASCAR’s supposed new Chase system is really just a joke, right?”

  1. RacingFan Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 3:26 am

    When a fan comes to a race, he or she wants to leave knowing the winner was the champion of that track for that race of that year. The season championship is not why they came. To a lesser extent, that is true even of tv/radio fans.

    NASCAR is probably making a smart move to count winning more in the championship, but even there, they are missing the point. The primary value of winning a race to the fan in attendance will not be because it helps win a championship, but because the driver is their champion.

    Some drivers of the past, like Pearson, only raced at the big NASCAR events, because being the winner of those events was what was important, not being the series champion. Some bigger events on the NASCAR schedule were FIA sanctioned, which means that drivers that were licensed in other types of racing (like Foyt, Andretti, and Donahue) could drive in the race without a NASCAR licence. These drivers were interested in the individual race, not the championship. The series championship represented overall consistency and success on smaller tracks, which was valuable, but not as much as wins (track championships).

    The NASCAR of today has elevated the season championship to new heights to the detriment of the individual races. They are paying the price, but will not even allow themselves to consider that fact.

  2. Jonathan Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 5:28 am

    I became a fan in 2004. Chase is all I know but when I go to races you see ALOT of older fans. I LOVE the Chase I don’t think there should be any changes to the Chase. I would love to see more points for winning a race that will help. I think Nascar needs to spend more time on making the cars race side by side more. The Chase seemed to take a back seat this offseason you didn’t hear many talk about how they hate the Chase. Now with this news of Chase Changes your only opening up a flood gates of people who will tell you the Chase is stupid. I think Nascar did the wrong thing here got more people rilled up. I say keep the Chase the same as it is now and in 10 20 years people will LOVE IT. BUT if you keep changing it its only going to make it harder for people to follow. Now my question to you in what does Nascar need to do besides changes to the chase to bring in newer fans? Nascar needs to bring in a new demo younger fans. I say Nascar needs to focus on advertising. Hell theres an NFL based cartoon on Cartoon Network that Kids watch and will follow. Nascar needs to do this lets make more Nascar themed movies…. Talladega Nights while stupid brought a whole new fan base to the sport. If I didn’t live in Chicago and was a race fan I would know nothing of Chicagoland Speedway. Nascar needs to work on getting the young kids hooked. Tell me this your 12 years old would you rather sit at a Baseball game, basketball game, football game seeing men on a field playing a dumb game… or how about 43 stock cars rooooooring by at 199 mphs… Kids would be hooked!!! Just me 2 cents what do you think

  3. Erich Sturgill Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 5:54 am

    Best description I’ve ever read about NASCAR’s demise. I especially love how you point out NASCAR alienated its fan base for a “demographic they’re never going to catch.” Also I like how you point out the impossibility of Game 7 moments in a sport without games.

  4. sal Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 6:58 am

    The more Nascar drains importance from 2/3 of the races, the less people need to attend those races. By putting too much focus on the championship, they are discouraging their audience from bothering to pay any attention to those races. If the introduction of ‘the chase’ is the major reason Jimmy Johnson doesn’t ‘get the respect he deserves’, imagine what will happen to one who ‘wins’ it with this format?

  5. Bill B Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Everyone love “game 7 moments” when they happen naturally. When you start rigging the game to create them you cross the line into reality television. I hate reality television. Bah humbug.

  6. Sue Rarick Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 8:51 am

    First thing about those game 7 moments is that only about 1/3 of the world series ever reached the 7th game and of those how many had riveting finishes?

    Secondly if the championship is to be decided on the last race what exactly is the point of watching the other 35 races?

  7. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Racingfan gets it.


  8. Jay Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I have had enough, I have only missed about 8 races the last 20 years, every morning, I punch in,check my mail… and then go to jayski to read “my” news. What’s important to me. I never wanted the chase, haven’t liked any version of it. I am sick of all the commercials,cutting away at critical moments as a fight for position is about to occur, but will play 10 minutes of a stretched out parade. I don’t get it, negotiate for fewer commercials, make just a bit less for the bloated coffers. The past few years have just gotten worse and worse and with this latest…. stupidity??? I just don’t even want to watch anymore… the weeks leading up to the Daytona 500 used to be my favorite of the year. New teams,new cars, a chance for my drivers to have a clean slate and make a run at it…. Now, all it has become is, what will Brian F*&K up now? I have given up almost every sat/sun afternoon for 20 years for my passion… not sure how many more I can justify giving up to something that clearly cares about me way less than I have cared about it. I wish the drivers would band together and refuse to drive until Brian steps down… God how I miss Dale….. he NEVER would have let it get to this point….

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 10:30 am

    good article, Rich and your comments about NASCAR believing its own press is so true. Unfortunately I’m sure that Brian France is so convinced of his ability to “improve” the sport - even when the facts show a different story, that this newest madness isn’t a joke either.

    NASCAR racing used to be interesting reality TV, now it’s just a sad shadow of itself. Never been a fan of the chase - trophy should be won over a full season.

    As Sal pointed out, this takes away the reason to go to any race except the finale.

  10. Jesse Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Great article, hit it right on the head, and the new fans that come in to Nascar can sit and text the whole time just like you are seeing now in MLB, NFL and NBA. The new generation wants to be seen not see something.

  11. John Cooke Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 11:59 am

    As I have said before, when NASCAR changed from a sanctioning body to an “entertainment co.”, that was the beginning of the end to racing as we knew it. If you want to get the young crowd interested in racing, it has to be affordable for parents to take their kids to the races. You have to feel it, hear it, and smell it to get the full effect and become hooked as I did. Even though some tracks have lowered their prices for tickets, the motels and other cost have skyrocketed. This is the “real” problem that any gimmick change is not going to affect. I go to a race to see the race, not to see who is in “the chase”!

  12. Jack Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    This latest gimmick by NASCAR”s Three Stooges - France, Helton and Pemberton, was inevitable. NASCAR already goes out of its way to manipulate races; see the phantom debris cautions, green-white-checkered finishes, inconsistent enforcement of their own rules and the rest. So now they’re looking for a way to manufacture excitement and have a quasi-playoff. Here’s an idea. Lets have an 11 race Chase, and let the top 43 qualify for the Chase. This gives each driver a sporting chance at being champion. At the end of races 11 through 2, throw out the bottom 4 cars. So at the last race of the season, only 3 cars are still in contention for the championship. Let these guys race, whoever they are, for the title, making their way through the other cars on the track. It would be like “Rollerball”, only with cars. It’s at least as sensible as what NASCAR wants to do.

  13. kb Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    “The Chase” (Brian’s ego) started the nail in the coffin for Nascar IMO, and it continues with these lame brain ideas. Scary people run the Daytona fiefdom. No amount of gimmicks can hide the fact that the product on the track is the problem. Until they open their eyes they are going to be like hamsters in a wheel, trying to keep up with the 15 minute attention spans of not real race fans…”o.k. Nascar what’s next, I’m bored”. How useless. Nascar is a unique sport and should be continued to be viewed that way. I am already cringing, we will have to listen about “The Chase” and ‘Chase Champion” before the Daytona 500 even starts. Most fans want to see the product on the track that day and enjoy it, nobody is thinking races into the future..Chase Chase Chase, Champion, they are in the moment. Nascar is so screwed up, sad.

  14. SV Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    A ten race chase at the end of the season is a supremely bad idea because it devalues the 26 races that come before it. Here’s what I would do: Before the Daytona 500, on live TV, NASCAR does a random draw of 12 races out of a hat. Those 12 races are then assigned a heavier “weight” of points. Drawing just before the 500 means more pressure for teams. They won’t know exactly what races to focus their efforts on. That way you could get a road course in July as a Chase race, or the second race of the season in Phoenix could suddenly be much more important. But honestly, the biggest problem with NASCAR isn’t the Chase. It’s the product on the track and the boring drivers in those cars.

  15. CS Says:
    January 23rd, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Guess who’s an IndyCar fan now…

  16. kso88 Says:
    January 24th, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I’m pretty much convinced that if NASCAR did a 180 and got rid of the chase completely, people would complain. A driver would clinch the championship with two races remaining without winning a race and everyone would scream foul. It has to get tiresome to hate everything that NASCAR does. Perhaps it doesn’t, if that is simply your default. You know what doesn’t happen every year? The best team doesn’t win the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup, or the World Series. Every one of the “Major” sports has a contrived system to determine their champion, a playoff. I’m confident that if NASCAR was as popular as the Premier League is in England there would be no chase. Why are we so angry with NASCAR trying everything they can to make as much money as they can. Isn’t that the goal of this country? Yeah, many arguments there, I know! I’m 25 years old and have been a NASCAR fan all of my life, and will continue to be one. Every year is different and every year has a different story. We tend to romanticize the past when statistics show that it wasn’t as good as it is now. I’m not a fan of Jimmie Johnson but I can respect what he has done. In a time when I believe competition is far tougher than ten, twenty, fifty years ago. While 16 initially sounds like a high number, it is comparable to other leagues. NHL and NBA allow >50% of their teams in the playoffs. NFL is at 37% and looking to move towards 43%. MLB is at 33%. While there are more than 43 teams throughout the season, 16/43 would be 37%. Is it perfect, no. Is the sky falling, no. Give it a chance, it may surprise you. It won’t stand a chance if you have already made up your mind though.

  17. Arnold Decker Says:
    January 26th, 2014 at 8:37 am

    What ever they do anymore will not bring the crowd back.
    The problem is cost is to high. Work toward getting cost
    for motel, food and other things necessary needs in the
    area of a track to be lowered and some of the crowd
    might come back. Requirements to rent rooms for more than 0ne day or require tickets to be purchased for more
    than one race are not necessary. More conderation of
    the fan is needed.

  18. Tony Geinzer Says:
    January 26th, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    I think its time to fire Brian France and his Bad Creation, the Chase. I think I would fire FOX Sports, too. But,I would like at certain venues seriously doing work about Hotels/Local Crowd, because some of them took Out Of Towners for Granted.

  19. RacingFan Says:
    January 27th, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    In some ways, racing resembles the PGA (golf) more than other major sports. Most other sports feature competitions between 2 teams or individuals going head to head. Golf and racing have a field of competitors competing with each other. Most other sports have identical or very similar courts or fields to compete on. Golf has a variety of courses and racing has its unique tracks.

    Can NASCAR learn anything from golf?

    Golf has 4 majors that stand out. For example, I can clearly remember that Phil Mickelson won the British Open. I struggle to remember who won the season-long championship in the PGA. Golfers are probably remembered more for their total number of victories - especially majors – than season championships, though that would be another feather in their hat. Golf does use some match-play tournaments where head to head competition occurs, as well as some other formats, but they don’t seem to be as popular as the field of competitors competing against each other.

    If there is a tie at the end of a golf match, sometimes they use sudden death between the tied contestants. Maybe NASCAR should consider using only the top 2 cars and clearing the others off the track when using the green-white-checker. It could avoid the carnage, if that is what is desired.

  20. RacingFanDan Says:
    February 2nd, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    What Nascar failed to realize is that for us long time fans every race was filled with “Game 7″ moments. Even if my favorite driver was not statistically likely to win the season long championship I would watch every race to see him vie for the win that day. To me, the chase watered that feeling down for me as some races appeared to become virtually meaningless once my driver had a couple of wins and was virtually assured a Chase spot. I was willing to adopt the Chase (even though I hated it) but I think these new rules are too much for me. I think I’ll just DVR Homestead this year as it’s the only race that matters…