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NASCAR continues its alarming pattern of buzz seeking changes

By admin | January 31, 2014

 Is NASCAR cheapening this trophy for the sake of a quick media pop?

By Richard Allen

 NASCAR is not football. NASCAR is not basketball. NASCAR is not baseball.

Good, now that we have that cleared up we can move on. While the idea of playoffs and eliminations may work well for those sports, NASCAR was never meant for such. It just wasn’t, and to try and make it so will only cheapen the sport and its championship.

But if the powers that be were worried about cheapening the sport, they would have stopped making changes long ago. Instead, they continue seeking the next gimmick that will turn the tide of ever diminishing race day attendance and lagging television ratings.

And speaking of all those changes, is anyone else alarmed at the increasing number of decisions made by NASCAR that seek short-term pop over long-term stability?

Seemingly every decision made by this organization is based on the way the winds of public opinion happen to be blowing at a particular time. A driver locks up the championship before the final race of the season in 2003, then institute a playoff. One owner has half the Chase field in his stable in 2005, then limited the number of teams any one person can own. Popular drivers miss out on the Chase over a couple of seasons, then expand the field from 10 to 12. A driver wins two big races but doesn’t make the Chase in 2010, then create wildcards. And finally, have a driver win the Chase too many times, then create a one race winner-take-all scenario.

And every time a change was made, it was going to make a great system better. Except now, that great system has essentially been trashed…again.

Coca-Cola tried making drastic changes once and learned that drastic changes don’t always improve the product. They realized that going back to the formula that made them a success was not such a bad thing after all.

NASCAR says that it is making every race important with its new system. That’s only partially true. Yes, winning will get a driver into the Chase under the new format, but there are not going to be 16 race winners in the first 26 races so points will still matter(That did happen once during the modern era in 2003). And those drivers who have not won by the 26th race of the season haven’t done so for a reason. They are likely not capable of winning, so the idea of an all out run to the finish for that final win and a Chase berth in Richmond is a bit far fetched. 

Further, once a driver has won his one race, what’s the incentive for winning more? Chase seeding? That’s only going to make minimal difference, especially since winning within one segment of the playoff will automatically send a driver to the next segment. 

NASCAR chairman Brian France has said many times that he wants his sport to have more “Game 7 moments”. That’s fine, but those can’t be manufactured. And further, by artificially creating a “Game 7″ in the season’s final race, does that not cheapen the other games?

The casual fan is what NASCAR is hoping to lure with this game show like format. France said as much in his Thursday press conference. So why should the casual fan care about watching the first 35 races of the season if they know a “Game 7″ is on the schedule?

Seems to me that NASCAR has placed all of its eggs in this one basket thinking the short-term buzz will keep them relevant.

Oh well, I do not like this new system at all. But if past history is any indicator, I won’t have to wait very long for the next one. The winds of change will blow again sometime soon.

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17 Responses to “NASCAR continues its alarming pattern of buzz seeking changes”

  1. Tony Geinzer Says:
    January 31st, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Rich, I think that the obvious is the Same Old,Lame Old Young Guns have been misfiring for some time and NASCAR Knows It. And, too add injuries to injuries, I think the Corporate NASCAR has been All Wet, with people staying away in droves since 2009 and I’d be happier if they had more Dirt Races in Cup or Nashville Fairgrounds, and some venues, like North Wilkesboro, would be better off to reach in and start all new with venue and race. People get emotional to their stadiums and arenas and I think that is the only answer, even if it took more grunt work rather than blatantly filling merchandise fast enough to fill people’s houses and not expecting to know the difference.

  2. Russ Says:
    January 31st, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Desperate to return to the good old days, I believe. Unfortunately I don’t think they are looking in the right places.

  3. Bob B Says:
    January 31st, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    I wonder if the new plan is to drive all old long time fans away so that no one will challenge these hair brain schemes. The plan seems to be working if that is the case.

  4. Bradford Sweeney Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Rich you did it again. When I am on Jayski and see one of your posts, it is my first click, and I am rarely disappointed. Today is another example of your finest works. That paragraph where you outline the history of the “Kenseth Rules” was nothing short of brilliant. I am not going to butter you up any more, I just want you to know that you are “the voice” of us old school fans, and as disgruntled as you may get (and sound), don’t ever give up the ghost. I have lost my NASCAR Scene magazine, I have lost “Inside NASCAR”, I have lost SPEED Channel, I have lost all of my NASCAR everything, except my hope. I couldn’t stand losing you too! As I was reading your post, all I could think of was the NASCAR hypocrisy of how they have always attempted to distance themselves from “stick and ball sports”. Then they come up with the annoying moniker “NASCAR, Everything else is just a game.” Ironic isn’t it, that Brian Zero France is now desperately trying to codger up some phony “Game” 7 moments in his own words? The NASCAR racing season is a genuinely a grind, on the competitors, teams, families and fans, and a true champion should be the last man standing. NASCAR should just stop embarrassing itself and stick to something even if it sucks for everyone except Cheatin Chad and Mr. Vanilla. Here’s to hoping Boris Said or some other road course random, makes the Chase Grid or whatever it is now called this week.

  5. sal Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 6:57 am

    If the ‘chase’ was so wildly successful, why has it become necessary to change it so often? Do they realize that by placing all their emphasis on the ‘championship’, they are draining even more interest from the individual races? Why bother to attend any but the last race, since it’s the only one that will count? The emphasis didn’t used to be on the title, it was on winning each weekend. The Southern 500, Daytona, ‘Dega, each race was important in it’s own right. Now they barely matter. And if Nascar has had trouble controlling ‘team orders’ before this, look out!

  6. Bill B Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Excellent article Rich. I echo Bradford’s sentiments.
    With each change Brian makes, the championship gets devalued and watered down. NASCAR won’t be happy until they can orchestrate a season from beginning to end and then we’ll have…. wrestling.
    I only wish I could be a fly on the wall at the meeting when halfway through they realize these changes haven’t resulted in better ratings. And that’s what this is all about, ratings. TV executives are now driving this sport and that’s a dangerous thing.

  7. Mike S. Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 11:20 am

    As these changes continue to result in lagging attendance numbers and falling TV ratings, I’m guessing that there will be a number of execs at NBC and FOX wondering why the hell they agreed to pay so much money for the rights to televise a dying sport to an uncaring populace. And if you want to see another change to the Chase happen real quick (like next year), then have Junior win about 8 races this year, lead the points standings from the Daytona 500 all the way through Phoenix in race #35, then cut a tire and hit the wall on lap 15 at Homestead and finish fourth. BZF would be quick to placate Junior Nation with another hairbrained change to the “playoffs” in 2015.

  8. KYBoy Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Great column. I would have given it a chance if not for the 1 race finale. It was still unnecessary, but now its just dumb. They want to be like the other sports, but they cant. If this was such a good idea, why was it kept secret until a couple weeks before the season starts? Twitter and facebook dont lie. Everybody knows it dumb, except the front office. This new system has a small chance of going perfect for France. It has a great chance of going completely wrong. This was NOT 3 years in the making. My guess is it started in November when JJ hoisted the trophy again! Heres a game 7 scenario for France. Stewart makes final 4. Start and park makes contact on lap 90. Fender Rub. Blows tire lap 95. Goes 2 laps down. Is it just me, or isnt that the equivalent of taking Lebrons shoes at halftime of game 7, and making him play the second half in his socks? I really hoe for my sanity, that one of the many flaws shows up this year, so at least I can say I TOLD YA SO France!

  9. Pokey Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Agreed. The problems with getting great racing have a lot more to do with the cars and tracks they run on than with the drivers and teams. NASCAR should spend more time worrying about safe cars that have the aerodynamics to allow for more passing.

  10. John Cooke Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Can you imagine what kind of publicity NASCAR will get if a team car “accidently” wrecks one of the four cars going for the championship? They don’t want the spotlight they will receive then. And talking about publicity, since the 3 is coming back at Daytona, anybody want to guess which car gets “the golden plate” this year?

  11. Ann Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Good article and thank you for your honesty. Logging into Jayski’s, I am sick to death of seeing the other article headings written by the likes of Jeff Hammond, DW, Larry Mac etc. all paid shills for Nascar having the nerve to write that this is a good thing. I don’t read any of it, but I bet my eye teeth that’s what they are saying. Shame on them. Now starting at Speeweeks we will have these very same shills and others tell us how great its going to be and we will hear about this 24/7 till Homestead at the expense of the race at hand. Thank goodness for the mute button. You know, what about that race at hand the one many of us won’t be watching, they really ruin the experience..The Chase, this and that…all the time and of course Jr. and the backburner joke Dancia. Nobody cares about the Championship as much as they like to think. I don’t believe Jimmie Johnson is a true Nascar Champion 10 races bascially against 12 drivers and now we very well could see a “Champion” in a David sick is that. Let them all race the 36 races and will talk at Homestead. What is in the ice cubes at Castle Daytona?

  12. Jeff Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    I am pretty flexible to adapt to most changes but this new format is ridiculous. It makes me appreciate the purity of the 1992 Championship season more and more. I will be at Homestead in November to watch this mess unfold.

  13. Sue Rarick Says:
    February 1st, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    For years the only reason I watched the Super Bowl was for the commercials and half time show. Especially when you know there is really only about 17 minuets of actual play, the rest is mostly replays and replays and replays till they’ve used every camera angle.

    Unless they have a dog in the fight the casual fan could care less about basketball (pro or college)/hockey until the last game or the actual world series in baseball.

    I know it’s the dry season in Homestead when the race is run, but they still get nearly 3″ of rain during the month of November……… So what happens when the race they are basing their popularity on is rained out?????

    How much press coverage (and that’s really the goal) will there be from a Monday race?

  14. GinaV24 Says:
    February 2nd, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    what I’m really wondering about is who supposedly gave all this positive feedback to NASCAR which is what they are using as the basis for this change?

    Considering that most fans I’ve talked to at various tracks over the year hated the chase, in all of its iterations, who did they ask?

    I’ve certainly given them direct feedback over the years through e-mail but I figure they just ignore anything that BZF doesn’t want to hear.

  15. Larry Says:
    February 3rd, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Folks, here’s a perfect example of how this new points system is flawed. Kenseth won seven races last year. Yet, under this new system, Jr. would have won the championship without winning a race. Now, before you jump on me, I am a Jr. Fan but come on folks there is no way Jr. should have won the championship last year. Nascar says this new points system will put an emphasis on winning yet Jr. with no wins just proved them wrong. I really think this will be one of the biggest blunders that Brian France has ever made. And, I still have my doubts about the change in the new qualifying format. But, King Brian will get his way so let’s see if the stands are full this year. What Brian doesn’t get is all these changes that have been made in Nascar is the reason for the empty stands and I believe these new changes will drive more fans away. The chase for one has driven a lot of fans away and I believe this will do the same. Folks, could you imagine the outrage from Nascar Fans if Jr. had won the championship last year with not a single win and people like Jimmy and Kenseth had multiple wins. Again, I am a Jr. Fan but I will be the first to concede he shouldn’t have been the champion last year.

  16. Steve Says:
    February 3rd, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    It makes me sick to my stomach to go on the Jayski site and see all these articles from Nascar writers essentially saying they like/love this idea. The FOX clowns are tripping over themselves singing Nascars praises for this ridiculous idea.

    Talk about toeing the company line. Brackets in racing? Really? And this is a good thing? Hardly!

    This sport has just lost a long time fan. I will become a casual fan now simply for the comedy aspect of this train wreck, but will spend more time watching baseball and golf and visiting my local short track. Its truly sad what Nascar has become. Big and Little Bill must be rolling in their graves.

  17. Kenneth Says:
    February 5th, 2014 at 7:47 am

    After reading your article and all of the other comments, I have come to this conclusion: Whoever wins the championship this year no matter who it is, it will be decided by luck and not skill of the driver or how good the team is!!!!