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Chasing points hurting individual races

By admin | August 25, 2009

By Richard Allen

No doubt, there were many people hoping Mark Martin would give Kyle Busch a not-so-friendly tap at the end of Saturday’s Sharpie 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway. However, that did not happen which should have come as no surprise to anyone.

First of all, Martin is not the type of driver to dish out such a late race punt. But more, had Martin opted to try and force his way by Busch in those closing laps he would have risked a crash which could have resulted in losing a top-5 run and thus might have cost him a spot in the Chase for the Championship.

In today’s NASCAR it seems as if drivers are all too willing to trade potential wins for “a good points day”. Racing for the sake of winning individual events is quickly becoming a thing of the past, particularly if the drivers in question are on the fringes of making the Chase field.

This was clearly evidenced in the two road course races run this season in Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Juan Pablo Montoya, an accomplished road racer who has only one Sprint Cup win to his credit, said that he was going to use the road courses as a means of scoring solid finishes rather than going all out for wins because he wanted to be certain of making the Chase.

Let’s get that straight. A driver with only one win to his credit who was going to tracks where he would have been considered a favorite to win intended to run for points rather than victories.

And that is not to pick on Montoya. Most other drivers would think the same way in similar circumstances.

When I first heard the idea for the Chase for the Championship I thought it was one of the dumbest ideas I had ever heard. Then, I considered that the playoff format might actually encourage better championship battles by bringing more contenders into the mix.

However, after a few years of the playoff format I have come to realize that it has done just the opposite. The Chase has turned the entire season into one long points run. Every race is run by drivers living in constant fear of falling out of the top-12 in the Sprint Cup standings. Few are willing to risk making a daring move for the win in the final laps because a late race spin could drop a driver to a 30th place finish. That would in turn endanger the driver’s Chase hopes.

There is something inherently wrong with a system that takes winning races out of the mindset of drivers and teams. Points have become far too highly valued. And sadly, this is not just in NASCAR. In every series and even on local short tracks drivers speak of not taking chances for fear of losing points.

What’s wrong with just going out and winning races for the sake of winning races? The two men who have won more NASCAR championships than any other drivers, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, did not go out in hopes of having a good points day when they went onto the track. They raced to win and let the points fall where they may. That mentality resulted in a total of 14 championships.

The Chase for the Championship was meant to add entertainment value to the series as a whole. Instead, it has helped to sap the joy out of individual races.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

8 Responses to “Chasing points hurting individual races”

  1. Tom Wilkinson Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 3:10 am

    I totally agree with you. The “Chase” was something started to try to compete with football and baseball. But is a total bust as is the “top 35″.

  2. SB Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Absolutely right! I think the ‘chase’ is more to blame for the watered down racing at Bristol than anything else. Personally, I find it hard to get enthused that a drover more than 500 points behind the leader after Richmond could win a ‘champeenship’. Justifying this travesty by proclaiming that more drivers have a chance to win a title just makes the title less impressive. I’m also sick already of the media constantly beating me over the head with the ‘race to the chase’, ‘coming to the race to the chase’, and the focus on coverage ignoring virtually every driver other than those ‘almost in the chase’. What it does in the long run is make the first 26 races virtual throwaways. Not the way to build excitement.

  3. Bittyann Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 7:41 am

    I became a Nascar fan because my brother took me to Bristol in August many years ago. I was a season ticket holder at Bristol for 12 years, and I declined to renew them 4 years ago. If anyone asked me before this “Chase” garbage, I was the greatest cheerleader Bristol and Nascar could have had. It was bare nuckle, hard charging, beatin’ and bangin’ entertainment at it’s greatest. Sadly, the racing changed every time the track was “improved”. What memories from the racing when it was a asphalt bull ring. Then came the PC squad and fighting tooth and nail for a win was deemed “ungentlemenly” and inappropriate. Jeff Gordon was the master of moving people out of the way at Bristol. Ask Rusty.
    But now, it’s just a few races before the chase, and nobody wants to risk losing points. So everyone behaves and the races have become dull. Of course, there was a little excitement at the end with Mark Martin and K. Bush, but I already knew Martin wouldn’t fight for a win. He never has. That’s why he has never won a championship. The drive to win wasn’t there.

  4. Andrew G Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 8:01 am

    No. Wrong.

    The Montoya deal was an anomaly, to support the idea that drivers generally are not going for wins.

    Any driver, in the heyday, who was in the mix for the Championship and made a crazy move to go for a win was a fool, and he knew it. People win when they have cars capable of winning. Passing is hard, so you either pass on pit road, wreck people, or make people think they are going to get wrecked, unless they get out of your way. Earnhardt was good at that.

    If your car is not capable of winning (which is far more often the case than not) then you hold on for the best finish you can.

    Montoya, it seems, can’t catch a break. We want the F1 spectacle guy to come in and respect the ‘ovals’ and realize how he’ll have to ‘rein in that firey temper’ and de-value his road course win at Sonoma (everyone did.) Now he is learning the ropes, and the rules, we are saying we made a poor move by playing it safe, to give his team a cushion so they could fight harder on the ovals.

    Isn’t that what the friggin win bonus does in the chase? It gives teams 10 extra points so they have some wiggle room in the playoffs.

    One could argue that this year, the road courses were slightly watered down, because JPM chose a long-term big-picture strategy. Fine. Then we also keep calling Gustavson and Knaus stupid for not pitting for fuel at Michigan.

    Jesus, I wish someone would find a better tune to sing than “people are not going for wins.”

  5. banzaibonnie Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 9:40 am

    The chase is a disaster. Fans and sponsors are screwed unless their driver is at the top. That pretty well eliminates the majority. i’m amazed that anyone outside top 12 fans bother to watch.

  6. midasmicah Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 10:16 am

    As I’ve stated many times before, all the chase has done is turned the first 26 races nothing more and nothing less than a glorified test session. Sadly this has taken a lot of the incentive out of wi nning races. Too many drivers seem to be driving over cautionly for fear of falling out of the top twelve. At Bristol, this really showed. Drivers afraid to push the issue in for of hurting their chances of making the chase. Add the carofcrap and you get the picture. Nero France has done everything possible to estroy this once revered series. The race Saturday night might have been championed as a sellout, but I saw a ton of empty seats. I must have been watching a different race. But then again I took a nap in the middle of the race. God, I hope the powers that be wake up to the fact that all these changes made in the last few years meant to compete with the stick and ball sports have turned off a lot of their core fans. Most of the racing media are nas$car suck ups and most of the drivers are afraid to speak their minds. I don’t want to see a kinder and gentler Kyle Busch, but that’s what you will be getting. Thanks for letting me rant.

  7. Ken Fleming Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Brian has turned NA$CAR into a WWE on wheels. I see the WWE had a higher TV rating than the Bristol race last week. With the Chase, CoT,bogus yellow flags to “help” a select few and rules that don’t apply to all drivers in all cases it’s just a matter of time that NA$CAR falls even further.

  8. Charles Says:
    August 26th, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    The problem with any point title that is based on finishing instead on leading will be boring!

    With the Chase format we have today, you get two point races in a year instead of one, thus creating finishing races more important to get in the Chase on two different occasions like now then in the Chase as well!

    Like you said making the race more important is what it is about, I think the “Point Title Charm” has run its course!
    Lets try to put consistency leading and exchanging the lead on race day, than tryihg to finish and see how much better that is !