The Frontstretch: If It Ain't Broke...Don't Break It Worse! by Amy Henderson -- Thursday January 4, 2007

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If It Ain't Broke...Don't Break It Worse!

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday January 4, 2007


I could cry. Or barf. Or throw things. Or something. Okay, okay, I know, NASCAR listens to nobody and cares about no one…but this is crazy. Knowing changes to the Chase for the Nextel Cup were coming did nothing to soften the blow of the actual news when it happened late Thursday afternoon.

Although specifics have yet to be released, this much is clear: NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter confirmed that the sanctioning body will award more points for winning a race and that more drivers will be in the Chase, changes that I find clearly unnecessary.

Both are bad ideas, but at least the points I can live with. Apparently, the era where consistency and running near the front every week were the true measure of a champion is over. I don't think that's a great direction to go in, because plenty of drivers can win a few times a year and be inconsistent across the board the rest of the time. Take Kasey Kahne. Kahne won six times this year, more than any other driver. But when push came to shove, he wasn’t able to seal the deal by running up front week in and week out. He finished about where he should have when all was said and done, towards the back half of the Top 10 in points. He had a great year, but he also failed to finish almost as many times as he won (five DNF’s). That's a good year, but not a great year…certainly not a championship-caliber year, either.

And that's where adding more drivers to the Chase makes no sense. As it is, in the three years that the Chase has determined the title, there have been about seven or eight teams each year that, while having excellent years, did not have championship-caliber years. That includes, interestingly enough, 2004 champ Kurt Busch. To his and his team's credit, Busch used the points reset to the ultimate advantage; but, with his inconsistency during the regular season, he never should have had a shot at the title in the first place. Adding more drivers who don't deserve a championship will do nothing to make the sport more exciting – instead doing everything to detract from NASCAR's waning credibility.

Sure, other sports have wild card teams, and yes, those teams sometimes win championships. But the Chase format is almost the opposite of this. Instead of several legitimate contenders and a couple of wild cards who were no worse than second in their respective divisions, the Chase pits a couple of legitimate contenders against seven or eight wild cards who probably had little shot of winning any other way. Adding more of these teams is not a solution – it's an insult to fans and teams to reward mediocrity with a shot at title contention come Homestead.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said last year that the Chase was about "showcasing the skills" of the top drivers in the sport. It has done that, albeit sometimes artificially, during its three years of existence, when the question of whether artificial was necessary at the time never got a true answer. In the end, NASCAR is going to have to make up its mind on this system – either showcase only the top drivers who battle for the title like they did as recently as 2003, or reset the points among all of the Top 35 teams and let them all race for it in a no-holds-barred playoff. But don't reward in-between mediocrity – even mediocrity mixed with flashes of absolute brilliance (see Tony Stewart, 2006) with a champion's trophy. In the end, all that can possibly do is tarnish that trophy, along with the title that goes with it. And not one of NASCAR's past champions, present fans, or future contenders deserves that.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

01/05/2007 12:35 AM

Amy, I think you are on it there. A couple extra points for winning, ok. But the top ten is enough, the rest will just make it a joke.

M. B. Voelker
01/05/2007 06:20 AM

More points, significantly more points for a win is a change long overdue. Think of the boredom from the last couple Bristol night races where drivers desperate to keep their position in the Chase dared not take risks because the reward for winning was trivial compared to the risk of losing several positions and thus losing points that would cost.

Sports are about winning and the points should reflect that priority.

But adding more drivers to the Chase is silly. Our entire culture is focused on Top Tens. Top 11 or top 13 is ridiculous.

Will they change the awards banquets to get all the Chasers on stage?

What are they planning on doing with that best of the rest bonus? Award it to the guy in 15th?

01/05/2007 12:42 PM

I have to agree with M B Voelker. The ultimate goal in any race is to WIN. As such, the drivers should be doing all they can within the rules to WIN. The current points structure actually encourages the drivers to settle for a lesser position. This is because they won’t take the risk to win if there is a bigger risk of losing spots in the process. But, by awarding more points for winning, the drivers will start taking more chances and actually racing for the WIN.

Expanding the field of Chase drivers, however, is a tremendous mistake. For one thing, it will water down the Chase for the Championship. If we had all ten drivers in the previous Chases be in contention through the entire ten races, then I would say yes. But why expand the number when that isn’t true. Second, there will be more drivers out there crying to get the non-Chase drivers out of the way. We have enough of that already.

01/05/2007 02:39 PM

I think the Cha$e should be expanded to include everyone who makes a start during the season, the way it was before 2004! Another example of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

01/05/2007 03:41 PM

NA$CAR SUCKS folks, face it!!! 2-3pm start times, The C.O.T., LuckyDog, no more “S%$#” words, too many damn cautions(they’re just for commercials), boring races & the Chase ALL SUCK! I went to my first CUP race in 1977 at Nashville Fairgrounds and was a diehard fan until just a few years ago. I use to go to several races per year, never miss one on TV, buy all the junk they sell and tell everybody I’d talk to about NASCAR. Nowadays; I’ve been to 1 race in 3 years(2 in 5 years), don’t really give a crap if I miss one on TV, never buy anything NASCAR and now I never talk about NA$CAR, because it’s such a JOKE!!! I wonder why TV ratings are down and they have so many empty seats at the track? hmmmm. —- Why didn’t Brainless Brian hit that tree in Daytona head-on, might have knocked some sense into the idiot!!!

01/06/2007 10:20 PM

Ah, I see, Amy’s been a “fan” since 1997. That explains it. Amy, it wasn’t broke before the “chase”, or the fastest cars in qualifying make the race instead of 35 garaunteed spots, or Toyota, or even 6 or 7 provisionals.

You want people back watching NASCAR? Use qualifying times to line up the races and invert the field.

01/07/2007 10:20 AM

Gabby-that’s exactly what I meant-the title is a play on words. I HATE the Chase-if you’ve read anything I’ve written on it for three years, you’ll see that I think it was a detriment to the sport and the championship. Adding more drivers to the mix will only cheapen the title for anyone who wins it because of the points reset, as Kurt Busch did in 2004. I’ve also always been an advocate of the fastest 43 cars making the field, period. If a team is good enough to make a race, then they should race. Don’t agree with an invert, though-the team that wins the pole earns that spot through their hard work.

01/07/2007 09:02 PM

Yeah, that’s right folks,lets step back in time when a race was decided by a leader being laps ahead of the next pack of two on the same lap. Separated by another few laps from the “big pack” of five. Your memories of old were not nearly as exciting as you think! If you long for the old days, I suggest Jr’s Back In The Day videos. (yes, I watched NASCAR when NASCAR wasn’t cool) And I will take it the way it is now, over the “olden” days.

01/08/2007 07:16 PM

Well I too am fed up with it. So why not just go to the local tracks and see some great racing. See what it is really about, guys who work there ass of all week. Then somehow find time to work on the race car, and then make it to the track each weekend. True passion. Something accualy worth watching.


Contact Amy Henderson

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