The Frontstretch: Six Ways to Change Up the Chase by Danny Peters -- Monday August 23, 2010

Go to site navigation Go to article

Six Ways to Change Up the Chase

Danny Peters · Monday August 23, 2010

 

Before the official release of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule, we were all lulled into a false sense of security that, per NASCAR’s head honcho himself, the upcoming changes would indeed be “impactful.” Now, I’m not sure what dictionary Brian France swallowed, but there can be almost zero doubt that those adjustments, which came out in a drip-drip fashion via Twitter, leaks and Facebook, were anything but ground-breaking. In fact, they were quite the opposite, something akin to rearranging deck furniture on the Titanic: all very nice, but ultimately pointless.

Now, the powers that be have turned their collective wisdom to what might happen to everyone’s favorite beast of a championship crowner – the Chase for the Sprint Cup. At a recent event, Brian France, when asked about altering the Chase, replied, “We’re going to look at that. If we can make it a better format, we will, with protecting the credibility of crowning our champion. We want to create moments where you have to win… The Chase format is a hybrid of other sports in the way they handle tournaments or eliminations. It’s a blend of consistency, but you have to perform at crunch time. If we can enhance that whole concept, we should and we will. But we haven’t made that decision.”

It’s quite the answer—really, it is—when you take a few short minutes (which you’ll never get back, I might add) to analyze the mixed metaphors and strange diction of NASCAR’s big cheese. So let me boil it down: Yes, we’re considering making changes, but we’ll do it carefully so as not to make a mockery of the sport. So what changes could NASCAR be considering? Here’s a few that are surely near the top of the pile:

Make room for more! NASCAR surely wouldn’t want to leave their Most Popular drivers on the sidelines of the Chase, would they?

More Drivers:

The inimitable Bruton Smith alluded to more drivers in the Chase on Trackside Live! at Bristol this past Friday evening, and I’m certain this concept is under consideration. Call it the “Dale Junior Rule” if you will, but the basic premise here is for NASCAR to ensure that all the big names (and big sponsors) are represented in the challenge for the championship. Let’s not forget, there’s precedent here: In the first two years of the Chase, only ten drivers duked it out for the title; in the last four years, it’s been a total of 12. Just in case you’ve forgotten, this “12 rule” was established in the year following both Junior and Jeff Gordon missing the final field of ten back in 2005. This year, for example, Mark Martin could likely just miss out, creating the sort of situation NASCAR hopes to avoid. More drivers in the Chase? You can pretty much bet on it.

More Races:

This is an area I haven’t seen discussed a lot, but I have to feel that NASCAR is considering expanding the remit of the Chase – possibly to as many as 12 or 15 races. Now, the rationale here would be to make more of the overall schedule relevant to the actual serious business of deciding a title. Plus, this would have the knock on effect of giving more tracks an all-hallowed “Chase race.” So, whilst I think this adjustment is much less likely than the addition of more drivers, I wouldn’t rule out an expansion in the gamut of the Chase, likely to an initial twelve races… maybe even more.

Different Tracks:

If the Chase were to expand — and even if it isn’t — there has to be some kind of rotation amongst the different tracks. Now, I realize we would be told “this is impossible,” but as the old Adidas slogan goes “nothing is impossible” and I believe this is the case with regard to the schedule. I’m not advocating ten different tracks each year, but there does need to be significant new blood. How good, for example, would it be to see Bristol, Darlington, or Daytona in the final ten races? If the Chase isn’t going to go away (and again, I just can’t believe it will) then this move should be a no-brainer: logistical issues aside, it would make a huge difference.

Elimination of Chasers:

The notion of eliminating drivers from Chase contention as the ten races progress is not a new one. It’s more in keeping with the traditional notion of a playoff where losing teams go home and the winners keep going. Given that after about three Chase races, at least half the field are all but mathematically eliminated, there is some validity to this concept — but it would have to be executed perfectly. What if, say, one driver has a 10-win regular season, goes into the Chase 400 points up, then has two straight stinkers to open the Chase? Should that driver – in a sport that rewards consistency – be withdrawn from title contention so hastily? Like many other ideas this notion, I can’t help but feel, is a great idea on paper and a terrible one in practice.

A Stronger Emphasis on Winning:

This is something that could also be applied to the “regular season” champion who really should receive some kind of boost for finishing atop the heap before the Chase begins. In this case, a potential change to the Chase could come with a significant points boost for winning one of the final ten races. Too often, it’s easy for a driver to take a safe top 5 than to really go for it. An additional, say, 30-50 points for a Chase win by an Chase-eligible driver would definitely lead to fireworks in the closing laps. And that’s something you can take to the bank. Simply put: Winning a race should be worth a lot more.

A Revamped Chase Points System:

While I’m on the subject, my last potential change to the Chase would be the implementation of a completely new point structure, perhaps akin to the new 2010 Formula One system which rewards winning much more than before. In a sense this adjustment, to me, is an obvious idea. By splitting off twelve drivers, you’re saying there are “haves” and “have nots.” So why should the “haves” be scored alongside the riff-raff, if you will? Of course, you’d need a series of mathematical geniuses with a slew of complicated spreadsheets and fiendish algorithms to work it all out. And if nothing else, if done judiciously, you’d likely end up with more contenders with a shot at the title come the season’s final two races.

So there we have it, six ways to change up the Chase. One final quick thought this week: How much better would the Chase be if it opened with three night races at Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond? Now that would really be something to savor, wouldn’t it?

Contact Danny Peters

NASCAR NEWS, RIGHT TO YOUR INBOXAND IT’S FREE.
The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?
FREE NEWSLETTER! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

 

©2000 - 2008 Danny Peters and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

DoninAjax
08/24/2010 09:35 AM
permalink

Best option for the chase is get rid of it.

Jerome
08/24/2010 10:59 AM
permalink

You beat me tio it Don. The chase sucks. There are no changes that can make it better. As Robert Prosky said in the movie Christine “You can’t polish a turd.”

Danny P
08/24/2010 11:14 AM
permalink

Whilst I am inclined to agree with you both — the Chase format sucks —I just don’t see a way NASCAR gets rid of it. They’ll just have to find ways to polish the turd which was, in many ways, the point of the article!

Bob Chimento
08/24/2010 11:15 AM
permalink

The Chase is good in theroy but to get there the points need to change so that…

Each week the top 10 drivers receive the bulk (like 75/80%) of points with the top 3 receiving the lions share of the points…

NASCAR is a “Team” sport (something that is way over looked)… award points each week for the best pit stops or total time on pit road… reward the “Team”…

and…

Since NASCAR puts so much emphasis on qualifying, add points for qualifying…

More than anything the “team” needs to be reconized…. for without them a driver is worthless… period!

Kevin
08/24/2010 12:35 PM
permalink

“We’re going to look at that. If we can make it a better format, we will, with protecting the credibility of crowning our champion. We want to create moments where you have to win… The Chase format is a hybrid of other sports in the way they handle tournaments or eliminations. It’s a blend of consistency, but you have to perform at crunch time. If we can enhance that whole concept, we should and we will. But we haven’t made that decision.”

Brian France amazes me. He has this astounding gift of stringing together a whole lot of words in order to say absolutely nothing.

As far as the chase goes, we need to get rid of it. But if that can’t happen, your suggestion of including more tracks is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. The more tracks we can use in determining a champion, the better. Of course, I’d love to see that number get back up to around 36…

An elimination is the absolute worst idea they’ve put forth. That would really help turn NASCAR into one big joke.

Kevin in SoCal
08/24/2010 12:59 PM
permalink

Danny said: “Just in case you’ve forgotten, this “12 rule” was established in the year following both Junior and Jeff Gordon missing the final field of ten back in 2005.”

Actually, it was put into place in 2007, after Tony Stewart missed the top ten in 2006.

I only have two suggestions for Chase changes, and I’ve shared them before. One: 5 races, 5 drivers, have at it boys. Two: the top 12 after Richmond maintain their current standings, but separate everyone by 10 or 25 points like they used to do. Then award the 10 or more bonus points for each race won. That way, the regular season winner stays up near the top where he should be. Its terrible that the leader after 26 races with 3 wins starts behind the guy in 8th place with 5 wins, for example.

Danny P
08/24/2010 02:15 PM
permalink

Thanks Kevin! That’s my mistake (and also my editors who I am happy to throw under the bus here… :)

Tony
08/24/2010 02:48 PM
permalink

Since the Chase will never go, why can’t NASCAR run something similar to what small tracks do or did-make a first half champion, start them all from scratch, then have a second half champion. Then combine the scores for the overall champ. Being a champ for a half is an accomplishment in itself. Then toss away the chase. A lot of drivers either have one good half or a bad one. This would let them overcome a bad start or finish.

MSW
08/24/2010 03:51 PM
permalink

Danny said-
“ What if, say, one driver has a 10-win regular season, goes into the Chase 400 points up, then has two straight stinkers to open the Chase”. If Nascar wants to be like other sports then this is fine. In the NFL a team could go 15-1 in the regular season and loose a playoff game and go home. Success in the regular season means nothing come playoff time. Now that being said, I hate the chase as much as anyone. Would love to see it go away, but I’m sure that’s not going to happen.

Bill B
08/25/2010 07:30 AM
permalink

MSW,
When comparing the chase to the NFL playoffs, the teams with the best records get byes and home field advantage (both of which are huge). How do we work that into the chase to give those that did best in the regular season some kind of edge? Sorry but 10 points per win given the points swing that can occur in one race is nothing.
Also why are those other 31 teams still competing?

Stop using other sports’ pplayoffs as a comparison. NASCAR is different and trying to fit a playoff scenario into the sport does not work. The chase is bs and should be shelved.

jerseygirl
08/25/2010 09:33 AM
permalink

You can’t fix it — its time for BZF to just man up and say I screwed up — we’re getting rid of the chase.

Except I know that won’t happen.

Ricky
08/25/2010 09:57 AM
permalink

Add more drivers and more tracks each year and the next thing you know, all drivers are eligible and all tracks are included in the Champoinship. Ain’t that the way it used to be…but Brian(dumba**) France could take the credit for reverting it back without saying he screwed up…somebody else must be thinking for him!!!!!Finally!!!!!

John Potts
08/25/2010 12:37 PM
permalink

Yeah, what jerseygirl said!

Steve
08/25/2010 03:55 PM
permalink

More drivers: How about 43 and get rid of the Chase

More races: How about 36 and get rid of the Chase.

Different tracks: How about all of them on the schedule and get rid of the Chase

Strong Emphasis on Winning: How about giving more points to the race winner and get rid of the Chase.

Naw, that makes too much sense. Lets keep the chase.

Gordon82Wins
08/25/2010 05:26 PM
permalink

A big problem with the Chase is that nothing changes when the playoffs start – bad teams are still racing. So it amounts to just resetting points for the top 12 drivers, and an obvious attempt to force closer championship battles.

It will never, ever happen, but just letting the 12 drivers who make the playoffs race in the last ten would give the playoffs a shred of credibility. Chase drivers wouldn’t have to pass Sam Hornish or A.J. Allmendinger to get a shot at each other.

Contact Danny Peters