The Frontstretch: Which Is Worse: The Chase, Or A Single Dominant Driver? by Garrett Horton -- Tuesday September 28, 2010

Go to site navigation Go to article

Which Is Worse: The Chase, Or A Single Dominant Driver?

The Yellow Stripe · Garrett Horton · Tuesday September 28, 2010

 

To begin this column, I want to let you know my personal feelings on the Chase. From the months of late July to early October, I love it. The other months of the year, I hate it. There is so much hype and hope that we really could see an intense points battle going into the final month, and each year I buy into it. In fact, I am doing it again this year.

Historically, though, as we head into late October and early November, we already know who is going to win… again. It’s nothing against Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, it’s just that I, like many people, enjoy seeing a new face as the champion. By the time November rolls around, I tend to join the Chase-hating bandwagon a little bit later than most, pushing for an initial ray of hope in the playoff format only to see the same person keep running away with it.

This year, I have taken a slightly different approach in my thinking. I was on my regular routine of bashing the Chase up until June. Then, I realized that this system is here to stay, and if I am going to continue to be a part of NASCAR (and I will, ‘till the day I die or the sport dies, whichever one comes first) I need to learn to appreciate the system. After all, constant complaining gets us nowhere. We aren’t going back to the old way, and any other changes will just drive away more fans, so I have converted to being a year-round “fan” of this postseason format.

The fans might be bored with Johnson’s depressingly consistent perfection…but is the Chase also to blame for the sport’s apathy?

Last week, I wrote on how we were potentially in store for one of the most exciting Chases in its brief, seven-year history. Judging by most of the comments from my readers, not many agreed with me. More concerning than that, however, was fan apathy. It has become clear that fans have grown so tired of hating the Chase that they just don’t care anymore, shocking after a playoff debut at Loudon where fuel mileage gambles, surprise crashes, and a disappointing run by Jimmie Johnson appeared to make this year’s edition more wide open than ever before. Still, after watching Johnson pick up his 19th career Chase win at Dover – 13 more than any other driver – to the groans of fans everywhere, I wondered if it really is the Chase that people hate? Or, is it the dominance of one man that has tarnished the sport?

This playoff format created by Brian France was designed with the hopes of four or five drivers having a shot at the title going into the final race. I went back through the last five seasons to see how the final point standings looked, and I noticed something: The battle for second was pretty tight in three out of those five Chases (2007 and ’08 being the exceptions). Take a look at the stats below:

2005 – Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards tied (Biffle took second with more wins)
2006 – Matt Kenseth over Denny Hamlin by 12 points
2007 – Jeff Gordon over Clint Bowyer by 268
2008 – Carl Edwards over Greg Biffle by 148
2009 – Mark Martin over Jeff Gordon by 38

Just these stats alone show me there’s hope to have an exciting battle if Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team were no longer invincible. Of course, it would be nice if Johnson’s competitors could live up to their regular season hype. Points leader Denny Hamlin is off to a nice start, but with his unnecessary smack talking towards Richard Childress Racing this past weekend, there should now be concern that he put his championship hopes in jeopardy. With the “have at it” policy, I would not be surprised at all to see Harvick go kamikaze on Hamlin at some race in the Chase, ending both drivers’ championship hopes. That paves the way even more for an unparalleled run at success for JJ that, in my view, is nothing but negative for the sport.

Of course, if Johnson’s the problem stopping his talent isn’t so easy. Considering his mastery of the system, the relative security of his sponsorship, and the chemistry amongst the No. 48 crew – most of which have long-term deals in place through 2015 – what in the world could prevent them from being so dominant?

I have a theory, albeit an unlikely possibility, on what could lessen Johnson’s ironclad grip on the top spot. Obviously, NASCAR can’t just take parts of his car away for no reason, nor can there always be a “debris” caution when he is winning with five to go… but what if NASCAR managed to lure away the No. 48’s crew chief? The sanctioning body would certainly benefit from someone like Chad Knaus working for them in some sort of capacity (think former crew chiefs turned NASCAR employees such as Gary Nelson and Robin Pemberton). John Darby is in the process of being replaced as Sprint Cup Director, and someone like Knaus could be a perfect young fit to be in that role for years to come. He may have recently signed a contract extension until 2015 at Hendrick, seemingly content to be there the next five years, but enough money forked up by NASCAR could change anyone’s mind. If Knaus worked for someone besides Hendrick, we might not see Johnson even winning races on a regular basis — similar to Jeff Gordon’s waning success once Ray Evernham left. For everyone else, though, it would be a win-win situation: fans would regain an interest with more parity for the title, NASCAR would regain fans, and Chad Knaus would be making more money!

One complaint I hear of the Chase almost as much as Johnson winning every year is that the points reset is unfair. Could changes there bring his dominance to a screeching halt? I don’t think so. Keep in mind his strategy has always been to score wins for the Chase, not necessarily snag the regular season point title when it doesn’t give him a single point of advantage in the postseason. Different rules for regular season success could see him altering those plans accordingly; and remember, he was a top 5 points contender even in the pre-Chase years, briefly leading the standings as a rookie before pulling off a runner-up finish to Matt Kenseth in the last pre-Chase season, 2003.

I can understand some traditionalists being upset by the loss of the regular season system to begin with, but rules change over time, and this tweak just so happened to be one. Everyone just needs to get over the fact that Kevin Harvick’s 200-plus point lead is gone. He proved he was strong in the regular season, now he needs to back it up. Most other sports reset once the regular season is over, best records becoming meaningless in a win-or-you’re out type of format, yet no one complains about that. As a matter of fact, most drivers could care less how the old points system was – they are too busy trying to win a championship with the current format. If every playoff was as exciting as the 2004 version, where Kurt Busch won his title by just eight points, I’m guessing this complaint would fall by the wayside, with more fans leaning towards acceptance of what we actually have.

I still am under the belief that this year will finally be the one we see a new face holding the championship trophy after Homestead. Johnson isn’t any worse than in years past, but it looks like several others have caught up. You have to also assume that most, if not all of the Chase drivers are sick of Johnson winning. So even if it means spinning him out to end the streak (Kurt Busch comes to mind) perhaps that is exactly what NASCAR needs. A new champion would give the fans a new perspective on the Chase, and the potential it hasn’t lived up to yet – because the reigning champ, not the playoff itself, is the biggest obstacle to the sport’s long-term success right now.

Tuesday on the Frontstretch:
Five Points to Ponder: Kyle Keeping Pace, Who’s Out Of The Chase, And Denny Saving Face
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In NASCAR: Dover-Kansas Edition
No Bull: Can The Third Year Be The Charm For Joey Logano?
Talking NASCAR TV: Poor Commercial Decisions Lowlight Of ESPN’s ‘Overkill Coverage’

Contact Garrett Horton

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:
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
FREE NEWSLETTER! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

 

©2000 - 2008 Garrett Horton and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

phil h
09/28/2010 12:43 AM
permalink

nascars decline? its the ghosts of North Wilkesboro and Rockingham exacting revenge!! mmwwwahhhh!!

ElectricPeterTork
09/28/2010 02:01 AM
permalink

The chase is worse.

Sure, in years past, one driver may have dominated the points every now and then, but it was better than seeing a driver do nothing for the first 26 weeks and be crowned champion because all he knew how to do was “race when it counted” in the final 10 races.

Every race should count, or there should only be 10 races in the season.

Also, drivers who dominated the points for the first 2/3ds of the season have been known to lose it in the final third of the season without a bull$#!+ resetting of the points to help them along.

Stephen HOOD
09/28/2010 06:10 AM
permalink

I contend that Johnson would master whatever format NASCAR put forth. Return to the old points system and Johnson will do whatever it takes to be your points leader. Change the races in the chase, Johnson figures out a way to win (isn’t he down to less than two or three tracks where he hasn’t won). Johnson is a gifted and meticulous talent that is underrated to his own benefit. I sometimes think that the praise and adulation that Hamlin and Busch receive goes to their head, whereas Johnson’s lack of praise motivates him to destroy the competition.

Personally, I hate the chase. I started watching NASCAR after the chase era began and I’ve grown tired of points racing. I want to see hard racing and winning and when I go to the track I want every dude out there going for the win.

joebob
09/28/2010 07:50 AM
permalink

Really dumb and biased article. Maybe you should think in terms of iron will that may never be seen again in NASCAR.

Carl D.
09/28/2010 08:20 AM
permalink

The chase is definitely worse. Knause dominating year after year is bad in the short term, but long term, it’s something we’ll be talking about for many years. As for whether Knause could win a championship under the old system, I’m afraid that’s something we will never know.

Josh
09/28/2010 09:08 AM
permalink

I’ll just say this…..Jimmie Johnson wouldn’t be Mr Four-Time without the chase. That’s a fact.

Jacob
09/28/2010 09:41 AM
permalink

Earlier this season, I put out the possibility of NA$CAR hiring Chad away from the #48. Bill Jr. would have done it.

The chase is the problem more than JJ. It is contrived, forced, and unnecessary. It took a season that ended with 2-4 unnecessary races when the championship was clinched, and turned it into an affair where only 3-5 races are necessary to see who will clinch the championship.

No-one wants to watch the same team win year after year in ANY sport. But, the #48’s success wouldn’t be as loathed, if the perception wasn’t there that the chase is tailor made for HMS generally, and the #48 specifically. Combine that with the Chad Knaus penchant for “gray area” violations, as well as the fact that many people were already looking for a reason to tune OUT NA$CAR, and the decline in market share is explained.

As for your “rules change” argument, it doesn’t float. Since NA$CAR took the stick and ball post-season format, let me give you a reverse hypothetical:
Let’s say the NFL, NBA, and/or the MLB took the old NASCAR (as opposed to the new NA$CAR) approach. They determine that whoever wins the most games during the regular season (the best average finish), wins the championship.
In the event of a tie, the teams will elect a member to play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ (a best of 3 series for efficiency) until a winner emerges.
Regardless of the popularity and success of the Superbowl, World Series, and NBA Finals, they are just deemed to be excessive, would you ALSO argue that sometimes the rules just change?

The point is, Garrett, that while the small and insignificant rules within a sport may change annualy; the overall successful format of that sport DOES NOT.

AncientRacer
09/28/2010 10:59 AM
permalink

Checking my e-mail this morning I found the below.

Yes, it is a joke, but it has a certain valididty to it. It is a rewrite of a release from the North Korean News Agency. The original follows the rewrite. Hey, I know it is cheeesy, but I have always loved the bombastic style of totalitarian state propagandists…

  • REWRITE

Brian France Reelected as CEO and Chairman of NASCAR

Daytona Beach, FL, September 28 (NMG) – Chairman Brian France was reelected as CEO and Chairman of NASCAR at the conference of the Board of Directors convened at a historic time when a signal turn is being effected in carrying out the revolutionary cause of building a thriving sporting enterprise.

The conference solemnly declared internally and externally that Brian France was reelected as CEO and Chairman reflecting the unanimous will and wishes of all the owners, drivers, track operators, sponsors, media partners and fans of NASCAR as he has performed immortal exploits to shine long in the history of the sport and developed NASCAR into the organization prophesied by Presidents Bill France, Sr. and Bill France, Jr. as the ever-victorious and infallible revolutionary sport by wisely leading the revolutionary cause to victories armed only with his outstanding ideas and uncommon revolutionary practices for nearly a decade since he embarked upon the road of the revolution.

His reelection to the supreme post of NASCAR, organizer and guide of all victories of the Sport, is the highest glory and happiness owners, drivers, track operators, sponsors, media partners and millions of fans of NASCAR and a great auspicious event for the sport and the world.
His reelection is an expression of absolute support and trust of all the owners, drivers, track operators, sponsors, media partners and fans of NASCAR in Brian France who provided the great guiding ideas of the Chase and the COT thus indicating the path to be followed by the sport, the revolution and the era of coining money by comprehensively developing and enriching the immortal racing idea, converted NASCAR into an invincible politico-ideological power, ratings and attendance power and scientific and technological power and consolidated the single-minded unity of the leader, the owners, drivers, track operators, sponsors, media partners and fans of NASCAR as firm as a rock by successfully embodying the idea, opened a new era of prosperity unprecedented in the sport’s history spanning over 50 years with his infallible revolutionary leadership and has made undying contribution to carrying out the cause of dominance in motorsports.

It marked a great event that strikingly demonstrated the unshakable faith and will of the owners, drivers, track operators, sponsors, media partners and fans of NASCAR to resolutely defend and glorify the undying revolutionary feats performed by Brian France and accomplish the revolutionary cause under the tested and seasoned leadership of Brian France.

*******ORIGINAL

Kim Jong Il Reelected as General Secretary of WPK

Pyongyang, September 28 (KCNA) — General Secretary Kim Jong Il was reelected as general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea at the conference of the WPK convened at a historic time when a signal turn is being effected in carrying out the revolutionary cause of Juche, the cause of building a thriving socialist nation.

The conference solemnly declared internally and externally that Kim Jong Il was reelected as general secretary of the WPK with unanimous will and wishes of all the party members, servicepersons and people of the DPRK as he performed the immortal exploits to shine long in the history of the country and developed the WPK into the party of President Kim Il Sung, ever-victorious Juche-type revolutionary party by wisely leading the revolutionary cause of Juche to victories only with his outstanding idea and uncommon revolutionary practices for half a century since he embarked upon the road of the revolution in his early years.

His reelection to the supreme post of the WPK, organizer and guide of all victories of the Korean people, is the highest glory and happiness of millions of party members and servicepersons and people of the DPRK and a great auspicious event of the country and the nation.
His reelection is an expression of absolute support and trust of all the party members, the servicepersons and the people in Kim Jong Il who provided the great guiding idea indicating the path to be followed by the Party, the revolution and the era of independence by comprehensively developing and enriching the immortal Juche idea, converted the DPRK into invincible politico-ideological power, military power and scientific and technological power and consolidated the single-minded unity of the leader, the Party, the army and the people as firm as a rock by successfully embodying the idea, opened a new era of prosperity unprecedented in the nation’s history spanning 5000 years with his Songun revolutionary leadership and has made undying contribution to carrying out the cause of independence against imperialism.

It marked a great political event that strikingly demonstrated the unshakable faith and will of the army and people of the DPRK to resolutely defend and glorify the undying revolutionary feats performed by Kim Il Sung and accomplish the Songun revolutionary cause under the tested and seasoned leadership of Kim Jong Il.

Thomas
09/28/2010 11:03 AM
permalink

You’re correct , the success of the 48 is far more car and crew than it is driver . And of course the constant cheating that goes on with that team .

DoninAjax
09/28/2010 12:20 PM
permalink

Which is worse: a tooth needing a root canal or not being able to do anything about it?

Sharon
09/28/2010 12:23 PM
permalink

I think Jimmie Johnson can win a championship under any format. Chase or no Chase, that team knows how to get it done.

Rob
09/28/2010 12:24 PM
permalink

How can you not like the Chase? The problem I think is the race winner needs 50 bonus points during the Chase. That would make it exciting. So many drivers wouldn’t be eliminated by the 5th race either. I think there would be a lot of bumping and banging in those final laps too. I don’t understand why everyone is supporting an old system that see’s the champ have it wrapped up with 5 races to go. BORING. One more thing. Could we end the season earlier than the 9th week of football season? NASCAR, you are killing yourself with this. Some of your tracks need to give up a race and get over it.

Pam
09/28/2010 12:31 PM
permalink

Blaming Jimmie winning 4 in a row for the perceived demise of Nascar is like blaming the smart kid in the classroom for all the other kids not getting an A on the final. All the big name teams (ie RCR, Gibbs, Roush and HMS) have the ability to go after sponsorship dollars, buy crewmen, engineers and technology and they do. But it’s up the the teams to put it all together and do their homework in order to be the best.
I’ve never adhered to today’s trends of giving all the kids a reward and telling them they did awesome whether they tried or not.

Jimmie is a great talent; he doesn’t win races just because of the his crew or crew chief or car just as the kid who gets an A on Algebra didn’t just get it because he had the newest/best calculator. The work still has to be done and Jimmie works at being a great driver and he and Chad and that whole team work together toward the goal. And they are smart enough to have studied what came before (ie Ray/Jeff G) and realize they are best together. And they work to overcome their deficits maximize their assets. That’s excellence and history we’re seeing and it’s rare.
I am a team 48 fan and have been since the beginning. When and if someone manages to step up their game and beat them that driver/team will have earned it. Tweaking the system because of anything a driver/team did or didn’t do wasn’t the answer in 2004 and it wouldn’t be the answer again.
Time can’t move backwards nor should Nascar repeat their mistakes of the past (ie changing things again).

Russ Williams
09/28/2010 12:39 PM
permalink

What a crock! Nascar fans just like to complain. We are witnessing one of the greatest drivers ever to suit up. Like it or not, the 48 is the dominent driver. You only need to listen to JJ’s post race interview to understand why he dominates. “Maximum points”! He mentioned it several times. They are singularly focused on this during the chase, not finishing 8th or the vomit-inducing drivel of Harvic. They approach each Chase race going for maximum points not just a good finish. Taking Knaus away?? Surely you jest. If he were the 88’s crew chief, Jr would still finish 25th. It’s the team. Who will dethrone him? Probably Kyle Busch. Another year or two of maturity and he will be unbeatable. It is what it is. There would be no chase haters only chase lovers if Little June Bug had won 4 straight. So, sit back, turn the nausiating broadcasters off, and enjoy the show.

Carl D.
09/28/2010 01:25 PM
permalink

Russ…

If Junior had won the last 4 chases, I’d still hate the format. There’s no correlation between hating the chase and being a fan of Dale Junior.

No way does Brian France hire Chad Knaus away from Rick Hendrick. Hendrick has way too much power and money to let that happen. Hendrick needs Knaus, because without him, Jimmie Johnson is just another driver.

Ed
09/28/2010 02:04 PM
permalink

Tired of the Jimmie Johnson Cup Series

NeonSquirrel86
09/28/2010 02:17 PM
permalink

It’s the chase. At least for me it is. Johnson’s just doing what he needs to do and thriving in this system. And this system is a joke.

Rufus
09/28/2010 02:44 PM
permalink

The biggest problem with the Jimmie-And-Chad show is the cloud of having the reputation for being cheaters hanging over their heads. Had Chan not been such a sleeze-bag and got caught so many times bending and breaking the rules, and been suspended so many times, maybe Jimmie’s record might have some legitimacy to to it. unfortunately, their reputation makes their four-in-a-row champiponships and their supposedly drive-for-five a big joke!

Jacob
09/28/2010 04:04 PM
permalink

Russ: I hate the chase, and i am NOT a member of Jr. nation.

If Dale Earnhardt was still alive, and he had won the last 4 straight championships, I would still hate the chase.
It’s not about Jimmie, Jr., Jeff, or Kyle. It is about a fake system of determining a champion instituted in an attempt to increase profit.

ElectricPeterTork
09/28/2010 04:40 PM
permalink

Pam sez: I’ve never adhered to today’s trends of giving all the kids a reward and telling them they did awesome whether they tried or not.

Okay, but isn’t that what the Chase is? Instead of doing the hard work of running a 36 race season, after race 26, NASCAR says “good job, gold star!” to the top 12 drivers, and enacts the “No Cup Driver Left Behind” rule to make the number of drivers they decided on all equal little snowflakes?

Then, the slacker who has sucked for the past 10 weeks can come around and go to the head of the class while the guy who has ran well for those first 26 weeks gets nothing.

Steve
09/28/2010 04:56 PM
permalink

Enjoyed the article, Garrett! You have a way of providing some thought provoking ideas.

As a fan of #48 team and Jimmie Johnson as a driver, I marvel at how they are able to win, finish, or place well so consistently throughout the year, when so many others are hit and miss. I like a lot of the other teams and drivers as well – especially the passion of Tony Stewart, and the longevity of Mark Martin or Jeff Gordon. But it seems to take more than just individuals to get the job done consistently every week.

RamblinWreck
09/28/2010 06:24 PM
permalink

The Chase is the problem.

From 1995-1998, the #24 team won three out of four championships and the year they lost the Cup they came in second to another Hendrick car while winning ten races. NASCAR’s popularity was soaring in the late 1990’s. From 1986-1994, Dale Earnhardt won back-to-back championships three times: six Winston Cups in nine years. NASCAR was branching out of the Southeast as the rest of the country realized how much fun the sport was to watch. If the dominance of a single driver was a detriment to the sport’s popularity, we’d have seen it happen before.

Bill B
09/28/2010 07:21 PM
permalink

As far as I am concerned it’s the chase because the chase system has enabled the 48 team to win 4 in a row. Without it I’d give them 2 championships.
My gripe with the chase is the fact that it increases the factor luck (or bad luck) has in determining the champion. There is a higher probability of good and bad luck evening out over 36 races vs 10 races.

Rick
09/28/2010 08:09 PM
permalink

Drop the chase.

Pam
09/28/2010 09:30 PM
permalink

“ElectricPeterTork
09/28/2010 04:40 PM
permalink

Pam sez: I’ve never adhered to today’s trends of giving all the kids a reward and telling them they did awesome whether they tried or not.

Okay, but isn’t that what the Chase is? Instead of doing the hard work of running a 36 race season, after race 26, NASCAR says “good job, gold star!” to the top 12 drivers, and enacts the “No Cup Driver Left Behind” rule to make the number of drivers they decided on all equal little snowflakes?

Then, the slacker who has sucked for the past 10 weeks can come around and go to the head of the class while the guy who has ran well for those first 26 weeks gets nothing.”

—That driver who was the points leader had the same chances to win races and collect bonus points as any other driver. They all have the same system, same rules; looking at and adjusting to the WHOLE thing both points system and racing is part of the game.

And in this case no one can say Jimmie or Denny sat back and didn’t do anything (slackers) the 1st 26 since they won the most races during the regular season and the point of racing overall is to win.

And I never said I prefer the Chase over the old system. If they’d never changed it Jimmie and Chad and the 48 would have still won multiple championships because they are that good. Never lower than 5th in points every year they’ve been in cup.

My analogy was to everyone whining they need to level the playing field; fix the system; do “x” to give other teams/drivers a chance… blah blah… everyone else just needs to work harder and succeed in this system or whatever system Nascar gives.

What will everyone do/say if Nascar does change the system again and the 48 team STILL wins the Championship or multiple more?

AncientRacer
09/29/2010 12:26 AM
permalink

Everything sed here is bogus unless you can in every applicable instance subsitutute “Kim Jong il” for any reference to any driver or owner or member of the NASCAR Management “team”.

Think about it.

Just think.

THINK.

—- OR go back to your trailersand your mobile home parks.

Honestly, people, that is what the NY $ LA suits think about U.:

Toothless Trailer Trash.

I know. I fight the battle every day of my professional life.