Welcome to this week’s edition of What’s the Call? Each week, two of your favorite Frontstretch writers will duke it out in a debate concerning one of NASCAR’s big controversies. Don’t let us be the only ones to speak our minds, though… be sure to read both sides and let us know what you think about the situation in the comment section below!
This Week’s Question: Given the closeness and almost weekly change in Nextel Cup standings compared to the lack of drama in the Busch and Truck championship races, is it time to take the Chase system and implement it in other series?
Time for the Chase to go to Busch and Trucks
The top-five competitors in the Cup Series are currently separated by 105 points with two races remaining on the schedule thanks to the Chase for the Championship. While some people may consider the Chase a contrived system, it is nonetheless providing a very real, very close competition. Any of the top five could leave Phoenix this weekend with the points lead; now THAT is a tight points chase. On the flip side, the Truck Series has four drivers who have not been mathematically eliminated from championship contention, but none of the three competitors chasing the leader is within 135 points. Fourth-place Ted Musgrave is 262 points out and, although not mathematically eliminated, he cannot win the title if the leader starts the next two races. The Busch Series championship, meanwhile, was a rout; Kevin Harvick clinched it after 31 races out of a 35-race schedule. There is not much, if any, championship race left in the other two major NASCAR touring series, making the end of the year little more than a giant snooze.
Well, here’s a simple fix to wake those series up: institute the Chase format. The Busch Series has experienced continued growth in ticket sales thanks to the entry of multiple Cup drivers competing for the championship this year. In 2007, there are only going to be three Cup regulars participating full-time in the Busch series. In order to maintain the fanbase gains that were made this year, there needs to be a reason for them to keep turning out. A Chase format will ensure that kind of fan interest. The field of 10 is probably too big for the Busch Series; a more realistic number for the series is five. After 25 races, the top five in points and anyone within 500 points should be given a point total to separate themselves from the rest of the field, setting themselves up to battle it out for the championship.
The Truck Series would also benefit from the institution of a Chase. Although the series has been known for closer title battles in the past than the other two series under the traditional format, the dominance of individual teams is beginning to show up there, too. For the series to continue to grow its fanbase, there needs to be a close points race. The Chase would serve that purpose. With the personalities in the Truck Series, the “Go for Broke” style of those drivers associated with a sprint to the finish would make for some amazingly exciting racing in the last quarter of the year. With the shorter schedule, it would probably best serve the Trucks to only have a 5 or 6-race Chase, which would also ensure that everyone stays in contention for the title coming down to the last race.
The Chase was certainly a radical change for the Cup Series. However, there is no question that it has created very close points battles the last three years. That kind of excitement could only help the Busch and Truck series as well. In a points system where one team can dominate and pull away from the pack, the Chase would give the teams who figure something out later in the year a chance to still claim the title. – Mike Neff
Don’t Spread the Chase to Other Series!
Ever since the implementation of the Chase for the Nextel Cup prior to the 2004 season, the idea to expand it to other series has been thrown around numerous times. With Harvick wrapping up the Busch Series title a few weeks ago and Todd Bodine now sitting more than 100 points ahead of Johnny Benson, the question has come up again. But don’t let those lopsided battles fool you into accepting a change; the Chase is nowhere near ready to be implemented anywhere else.
Although there have been a couple of very close points finishes, the Chase still hasn’t proven itself, even in the Nextel Cup Series. Take Tony Stewart, for example. This is a guy with five wins this season, including one just last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and an average finish of 13.7. But because of the Chase, Stewart is stuck where he’s at with no hope of finishing any better than 11th. Kasey Kahne is in a very similar situation with six wins and an average finish of 16.1. Unfortunately, Kahne sits 10th in points and might as well be counted out of any chance at winning the championship.
The Chase has turned decent racing into points racing. With the Chase format, drivers are less willing to race for the win and more willing to race for the most points possible without getting a DNF. I know the thought on every mind to counter the complaint of number of wins is the number of DNFs each driver has. For the record, Stewart has four and Kahne has six. But DNFs aside, what about those guys like Mark Martin win no wins? Or guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch with just one win? It isn’t fair for a guy with one win in a season to finish ahead of a guy with five wins in that same season.
Turning our attention to the other two series, can you even imagine what the Chase in the Busch Series would have been like this year? Cup regular Greg Biffle has missed several races this season; but under that format, he’d still have a shot at winning the title. This is a division with far more problems to solve than changing the way their title is decided. And even if you could convince me that the Busch Series needs to go to a Chase format, there’s no way the Chase should never be applied to the Craftsman Truck Series. For one thing, the Truck Series runs a season that’s 10 races shorter than the Nextel Cup Series, leaving less “regular-season” races before the chase would start. In eight of 11 seasons in Trucks, the points race has been decided by less than 100 points, making this “blowout” year is a rarity. Something tells me that even if the CTS were using a “Chase” format, Bodine would still be leading. He just seems to have a way of staying out of trouble this year, which is how you win points title under this system, Chase or not.
So no, the Chase hasn’t proven itself in the Nextel Cup Series quite yet, and it certainly doesn’t belong in any other series. – Beth Lunkenheimer
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