NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Eyes on XFINITY: A Chase Format in the XFINITY Series? Huh?

Rumor has it, the folks at NASCAR are contemplating changes for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Let’s face it, can you blame the sanctioning body?

After another long year with countless headlines featuring Sprint Cup Series drivers leading nearly every lap of a race throughout the majority of the season, fans are irritated, especially the younger generation. The demographic between the ages of 18 and 24 are statistically the lowest in each of the sport’s top-three tiers. However, in Cup and the Camping World Truck series, 11 percent of fans fall into this category. Meanwhile, only nine percent of viewers closely follow the XFINITY Series.

As previously noted, NASCAR sent out a list of possible changes to the fan council, which includes a Chase format potentially coming soon to the sport’s second-tier division. Many have noted that a change in the championship format would disturb the differential between the two divisions, and it will take away a major characteristic within the XFINITY Series, which is consistency.

However, after evaluating the options, it is agreeable that it is in NASCAR’s best interest to create a playoff format for the XFINITY Series. But there is one major thing that needs to be considered: Should it be similar to the Chase in the Cup Series or different?

Since the Chase’s inception in 2004, there have been three different formats, which includes expanding it from 10 to 12 cars and then the current version of a 16-driver playoff with eliminations. While this format has had its ups and downs, the XFINITY Series would benefit greatly from adding a playoff system. However, making it similar to the original Chase format is likely to produce more action given the lack of winners by series regulars.

With only eight series regulars winning in 2015, and only one in the final eight races (Regan Smith), an elimination system would simply be based off of consistency and not wins. The lack of victories by full-time drivers would make the current Chase format rather gimmicky in XFINITY, especially since it would eliminate consistency in what is already a controversial system.

Instead, creating a 10-race playoff with no eliminations would be amazing for the XFINITY Series.

Think about it: It provides young drivers with a spotlight in a playoff environment that would usually not be there, teaching them valuable lessons of how to race in the playoffs if they make it to the Chase in Cup. In addition, the racers would understand what it is like to race to make the Chase, and then would have another addition to their resume, impressing potential team owners and sponsors.

“I’m not exactly sure what my opinion would be of it,” Kyle Busch told Frontstretch in a teleconference following his Sprint Cup Series championship victory. “Obviously with the Chase format changing over the years, I think there’s different opportunities to race in different fashions in order to score championships. But all in all, I feel like it would be more exciting in the NASCAR XFINITY Series to change to some sort of a Chase format and have more guys eligible down towards the end of the season.

“I still think you’re going to see the same championship‑caliber drivers contend for that championship when it comes down to the final race in Homestead.”

As Busch stated, the same drivers will likely be racing for the championship. However, it will tighten up a points battle that is usually not close. Chris Buescher’s 15-point gap ahead of Chase Elliott at the conclusion of the 2015 season was one of just two title battles that came down to the final race since 2008 when Clint Bowyer used a fifth-place finish at Homestead to edge race winner Carl Edwards by 21 points for the title (2013).

Adding pressure to the title contenders, the series could go through a new generation, one that adapts better to the new culture of NASCAR. It is a culture that can make the XFINITY Series stand out, considering the races are shorter in a time where short attention spans plague American sports. With a focus on winning during the final 10 events, which is nearly one-third of the season’s contests, a Chase would provide a spotlight for series regulars that would otherwise be focused on Cup drivers dominating the races.

With all of that said, Busch also noted adding a Chase format could affect the credibility of the XFINITY Series.

“I do feel as though it’s necessary to still keep some sort of integrity, and maybe that was the point of the first Chase format where you do have to average through 10 races rather than just having it come down to three races at a time.”

Keeping the format similar to the original Chase setup will be the key for the success of any possible playoff system in the XFINITY Series. It will create a key difference between the two divisions, but also allows drivers to prepare for the next level. What is the point of making the lower divisions race without a playoff format if the Cup Series has the Chase?

A Final Look Around XFINITY:

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13 Comments
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DoninAjax

How about this. No Cup drivers during their chase. They won’t have a chance to feed their egos.

Dave

How about no cup drivers peroid.I do not see any MLB players in the Little World Series in Williamsport Pa !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

steve

I’d rather see a big change: turn the series into a team competition (similar to Rolex) where two drivers combine in a single car during the race. Only one can be a Sprint Cup level driver (with perhaps a limit on the number of races any single driver can participate). This adds strategy (when to switch, who to pair up, how to set up the car for two drivers), it keeps Chase drivers involved so fans continue to see their ‘favorite’ driver and it increases the number of lower-tier drivers getting seat time.

Sure, it’s not ‘traditional’ NASCAR racing, but so what? Right now, all the series is a less-powered version of a Sprint Cup car. BFD.

Mike

How many fan suggestions does King Brian see? Surely he can’t be so dumb as to not see that fans, sponsors, and teams are bailing on Busch & Truck series.

Not that el jeffe cares, but IMHO, Busch & Trucks should run similar schedules (to help track promoters) at largely non-Cup events (to build a unique identity) and coordinate with other series e.g. ProCup (again, to help promoters). All of which should be events at 1 mile or less venues (Nazareth, SoBo, Martinsville, Bowman-Gray, etc) for circletracks and keep a health dose of road courses. Expand the dirt race to both series.

BZF won’t listen. And, I’m tired of caring…to paraphrase Redd from “Shawshank Redemption”, to tell you the truth, I just don’t give $%^&.

Tim S.

Your idea is a great one. I’d like to see them share weekends with the Cup series for the opener, a short track, Watkins Glen and the end of the season. The rest of the time, be far away, either physically or in type of venue.

But as you say, they don’t care. They watched the teams with single series identities disappear, and have consciously aided in the elimination of unique venues. Their doubling-down on the status quo with the long-term track agreements only proves that their heads are buried in the sand.

Sean Fesko

These are great ideas, Mike, and ones that I’ve been researching for some time now for a book that I’m writing about the sport. The biggest issue the NXS has in going to these tracks is making sure the facilities are equipped with SAFER barrier, as some of the smaller tracks don’t have them yet. They also have to be careful in taking too large a step “backwards” in adding smaller tracks. Too many half-mile events would hurt what is supposed to be a AAA series, but I agree there needs to be a healthy dose of smaller circuits to give the series its own identity as well as serve as a stepping stone from Trucks to Cup.

Tracks like Memphis, Gateway, Milwaukee, LORP and (when it’s completed) Canadian Motor Speedway would be stellar additions to the NXS schedule, and they definitely should replace cookie cutter tracks.

Mike

Yes sir –agree that there’s “too much of a good thing”.

SAFER is a huge investment…how to address?

Otherwise, agree on all points. Think back to the 80s/90s when there was a unique identity. Busch Series = the Green Brothers, Morgan Shepard, Randy LaJoie, et al.

Looking forward to the book.

J.Smith

I’ll third that motion. More Short, Road and Dirt tracks is the right way to go. Stock Cars on these types of tracks produce excitement organically. Instead, BZF defaults to his well established business model by plastering even more lipstick on his pig with a chase. Poor pig, poor fans and pour BZF another one.

DoninAjax

You can’t make wins the qualifier. The regulars have as much chance of winning a race as Brian winning Husband Of The Year (which Delana qualifies for). So it comes down to points. Imagine that. Maybe there’ll be some points racing?

Sean Fesko

From what I understand, the Chase format would require Cup drivers to sit out the NXS races. Like you said, the regulars don’t win much at all and it would reflect poorly on the sport to have the majority of your championship contenders winless when the playoffs started. However, I’m a fan of points racing and the strategy that goes along with it, so if Cuppers are still allowed to race then the points battle will be just as compelling to me.

janice

cuppers in xfinity and truck series take the higher paydays by winning away from the teams that run the series full time. cuppers in these series help put butts in seats, and realistically, that’s all that the idiot in daytona beach cares about.

chase for xfinity…..ok, keepthe cuppers out of their chase races. but we all know how successful the chase been in cup series.

hey brain fart – LEAVE IT ALONE!!!!! you’ve screwed up one series, don’t go for any more.

J.Smith

Did KB really say “I do feel as though it’s necessary to still keep some sort of integrity, and maybe that was the point of the first Chase format where you do have to average through 10 races rather than just having it come down to three races at a time.” ?
I’m glad to hear the current champion admit that the title he holds has little to no credibility or integrity. It shows he has integrity and at least half of a brain. He should, of course, expect a $fine$ for honesty which, as usual, casts a bad light on BZF.

DoninAjax

I see there’s a movie called Irrational Man. Why would I think it’s about Brian?

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