When NASCAR opted to go to a playoff system following Matt Kenseth’s 2003 title-winning season, there was mixed reaction. His one-win season, dubbed by some as “The Matt Kenseth Rule,” is a far cry from the win-and-you’re-in format we’ve had for the past few seasons.
The current format is the fifth iteration of the playoff system since it was introduced in 2004. The number of contenders has grown from 10 at the start of the playoff era, to 12, to 16, where it currently stands.
But when’s the last time a Cup champion came from the back half of the playoff field?
When’s the last time we had 16 winners in a regular season lasting 26 races?
What’s the harm in shrinking the playoff field by two, maybe four drivers?
On the contrary, once the playoffs begin, anything is on the table. But again, we haven’t really seen that saying come to fruition.
Downsizing the playoff field would make a spot more coveted and put even more emphasis on winning a race in the regular season. What’s the harm in (wait for it) a driver winning a race in the regular season and not making the postseason?
If anything, it would increase the intensity of on track action due to the limited capacity of the playoff field. Eliminating four unnecessary slots who were never going to be championship contenders is not a harmful move.
It would force more consistency throughout the first races, something that has faded away in recent years, and raise the overall standards and barrier of entry to the sport’s ultimate stage where the best of the best compete for the ultimate prize.
The consistency factor would also please some of the “old school” fans and bring back some nostalgia and/or tradition, and that never hurt nobody either.
In many cases, I’m a firm believer of less is more. This goes along with that sentiment, and it’d wind up being for the best.