Will Nascar's Next Big Change Be The Chase Format?

David YeazellSenior Analyst IOctober 8, 2009

Yesterday NASCAR took another step in implementing change based on feedback from the fans.

Double file restarts were implemented with feedback from a town hall meeting. Lower ticket prices are the result of fewer and fewer fans attending events. Now, with feedback from 25,000 dedicated hard core fans being polled weekly, NASCAR is returning to uniform starting times.

Implementation of uniform starting times for races in 2010 has been received with what seems to be an overwhelmingly positive response from the media and fans.

With NASCAR in the change mode, should fans continue applying pressure and now turn their attention to other issues?

Could revamping the Chase format be the next big change?

Implemented at the beginning of the 2004 season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase has seen only two minor changes from its original format. Bonus points are now awarded for wins, and the original lot of 10 drivers was increased to 12. Both changes took place in 2007, and is only the 12th time since 1949 NASCAR has made a change to its points system.

In yesterday's teleconference Brian France said NASCAR has been looking at the chase format: “We're always looking to see if there is an enhancement. But I actually think it's working better than it ever has from a competitive standpoint.”

The competition this year leading up to the Chase, and now three races in, has been tighter than ever before. With seven races to go, there are still six drivers within 100 points of leader Mark Martin.

Even though this type of format lends itself to one driver running away with the championship, which seems to be the big issue with most fans, France feels it needs to play out.

“It can be difficult for us to get the perfect formula.  But we think we have a very good formula in terms of the racing, the balance of the racing action. We want to let that play out.”

France felt that story lines were also a part of the successful mix.

Without a doubt, this year’s chase is filled with a cornucopia of story lines.

Start with Mark Martin, the quintessential bride’s maid and sentimental favorite.

There’s Juan Pablo Montoya, the feisty Columbian chasing a championship with zero wins and a lot of heart.

We see Jeff Gordon grasping at his fifth title, but watching it slowly slip away, again.

Tony Stewart, former points leader and first year owner/driver trying to become the first owner/driver champion since the late Alan Kulwicki.

And of course there’s current three-time champion Jimmie Johnson, looking to become the first in history to make it four in a row.

If this were the first year of the Chase, it would contain all the ingredients necessary to keep fans tuned in and looking forward to next year over and over again.

But it’s not the first year. It’s the sixth year, and the previous five have been no comparison.

As Brian France said, “It can be difficult for us to get the perfect formula.”

The formula this year is pretty good, but with good only happening once every six years, there's plenty of room for improvement.