As the Sprint Cup Series enters the final stretch of races, the battle for the championship is beginning to look clearer as it looks to be becoming down between three drivers. So, which one will it be?
As discussions boils down between fans, it looked to come down to either people for or against Jimmie Johnson, without another clear favourite.
“Everyone’s sick of seeing him win,” Ben Melenhorst said of Johnson. “I've actually stopped watching the races this year because of him, and i know others have too.”
“If Johnson can leave Talladega unscathed he will five-peat for sure,” Steeve Melson commented. “Johnson is so good down the stretch and most of the chase races fall right into his types of tracks that he has so much success at. If Johnson winds up involved in an incident, in the big one, relegating him to a 30th place finish or worse, then Hamlin has a realistic shot at completing the upset. Harvick runs strong at restrictor plate tracks so if both Johnson and Hamlin are involved in the big one at Talladega then he has a realistic shot at the title. We won't honestly know for sure how it will play out until after Talladega but my bet is on Johnson.”
“Anybody but Johnson,” Gail Morrissey said.
“I think it would be kinda cool to witness history,” Charlie Smith commented.
“Jeff or Jimmie,” Kaitlynn Seitz said.
If the past five years are any indication, it’d look like it’s in Johnson’s favor as he seems to always close out the season well.
Past Talladega, Johnson has an average finish of 13th or lower at the final three tracks.
Denny Hamlin, who currently sits six points back, has said that he wants to mount a charge this year as he feels he’s the only that can take a stance and win it. Past Talladega at the final three races, Hamlin’s highest average finish at any of the tracks is 10.6, so the stats back up his claim.
As stated, Harvick has an outside shot as it looks, though could jump in with an issue. Harvick’s highest average finish at the final three tracks is 15.6 so it would be interesting. Though recall, Harvick led the standings at the beginning of the year, so it would also be no surprise.
A lot of people have considered Johnson to be the obvious choice, however, a lot of people fear that another championship would increase the ratings even further.
“From an entertainment stand point its horrible,” Melenhorst said. “I know there’s other people out there who love watching him win every weekend. But they were already watching the races anyways. It's the people who have stopped watching that NASCAR should worry about.”
However, looking deeper into the issue of the declining ratings, there are other reasons why the amount of viewers have decreased.
To start, there are those who have complained of the TV coverage, not liking the commentators and how they choose to cover a race. Some say that it has gotten very boring over time with what they choose to and choose not to show.
Also, you have to take into considering how the sport’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. is running. Whether some will admit it or not, he helps in controlling the amount of viewers.
If he’s not running well, some of his fans may not want to tune in. With his fanbase equaling approximately 40 percent of the fanbase, as according to last year’s most popular driver poll, that could equal a large group of the fans.
There are also fans who have said they stopped watching due to the rules and cars, which is something NASCAR would have to address in how they monitor the rules.
So what type of rule changes should be made? Steeve Melson offered some.
“As for the ratings going for a slide, NASCAR needs to look at changing the format of the chase,” Melson said. “This thing always falls into the lap of Johnson. Throw in a road course in the chase. Throw in two extra guys into the chase. These extra two drivers would consist of the two drivers with the most wins that did not make the top 12. Tie breaker, most top-fives, etc. Make a different points structure for those in the chase to keep the points battle much closer throughout the entire chase. One point per position and two points for a pole. Maximum points is 45 with a win and a pole.
“Get rid of guaranteeing the top 35 in owner’s points starting spots. Force the drivers to qualify on times alone. No past champions provisional. Top 10 from the previous year get one provisional as a bonus for doing well the previous season.
“Fans would watch in suspense if there were more then one or two guys that could win the title in the last race.”
Some fans would consider the changes to the Chase format against Johnson. However, with the Chase growing more boring each year with less drivers contending and the viewership going down, maybe it’s something that needs to be done.
If Johnson continues his domination style and does his job as well as he’s done the past four years, what’s to say the new format would stop him anyway?