NASCAR's Chase: Fixer-Upper or Just Demolish It?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IAugust 6, 2010

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17:  NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson poses for a photo after being surprised by the Knick City Dancers with a cake for his birthday during NASCAR Chase Media Day at the Hard Rock Cafe on September 17, 2009 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It's not football or baseball, it's NASCAR.

So why must there be a Chase or playoff format at the end of the season?

The 36 race series was designed to allow the overall best finishing driver to win the series title.

To finish well, a driver must perform optimally, supported by a consistently strong team and talented crew chief that communicates well with his driver.

NASCAR began it's trek to find a way to put emphasis on winning races in 2000.

In 2003, Matt Kenseth won the Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) title, though he won only one race during the season.

Kenseth did have 25 top-10 finishes that year.

In comparison, Ryan Newman won eight races, (22 percent) of the total races and finished sixth in the point standings.

NASCAR added five additional points for the win in 2004.  At present, total points per race is 185 to the credit of the winner.

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A driver may receive five bonus points for leading a lap and five bonus points for leading the most laps.

Under the current points system, the second place driver gets 170 points and five points separate each position from second through sixth.

Finishing positions seventh through 11th receive four points.  The balance of the field is separated by three points per position.

Granted, racing is about winning. 

Fans want to see hotly contested events with a battle for the win.

Technically a driver could win the championship in or out of the Chase format by just having lots of top-five finishes.

A driver can go into the Chase with forty or fifty bonus points and drive through the Chase in defense mode rather than pursuing wins.  Just keeping a car safe, but near the front could be adequate.

The race tracks that have been in place for the Chase may play into the driving style of a particular driver.

Jimmie Johnson is very strong on an intermediate track, so Texas Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway play to his favor.

If the Chase were scrapped the schedule would not be as relevant.  It is already expected that Chicagoland Speedway will be the first race of the 2011 Chase with Loudon being the second one.

A road-course race should be part of the Chase or at least Pocono.  A championship driver should be good at all types of tracks.

Perhaps the Chase is just a bad idea, but we know Brian France wants to tinker with it and it isn't going anyplace anytime soon.

Fans really have not been endeared to the Chase format.

A driver can go into the Chase with 100 bonus point advantage and win by 100 points, so nothing has been accomplished.

In the Chase format, only the top four or five drivers are usually in contention anyway. 

The same would be true in the old school format prior to the Chase.

The cream rises to the top and the most dominant driver will win the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

Racing was pretty darn exciting prior to the Chase.

There will always be an anomaly year when a driver with lots of wins fails to win the championship.

Fiddling around with enhancing the playoff style of the Chase seems to be much ado about nothing.

Should Jimmie Johnson win a fifth consecutive championship this year, NASCAR fans will start to tune out.

It may be great for Johnson, and NASCAR would get lots of media attention, but it will not be good for the sport.

In the last four years, 2006 through 2009, under the pre-Chase points system, Johnson would have won the championship in  2006 and 2009.  He would have been runner-up in 2007 and 2008.

NASCAR has made racing more exciting with green-white-checkers, the "have at it policy" and allowing drivers to show more personality.

Many of the changes to the sport have made the races better for fans.

In the coming years we will see the COT become much like the new style NASCAR Nationwide cars with Mustangs and Challengers.

We just may see a Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

But please, change for the sake of change is not always a good thing.

Maybe it is time to stop trying to fix up the Chase and just demolish it.

A patch job on the Chase is not what the fans want, but it is apparently what they will get next year.

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