Tweaking The Chase…..

by John Chapman on September 9, 2010 · 10 comments

As I’ve said before, "Tweaking the chase, is like tweaking a Yugo. It will still be a Yugo". Anything can be made better, including Yugo’s, and the Chase. With the emphasis that NASCAR places on the Chase, for it to do anything like they want it to do, (so far it hasn’t) some changes are needed.

Unlike stick and ball sports, NASCAR’s playoff involves all the teams, not just the contenders. That’s one of it’s inherent weaknesses. I’ve read countless variations on the theme that anyone who wins a race should be included. While I do favor the bonus points for winning, I can’t really buy into letting all winners in. The Chase is, after all, supposed to crown a season champion. Maybe, this being NASCAR- and NASCAR, being all about money- teams who have unused bonus points, like Jamie Mac, Juan,
or David Reutimann could sell them. You know like they do to manipulate the top 35 rule. Oops, sorry! my cynicism crept in, and I was trying so hard.

I do favor giving more weight to wins, but I still think it should be the whole package. I hate seeing multi winners, like Matt Kenseth last year, and Jamie not make it in, but if you’re good enough to be a multiple winner, then you should be good enough to put the rest of the package together.

One thing I do feel strongly about is that the regular or- as I like to call it- the pre-season winner deserves more consideration. I personally feel that he should start tied with the top bonus point man. As it stands, being the regular season leader counts for nothing. Just a further de-valuation of the regular season.

To give weight to race wins, (as well as regular season points leader) these bonus points need to carry more weight.
Remember, this whole Chase thingy came about because Matt won the championship in 2003 with only one win. A totally bogus reason, but the reason nevertheless. How’s it going to play if a winless team should hit on something, and win it all with a string of top 2-5 finishes? Not likely, but possible.

The Chase field already get their points re-set to start the Chase. Even with the re-set, they’re still racing the entire field for points.
Meaning that if a Chaser were to either break, or wreck,  before the
start and park teams do their thing. They’d get 34 points while the winner could get 190, as the Chasers are not racing the entire field for the Championship. Why make them race the field for points? They should have a point system that is only impacted by how they finish In relation to the other Chasers. To make winning carry more weight, how about something like 12 points for a Chase winner, graduated down to six for seventh, with everyone eighth through twelfth, getting five. To gain the top point total, a Chaser would not have to win the race. Only finish ahead of the other Chasers. Although I expect most, if not all races to be won by Chasers.
Under this system, the rest of the field is removed from the points equation.

To reflect the reduced points, I think three bonus points rather than ten. At three, four season wins, would equal a Chase win.
Under this system, J.J., Denny, and Kevin, as the season point leader, would start the Chase with a big leg up, but I think that’s not a bad thing. Under this scenario, a winless team would have to catch fire, rather than merely get hot. To catch the teams who got it done during the regular season.

On the other side of that coin, a Chaser who breaks a motor or wrecks, in the Chase, and finishes thirty-eighth, or so isn’t completely buried. This should keep the Chase field tightened up. Giving a better opportunity for the kind of  Chase NASCAR needs.
The idea of some sort of elimination has been mentioned, (even by me, if you were paying attention) but I was making fun of it at the time. I’m trying to be as serious as I ever get now. The elimination thing seems like just another contrivance in an already contrived situation. We all know that the bottom half of the Chase field have little, or no realistic chance of winning the thing. The Earnhardt/Gordon, expansion from 10 to 12 practically guaranteed this. Chase teams earned their way in, and I think they deserve the attention and sponsor exposure that goes with it for the entire Chase.

As it is, teams missing the Chase, still get to race, but it can’t be fun, being relegated to "field filler" status. Having to tip toe around the Chase teams. To me that’s really the fatal flaw in the Chase.
If you remember the first one in 2004, if Kurt had lost his wheel 50 feet further down the track, Johnson would have won  five of them. I’m not saying that JJ is not a great, or deserving champion.  If we had no chase he still would have probably won some championships during this stretch, but I doubt it would have been four.

As long as we have the Chase, it needs to do at least two important things: it needs to generate some renewed fan interest. At a time when fans are a little jaded, and distractions (like football) are intruding. Probably most important, at least to me, is that it crown a deserving champion. Come on NASCAR, make your tweaks, and give us a Chase that does this, and I’ll find a new horse to ride. Until then,…… well you get the idea.-

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1 The Mad Man September 10, 2010 at 5:14 am

I’m not overly fond of the contrived play-off system myself Dawg, but if we’re going to be stuck with it, then it needs to be a true play-off system with non-competitors going home after the first 26 races. You don’t have non-competitors competing in the play-offs in pro sports. You have wild cards and top finishers in their divisions who then compete for the championship. Then you further eliminate teams when they lose leaving only two teams at the finish. I know this would get pretty boring only having two cars on the track for the final race but if NA$CAR keeps insisting on putting the square peg of racertainment into the round hole of stick-and-ball sports, then they need to use their play-off formats. The more they diddle with things, the worse the mess it up, and the more people lose interest. I think the old system of winner takes all after 36 races worked great.

2 Bill in GA September 10, 2010 at 5:27 am

You’re on the right track, though I have a different view about the current “seeding” process–not that your idea doesn’t address that.

I believe anyone making the top-12 and the Chase should start “even”–everyone is on an equal footing–considering that making it IN is already a huge bonus. Instead of giving pre-Chase winners a leg up in points to start the last 10 races, make it a “payback” for winning DURING the Chase.

I do agree that the top-12 should be scored only against each other, and I like the 12-11-10-9-8 points, how ever it works best to keep things “tight”–but make those pre-Chase wins a big carrot for both the winners & non-winners–for example, Johnson gets a one-time 5 point bonus–one for each of his 5 (at present) wins–if he wins a Chase event. The other Chasers, both winners and non-winners, will try VERY hard to prevent him, or any other pre-Chase winner, from collecting that bonus. Don’t give it away–make ‘em EARN it when it counts, during the Chase.

3 Bill in GA September 10, 2010 at 5:49 am

I quit too soon–if The Chase is here to stay, here are some thoughts (not all directly related to the topic):

1. Elimination format should be part of the Chase

2. There are too many Chase events–maximum of 6, and include a road course

3. PLEASE reduce the season length/number of events, if that means tracks with 2 races now go into a 2 or 3-year rotation where one year the track has 2 events, and the other 2 years they only get one–I believe it’s got to be done to make it possible to somehow get Cup racing to a track like Iowa or Road America once a year and not extend the schedule–in fact, ideally it would shorten the season. This, for example, would again allow Atlanta to periodically (once every 2 or 3 years) have a 2nd race if SMI wanted it, as well as a 2nd Las Vegas event–there’s a huge amount of flexibility if this was part of the schedule “building” process.

4. Consider adjusting race lengths to fit into a window of time–whether by still calling an event a “500″, but making it kilometers (ala Phoenix) or other means. Short tracks are OK at 500 laps, for now, anyway.

5. I don’t get the argument that says a shortened race should cost less (in regard to ticket prices)–Bristol is 261 miles, but what are ticket prices there compared to Charlotte’s 500 & 600 milers, for example? Don’t get me wrong–I’d still like to see lower ticket pricing “everywhere” but it shouldn’t be tied strictly to race length.

4 Gordon82Wins September 10, 2010 at 5:54 am

Admirable effort there Johnny, but the Chase will always be a turd.

5 Sue Rarick September 10, 2010 at 6:01 am

I am suprised that some of the 13th through 20th cars just don’t cut a deal with their sponsors and just skip the last 10 races and start R&D for the next season.

If Mc Murray and Reutimann were running door to door for the lead at any time during the “Chase” the cameras would be on chase drivers mid-pack and the only recognition would be the announcers saying “Mc Murray and Reutimann are still fighting for the lead. We will be right back after this commercial break and let you know how our Chase leaders are doing.”

The point of sponsoring a car is to get ‘air time’ at a cheaper than rate price. If that isn’t happening why sponsor a car?

As for the chase itself. All it has done is make points racing more important than race winning. Some drivers are happier being known as an also ran in the chase than how many races they have actually run. And that really is a sad state of affairs.

6 Sue Rarick September 10, 2010 at 6:02 am

oops moment … “run” should have been “won” —ty

7 dawg September 10, 2010 at 7:55 am

@ Gordon82
You know what they say, “you can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd”. Well a Yugo, a turd, pretty much the same thing.

@ Mikie
If they were to run the final race with just the top 2 cars. If I were still working. That’s one I’d sure want to schedule vacation time so as not to miss. NOT!
PS, when Landon has had the same seasoning as you. He might look just like you. That’s a point to ponder.

@ Bill
Looks like you’re in luck, I expect that some sort of elimination is coming.

@ Sue
Making the 31 non-chasers, irrelevant, & in the way. Is one of my big beefs with it. You nailed it. The final races for non-chasers could be a good test session.

8 DMan September 10, 2010 at 9:23 am

The best way to fix the chase is to dump it like the turd it is. Unless NA$CAR wants to split things up into divisions like the stick and ball sports there can be no play-off system that truly works and is fair and equal to all the teams. The best way to have a championship “game” would be to run the whole 36 race season then take your top 10 drivers (not car owners…top 10 DRVERS), then pick an exciting track, preferably one NOT on the current Cup schedule, qualify then draw a pill to invert X number of positions then run a 100 mile winner-take-all. Can you imagine the attendance and TV ratings for the championship “game”?

9 dawg September 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

@ DMan

If you can sell this. I want the beer concession.

10 Harold September 10, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I agree with most of you. But, I would like the Chase be scraped. Instead, there should be a guidline to keep the season point leader the same at the end of 26 races. I believe the championship should inclued the top 12 and or certain point like (within 500 pts) then adjust it again after 4 races, then let the chips fall where they may.
You would have 6 drivers running for the final 6 races.
But, Let the season leading point leader build on his lead instead of loosing every point he has earned. I don’t care if a driver wins a championship without winning a race or not. Beinging consistent is the power in mind games that gets results and championships.

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