2014 Chase Format Isn’t Broken, But Still Needs Work

NASCAR Chase for the Sprint CupI love talking to my father-in-law about NASCAR. He’s down in Orlando, Florida and him and my mother-in-law have been fans longer than I’ve been alive. Being a relatively new die-hard fan to NASCAR, I’m often lacking in history and perspective that pre-dates the Sprint Cup era. He also has the distinctive advantage of having Sirius/XM and time to listen to its NASCAR channel.

Anyway, a lot of our conversations spur ideas for ClosetNASCARFan.com, including this one. Since I’ve been watching NASCAR, every single year, there’s been some changes to rules and the vehicles they race. No other sport messes with their sport as much.

At some point, they’ve got to let the format be for a few years — let fans, drivers and crews all get comfortable with the current state of the sport. With 2015’s horsepower reduction, I cringe slightly every time a new track record gets broken this year in 2014. It’ll be really tough next year and beyond. 2015’s No. 14 car won’t break 200 on a mile and a half. Plus, it would legitimize the sport more if they stuck with something.

But that being said, there’s still a bit of work to be done on the new Chase Grid format before it’s locked in for a few years.

NASCAR did a great job with setting up the Chase grid and adding some drama a la the NCAA basketball tournament. But even though NASCAR has said it’s all about winning, here entering the last race of the Eliminator round, no Chase-eligible driver has been guaranteed a spot in the final four at Homestead-Miami. Everyone’s reverted back to points-racing to make it to Miami. At most, only one driver will make the final round based on a win.

So let’s swing the emphasis even more to wins. Next year and beyond, if you don’t have a win, you’re not in the Chase. You can still have a maximum of 16 drivers in the Chase, but if there are only 12 different regular season winners, only 12 are in the running for the Sprint Cup. Then, in the grid, you just cut the drivers in half each round, till you’re down to somewhere between 2 and 4 in Miami.

That sets the odds more in the favor that someone in the Chase will actually win races during the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but also rewards wins and momentum from the regular season.

Unfortunately, this still doesn’t completely make the Chase perfect. A win gets you in to the Chase, but there’s still a possibility for the Chase itself to revert back points racing if the 16 or so drivers in the Chase aren’t able to duplicate regular season wins once the Chase is in effect. Anyone have any ideas on that? Obviously, the multiple levels of elimination help stir the pot and add drama, but there’s still more need to emphasize winning throughout.

NASCAR, in my opinion has done a good job in bringing the excitement in “post-season” up, but there’s still work to do. The hope is they’re able to polish it up, and then leave it, the teams and rules alone for awhile.

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