NASCAR needs to scrap Chase

dshirley@macon.comJanuary 19, 2014 

During the weekend, it came out that NASCAR is looking at revamping its points system for the Sprint Cup Series and once again making a change to the setup for the Chase for the championship.

How about going a step further and dumping the Chase altogether? That would be the best thing for the series.

The Chase was different and added a fresh angle to the Sprint Cup Series when it started with the 2004 season. But now it just seems tired, and it’s the perfect time to go back to a season-long points system to crown the champion.

The talk this weekend was that the adjustments to the Chase and the points system would place more importance on winning races, giving drivers more incentive to race hard and go for wins instead of just riding around looking to build up points. The Chase would expand from 12 drivers to 16 and eliminate some of them after the third, sixth and ninth races to head to the final race with four drivers going for the title.

That’s an improvement over the system that is in place currently, but NASCAR could go even further and go to a season-long system that focuses more on winning than what was in place before the Chase came about. It never made much sense that winning races didn’t have a larger part in determining a champion, and that is why the Chase was put in place. Remember Matt Kenseth’s championship and the upheaval it caused?

That could have been fixed easily, but instead, NASCAR went with the Chase. But now it seems to have run its course because it needs tweaks every year. The discussed changes this weekend -- giving the Chase an NCAA tournament feel to it by eliminating drivers throughout the 10-race competition -- seem contrived.

Sports fans can see contrived coming from a mile away, and they don’t trust it when they see it, especially when sports leagues are trying to tell them what they’re seeing is not contrived. The PGA Tour has tried something similar with the FedEx Cup points race to determine its champion, and much like the Chase, it doesn’t seem to be working.

What’s not contrived? Giving the championship to the driver who has the best year, not the best 10 races.

That worked for decades with NASCAR, and there’s no reason it can’t work again, especially with more emphasis placed on wins instead of just riding around racking up laps.

That’s the right step for NASCAR to take, but it likely will take a few more missteps for it to get there.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com.

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