In My Opinion: The Chase

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2003 was a pivotal point in NASCAR racing. Brian France took over the reigns of the Series. At the time, NASCAR racing was the Winston Cup. As it had been since the 1970’s. RJ Reynolds decided to withdraw from sponsoring the Series, taking away their Winston brand. I’m not really sure what prompted this. Whether it was all their decision, or if it was Brian’s decision to start new. I can’t answer that. But I can give my opinion. Bill France, Sr. started NASCAR racing. And his son, Bill France, Jr. put the racing series on the map, with the help of R. J. Reynolds and their Winston brand. Winston Cup racing was born. And because of Bill France, Jr. and Winston, the sport grew all over the country. It was no longer just a Southern series. Racing was now nationwide. Everyone was watching racing.

Then along comes Brian France. I don’t know if he didn’t want cigarettes as a sponsor, or if Winston didn’t want to sponsor the Series with Brian at the helm. In any event, NASCAR found Nextel, and signed them up with a ten-year contract to sponsor the series. (By the way, Sprint took over Nextel and now the series is Sprint Cup.) So, in 2004 it became the Nextel Cup. That year, in 2003, Matt Kenseth won the Championship by a wide margin, despite the fact that he had only one win. Matt was consistent that year. You could count on him to finish in the top 5-10 each and every of the 36 races. Brian decided that winning should be more important. And that you shouldn’t get the trophy if you only had one win.

So, Brian implemented the Chase to the Nextel Cup. (Now called the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) He made the season only 26 races and the last ten were The Chase. To get into the chase, you had to finish in the top 10 in points by the end of the 26 regular season events. His reasoning was that in those last 10 races, NASCAR would be competing with football for viewers. And he decided that the only reason people watch football is to see who gets into the play-offs. So, he wanted a play-off system. The first 26 races, were the race for the chase and the last ten races were the chase for the championship.

In my opinion, this was the beginning of the end of NASCAR racing. No longer could any team race into the top ten in points, because the points for the chase was set after the 26th race. Through the years, the chase was tweaked a couple of times. When favorites failed to make the chase, it was changed to 12 spots in the chase.  And when they were still points-racing to get in, the seeding was changed. Every race you win in the first 26 races earns you 10 points, if you get into the chase. So, the driver with the most wins starts the chase in first place, instead of the chase being the top 12 in that order.

That’s all fine and dandy, but in my opinion, more fans are not coming into the sport. In my opinion, more fans are no longer watching NASCAR racing. If this new system earned any more fans from football, they quickly lost them. Because play-offs are post season, and those not in the play-offs, go home. In this case, all 43 drivers are in the last 10 races, but no one outside of the chase can do better than 13th place.

In my opinion, I thought it was more exciting watching the last few races to see who was out of the top 10 and who got to go to NYC and be on stage. The media loves the new format because they can start talking about getting into the chase with the first race in Daytona. Why that is exciting, I’m not really sure. But Brain and the media love it. The fans, however hate the new format. They say that now more drivers are winning, instead of points racing so that they get 10 points toward the chase. In my opinion, there are 43 drivers racing for the win each and every week. Not for the 10 points, but for the win. NASCAR is racing. They don’t just drive around all day. They race for the win. Not for the ten points. But for the trophy. To collect as many wins as they can. And it has always been that way.

In my opinion, the chase is a stupid gimmick and is not working. Ratings are down. Seats are not being sold. You may point to the economy, but when ratings are down, NASCAR should look into why they are down. The new car is a factor. It is now a safer car, but the car doesn’t handle very well, and most fans don’t want to watch follow the leader in IROC cars, where they all look alike.

But the biggest reason for poor ratings, in my opinion, is the chase. The media is always talking about it, and it turns most fans off. Because they don’t like it to begin with. This year Matt Kenseth won the first two races of the year at Daytona and California (Auto Club Speedway). But he was not consistent enough to stay in the top twelve in points. So, he finds himself racing for 13th in points. No matter what he does the rest of the year, even if he wins the next ten races, all he can do is get that 13th spot. Kyle Busch (the media sweetheart) has four wins and didn’t make it into the chase. So now, will they have to tweak it again to include all the winners of races? There are also four drivers in the chase with no wins. What should become of them? Do they not make it because they didn’t win? And those winners get in because they won?

I say, it wasn’t broken. Why did Brian think he had to fix it? In my opinion, they should get rid of the chase, and may the driver with the most points win the championship. The way it should be. The winners will still be at the top of the standings. Give more points for winning. Under that assumption everyone will race for the win. But get rid of the chase. The only thing it is doing is chasing fans away. It is much more exciting watching drivers race into and out of the top ten. If  Greg Biffle, in twelfth place finishes 43rd all ten races in the chase, he still remains in twelfth place. And, like I said, if Kenseth wins the next ten races, he will finish the year in 13th. I have to ask myself why that is exciting. And I can’t come up with a single answer. Except that the media and Brian France likes the new format.

I loved NASCAR racing the first time I saw it in the mid ’90’s. When it was Winston Cup. When you raced into and out of the top ten and the Champion was the one with the most points. Not the driver who did best in the last ten races. In my opinion, all the chase does is turn off long time fans, and shortens the season. If they want a play-off, let it be after the season, and everyone else goes home. NOT a very good idea. But neither is a play-off in a sport with no divisions. That’s how you make a play-off. Your team is the best in your division.

It will always be exciting watching NASCAR racing. At least in my opinion. But it would be more exciting if there was no chase and they raced for wins (more points for winning) and getting into and out of the top ten to get onto the stage for the awards. In my opinion. NASCAR, are you listening?

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

Another thing. The media talks as though there has never been anything but the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jeff Gordon has four Winston Cup Championships. Jimmy Johnson is the only winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Kurt Busch has one Nextel Cup trophy, as does Tony Stewart. Yet the media insists everything is NSCS. I wonder why that is.

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2 Responses to “In My Opinion: The Chase”

  1. Arnulfo Berrigan Says:

    Great Article! Hey, did you realize that this blog is cataloged by Google news?Just found it in a google SERP at the top…How did you manage to get a bloghaha.

  2. P1 Qamal Says:

    Great post and good style, is this a regular template?

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