The Chase For The Sprint Cup: Good Or Bad For The Sport?

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Brian France and the media think the Chase for the Sprint Cup (NASCAR’s play-off system) is the best thing that’s happened to the Sport in a long time. It gives the media something to talk about almost from the first time the drivers get on the track in Daytona in February. Who will be the chosen 12? How will they do each week? Who will fall out? Who will have the most wins and thus be seeded first when the chase starts. And on and on.

The fans have mixed feelings about the chase. Some like it because no one can run away with the lead. At least not in the first 26 races. Matt Kenseth prompted the chase by winning the Winston Cup Championship in 2003 by being Mr. Consistent the whole year, and winning only one race the whole year. He had enough top fives and top tens to run away with the title. Some of us fans thought that was quite an accomplishment. To be there at the front through the whole year. But others felt no one should be able to run away with the title without winning many times. In my opinion, the system wasn’t broken. Why bother to try to fix it?

Bill France, Sr. started the sport. He made racing a sport and took it to the masses. He made rules and found tracks on which to compete. Bill Jr. took over and made racing what it is today. Brought NASCAR all over the country. He and RJ Reynold’s Winston brand took NASCAR to a whole new level. Then along came Brian France and Nextel/Sprint. Now NASCAR racing has become, not so much a sport, as more a form of entertainment. And I’m not sure this whole thing is really good for the sport. Do we want to be a sport like football and baseball? Or do we want to be entertainment, like WWE?

To me, NASCAR is racing. And racing is beautiful. I’m a die hard NASCAR fan, from the first time I saw a race on television. And in my humble opinion, there was no need to have a play off system to make racing more exciting. To me, racing, just by definition, is exciting. Play offs are for sports that have divisions. And the winners of the divisions play each other to see who is best in the sport. NASCAR doesn’t need a play off system. Mainly because there are no divisions. And mostly because in this system, there are still 43 cars out there every week. The “Super Bowl” of NASCAR is the first race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Is the chase for the Sprint Cup good for the sport? I think not. Many fans are no longer watching because Jimmy Johnson is winning them all. Jimmy has figured out how to do well in the last ten races. So, the chase has become the Jimmy Johnson show. Is that good for NASCAR? It may be for Jimmy Johnson fans. But most fans are not JJ fans and would like to see others do good.

My solution? Put NASCAR back to what it was when Bill, Sr. and Jr. were running the show. When the fans were coming out to watch. When there was no Chase for the Sprint Cup. Give 25 extra points for winning a race. Fans want racing for the win, instead of consistency. That would give it to them. And the driver with the most wins should also be the driver with the most points and win the Championship.

Brian France wanted to take NASCAR a bit further and make it competitive with football. The theory being that fans watch BECAUSE they have a play off. And that making it possible for the wild card to win it all is exciting. I have to disagree. At least with NASCAR, having a twelfth place car win it all is not exciting. And having JJ win all the championships isn’t very exciting, either.

So, let’s put it back to racing for 36 races a year. Give more points to the winner of each race. And maybe the fans will come back to watch. As it is, ratings are way down. Gimmicks aren’t working. The chase isn’t working. And the fans want more than just consistent starting times. In my opinion, it wasn’t broken. Stop trying to fix it. Put it back and leave it alone. Listen to the fans, Brian. The Chase for the Sprint Cup isn’t working. At least not for the fans.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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