My NASCAR Opinion: To Chase Or Not to Chase

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The Chase for the Sprint Cup began in 2004. It was started in response to Matt Kenseth winning the 2003 Championship with only one win. 2004 was also Brian France’s first year as head of NASCAR. And Nextel/Sprint was the new Series sponsor after Winston left. Suddenly NASCAR was no longer good enough to compete with the NFL, and changes must be made.

Having a playoff system in place was supposed to bring in the football fans who have a playoff system in place. That is why fans watch football, right? Because there will be a playoff at the end of the year. For stick and ball sports, which have divisions and leagues, playoffs are the only way to decide an overall champion. The divisions play each other, deciding on a division champion. The division champions play each other to see who will be the league champion. The two league champions play each other to determine the best team overall.

For NASCAR, there are no divisions. The different Series’ do not race against each other. They each have their own champion. So, why the need for a playoff system? To give the tenth place team more of a chance to win the championship? I have to ask why that would be exciting. To let the driver that is the best in the last ten races win the championship? Again, I fail to see why that would be exciting.

The fans went along with this chase the first year just to see what would happen. The media loved the concept of a playoff and they talk about only 12-15 drivers all year. Ratings have gone down each year since the chase began. And more so, the ratings for the chase races have been dropping each year, especially since Jimmie Johnson has won the last 5 in a row. The points were close for three drivers this year going into the finale at Homestead-Miami. Yet the television ratings were not any better for this last race.

So, why are fans not watching any more? NASCAR is looking to get the 18-25 male demographic to come over from NFL and watch NASCAR. At the expense of the die hard fans it once had. Race fans are very loyal to their drivers. You pick a driver and you stick with him. You may have picked Jimmie Johnson as your driver was a Rookie in 2002. Or added him to your list when he started winning all these championships. But for the die  hard fans, we already had our favorite. And if our favorite is not in the chase, why bother to watch the last ten races? To see if our favorite can win a race in the chase? Sure. Some of us do. But more fans would be watching the last ten races if there were no chase. The chase seams to be sending NASCAR on it’s way out. The media can talk all they want about how great the chase is and how great the racing is in the chase but it won’t bring in the casual fan, or the NFL fan. If you don’t care to see cars drive around in circles going very fast, you probably are not going to watch NASCAR racing.

But for those fans who already had favorite drivers prior to 2004, this chase is chasing them away. NASCAR has to decide whether they want to keep on with what the media likes, or find out what the fans think. Each year since 2005, ratings have been steadily dropping. And there is an even bigger drop in the ratings of the chase races. Yet NASCAR doesn’t know what to do. If you need to continually tweak the system to create more excitement, maybe that system isn’t working. Someone suggested dropping the chase next year. Due to what the fans want. If the fans don’t come back to watch the races each week, those fans who do not like the chase will admit that is not what is causing the ratings to drop. And NASCAR can have the chase back. But if most of the fans come back and watch each week, the chase is gone for good. I think that is a great idea. The chase races are not more exciting because twelve drivers have a chance to win. There are 36 different races in a NASCAR season. If there were no chase, a different driver would have won each year. I would think that a different driver each year would be more exciting than Jimmie for five in a row. Quite a feat. But you can’t really compare that to others who won the regular way.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR.

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One Response to “My NASCAR Opinion: To Chase Or Not to Chase”

  1. Mendalerenda Says:

    Hi everyone.
    Im from spain and this year was my first day watching the nascar.
    Im very very f1 fan, like most in europe people.
    My opinion is that nascar doesnt developement, and times is changing and nascar i think keeps in old times.
    F1 is everytime changing rules and making challenges for f1 tecnologhy, aerodinamic, estrategy, … Nascar is always the same… No look to future challenges. But the competition spirit is great for me, i love it.
    The next year f1 to land in austin, usa, and i think american people will begin to love this sport, because is a everyday-challenge. And this is what nascar need in my opinion.
    I love nascar, but need give a step ahead.
    Sorry my very very bad inglish, and regards for everybody.

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