Skip to content

Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. like expected changes to Chase

Jan 28, 2014, 8:18 PM EDT

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR officials have heard the criticism for years, that the Chase for the Sprint Cup format has given Jimmie Johnson an unfair advantage, and that’s why he’s won six titles in the last eight seasons.

NASCAR officials have also seen at-track attendance, TV ratings and overall fan interest in the Chase decline in recent years.

Now with rumored changes to the Chase format expected to be announced Thursday in the final day of the annual NASCAR Media Tour, Johnson joked that perhaps those changes may be partly geared to slow him down or stop him from winning a seventh championship or more.

“It’s crossed my mind, I’m not going to lie to you,” Johnson said, before turning serious and adding, “I don’t think I’m the reason that things have declined in our sport and why viewership is down. And I don’t think NASCAR is picking on me and keeping me from winning a championship.”

On top of changes to qualifying announced last week by NASCAR, numerous media reports – and several Sprint Cup drivers have already alluded to possible changes during the first two days of the media tour – have the 10-year Chase format taking on a dramatic new look in 2014.

First is that the 12-driver field would be potentially be expanded to 16. Next, there would be elimination phases, with the likelihood of four drivers each being eliminated after the third, sixth and ninth races of the 10-race Chase.

That would set up a four-driver, winner-take-all season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, something Johnson endorses. If one of the four drivers wins the race, he’s crowned champion. If none of the four wins, the highest finisher would become the champ.

“You change the odds by 16 cars being in there, but in the postseason you have to win,” Johnson said. “And the champion has always won races and you have to win a lot. That’s how we’ve won our championships, so I don’t think a lot changes there.”

This would be the most significant change in Chase history.

“I was shocked to hear what was being proposed,” Johnson said. “It kind of caught me from left field. But if that’s the bullet we need, then I’m for it. We need our grandstands full, we need the (TV) viewership numbers to be through the roof and we need our sponsors getting the best return on their investment.

“I don’t know if this is it, we’ll find out. It’s certainly going to be exciting to shake things up and hopefully that brings eyeballs to what we do.”

Count Johnson’s teammate and car co-owner, Jeff Gordon, as being in favor of a new format.

And why wouldn’t Gordon be in favor of it? He might actually steal a championship away from Johnson, something Gordon hasn’t been able to do during Johnson’s reign. Gordon’s fourth and last Sprint Cup title was in 2001.

“It’s all about entertainment and I think this is definitely a big step toward keeping the entertainment factor very, very high,” Gordon said. “I love (NASCAR’s new) qualifying procedure. I’ve been a big fan of knockout qualifying in Formula One for a number of years and I think it’s fantastic and I can’t wait for us to get that started. We still have to walk through it a few times before we really see how it works in NASCAR, but all in all, I think everybody’s going to be very entertained, including the drivers.”

The rumored changes also get Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s approval.

“If this thing creates a lot of storylines, that’s good for the sport and keeps the fan interest going throughout the season,” Earnhardt said. “I’m excited about it.”

Like Johnson, Earnhardt even paused to inject some levity to a change that the sanctioning body hopes fans will embrace.

“I wasn’t really excited about change that much up until a lot of change started happening,” Earnhardt said with a laugh. “You kind of had to get used to it. Now, let’s just change it all. I’m all for it.”

Johnson hopes fans give any changes a chance, particularly since it’s been fans that have clamored for changes to the Chase in recent years.

“When the Chase came along, it was a significant change that helped in a lot of ways,” Johnson said. “And then we’ve seen some minor changes since that haven’t really moved the needle. In my opinion, many share the same opinion that something big needed to happen. Here it is, we think it’s going to be this and we’ll find out soon. Something big needs to happen, and something big is going to happen.”

Latest Posts
  1. Marcos Ambrose looks to salvage lost season in V8 Supercars, has had no issues ‘moving on’ from NASCAR

    Jul 28, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT

    marcos ambrose 2015 Getty Images

    Even though it has been pretty much of a lost season for him in Australia’s V8 Supercars series, Marcos Ambrose believes he can still find some success before the racing year is over.

  2. Fast Facts: Honda Indy 200

    Jul 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio - Day 3 Getty Images

    Fast facts heading into this weekend’s Honda Indy 200, courtesy of IndyCar PR staff.

  3. NHRA: Big changes coming to Pro Stock this weekend, next season

    Jul 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    pro stock bandimere 2015 getty Getty Images

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the demise of NHRA’s Pro Stock class have been greatly exaggerated.

  4. Simon Pagenaud the moving man, in Penske Truck Rental truck at Brickyard (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT

    PagPenskeBY400 Getty Images

    Simon Pagenaud swaps firesuit for street clothes when driving the Penske Truck Rental truck, playing “mover” this weekend.

  5. Austin Cindric’s whirlwind 2015 takes him back to PWC at Mid-Ohio, now in a Lamborghini

    Jul 28, 2015, 11:38 AM EDT

    Photo: IMSA Photo: IMSA

    The latest car for Austin Cindric is a Lamborghini at Mid-Ohio this weekend.

  6. Report: Alex Zanardi keen to make Indianapolis 500 debut

    Jul 28, 2015, 11:23 AM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

    Zanardi still wants to race the Indy 500, if possible.

  7. Singapore announces track changes ahead of Grand Prix

    Jul 28, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    SingaporeTrack Getty Images

    Singapore Grand Prix circuit to adjust Turns 11 to 13.

  8. INDYCAR, IMS add Sherwin-Williams as an official partner

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Indy500start15 Getty Images

    Sherwin-Williams joins the Hulman Motorsports family as Official Paint and Finishing Partner.

  9. Ten with Townsend: Milwaukee and Iowa debrief

    Jul 28, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT

    FullSizeRender-2

    We check in with NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for latest “Ten with Townsend” insights, post the Iowa race and heading into Mid-Ohio.

  10. Ricciardo’s first podium in ages comes, like Bourdais’ at Toronto, with a trophy drop

    Jul 27, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT

    RIChunpodium Getty Images

    Good news, Ricciardo made the podium. Bad news, his trophy didn’t survive it.

  11. INDYCAR rescinds minor penalty against Jakes issued at Iowa

    Jul 27, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    JakesIowa Getty Images

    Jakes kept his visor down after all on a pit stop in Iowa.

  12. Gabby Chaves’ Honda/HPD Midget adventure (VIDEO)

    Jul 27, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT

    GabbyHeadshot Getty Images

    A quick look back at Chaves’ short track debut.

  13. Fiancee battle: Graham Rahal vs. Courtney Force in a Sonoma skills challenge (VIDEO)

    Jul 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    GRcf Getty Images

    Rahal and Force compete against each other in a series of fun challenges at Sonoma.

  14. For Dixon, it’s likely Mid-Ohio or bust in terms of 2015 IndyCar title hopes

    Jul 27, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio - Day 3 Getty Images

    If another Dixon Mid-Ohio win happens, it will save his championship chances.

  15. After blowing his chance to cut the gap to Hamilton, Rosberg must now avoid the mistakes of last summer

    Jul 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg walks down the pits during the third practice session at the Hungaroring circuit near Budapest on July 25, 2015, ahead of the  Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Luke Smith considers the fall-out of a dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix that saw both Mercedes drivers miss an opportunity to seize control of the drivers’ championship.

  16. Booth proud of Manor for honoring Bianchi in Hungary

    Jul 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Manor Marussia F1 team driver Great Britain's Will Stevens has "#JB17" written on his car in tribute to late French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi who died nine months after his crash in the Japan Grand Prix, as he competes during the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit  near Budapest on July 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Manor makes it through a difficult weekend by getting both of its cars to the finish in Hungary.

  17. Race Recap: Vettel draws level with Senna on all-time win list with victory in Hungary

    Jul 27, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrates with the trophy after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 26, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Vettel storms to his 41st career victory in Hungary as both Mercedes drivers hit trouble.