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. Keselowski: Stewart/Ward case being sent to grand jury “feels like a little bit of a cop out”

    Sep 19, 2014, 9:13 PM EDT

    MyAfibStory.com 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Keselowski’s comments today at New Hampshire seem odd considering what he said just days after the Aug. 9 tragedy in upstate New York.

  2. NASCAR: RCR, Roush teams looking strong in NNS practice at Kentucky

    Sep 19, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Kentucky Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    Chris Buescher (RFR), Cale Conley (RCR) shine for these teams.

  3. NASCAR: Matt Crafton, Cole Custer top Truck Practice 2 and 3 at Loudon

    Sep 19, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    UNOH 175 - Practice Getty Images

    Crafton hopes to build up his slim lead in the Camping World Truck Series championship with a strong outing in tomorrow’s UNOH 175.

  4. Kenzie Ruston on right track to follow Danica Patrick’s road to racing success

    Sep 19, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Kenzie Ruston (Photo courtesy GoKenzie.com) Kenzie Ruston (Photo courtesy GoKenzie.com)

    Kenzie Ruston can relate so well to NASCAR star Danica Patrick. Just like when Patrick was working her way up through the racing ranks early on in her own career, Ruston has also had to outwork other male drivers for virtually everything she’s achieved up to now.

  5. Brad Keselowski wins pole for Sunday’s Chase race at New Hampshire

    Sep 19, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT

    NASCAR New Hampshire Auto Racing AP

    Keselowski sets a new track record at New Hampshire in earning his fifth Sprint Cup pole of 2014.

  6. Red Bull GRC: Checking in with Foust, Dyne leading into LA double (VIDEO)

    Sep 19, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT

    GRCLogo

    Pre-race videos with Austin Dyne and Tanner Foust before Red Bull GRC doubleheader in LA.

  7. Jeff Gordon: We can beat Keselowski this weekend

    Sep 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 - Practice Getty Images

    A win from Gordon on Sunday would give New Hampshire its record-setting 14th different winner in as many races.

  8. F1 Friday Analysis: Is Lewis the man to beat?

    Sep 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Practice Getty Images

    We crunch the numbers to see who is really ahead at Mercedes in Singapore after Friday practice.

  9. A name you’ll be hearing a lot more of in NASCAR: racing phenom Ben Rhodes

    Sep 19, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Ben Rhodes (Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Kyle Busch. Joey Logano. Kyle Larson. You may soon add Ben Rhodes to the list of young phenom drivers that have gone on to stardom in the Sprint Cup Series.

  10. Jimmie Johnson still looking for return to commanding form

    Sep 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 - Practice Getty Images

    “…We’re looking for just that little sliver of speed to get back to a dominant position.” – Johnson

  11. Hamilton: Friday a “work in progress” for Mercedes

    Sep 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Practice Getty Images

    Finishing P1 not enough for the Briton following his Friday running in Singapore.

  12. Kyle Larson: I’m “really close” to first Sprint Cup victory

    Sep 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    MyAfibStory.com 400 - Practice Getty Images

    “I hope it’s before the end of this year, but if not, we won’t be too disappointed. We’ve been running well all season long.” – Larson

  13. Vettel upbeat despite engine troubles in Singapore

    Sep 19, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    German driver rallies to finish in the top five in both sessions despite an engine failure.

  14. Brad Keselowski tops Friday Sprint Cup practice at N.H.

    Sep 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 - Practice Getty Images

    Already in the Contender Round for the Chase, Keselowski gets his weekend at New Hampshire off to a good start.

  15. Red flag limits Rosberg to P13 in second Singapore practice

    Sep 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Nico Rosberg AP

    German driver feeling comfortable ahead of qualifying in Singapore tomorrow.

  16. Firestone IndyCar test next week to feature Castroneves, RHR, Carpenter, Pagenaud

    Sep 19, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT

    Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

    IndyCars get their first postseason running with Firestone tire test next week.

  17. VIDEO: Maldonado’s FP2 ends in the wall at Singapore

    Sep 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Pastor Maldonado AP

    Not what the Venezuelan would have planned heading into his Friday programme at Marina Bay.

  18. NASCAR: Erik Jones fastest in first of three Truck practices today at Loudon

    Sep 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Returning to Kyle Busch’s No. 51 Truck, the 17-year-old Jones is making his first appearance this weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

  19. F1’s double points rule to be axed for 2015?

    Sep 19, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Race Getty Images

    One of the most controversial F1 rulings in history could be scrapped after just one season.

  20. Hamilton tops FP2 as night falls in Singapore

    Sep 19, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    A red flag for Pastor Maldonado stops Nico Rosberg from posting a quick lap time, forcing him to settle for P12 at the finish.

Video from NASCAR America

Which longshot will advance in Chase?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. B. Keselowski (1732)
  2. J. Gordon (1410)
  3. K. Busch (1407)
  4. K. Harvick (1338)
  5. M. Crafton (1243)