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. Alonso’s ambition continues to leave the Formula 1 paddock guessing

    Oct 31, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Fernando Alonso AP

    Is there more to Fernando’s future than just McLaren?

  2. Caterham administrators in talks with possible new buyers

    Oct 31, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Practice Getty Images

    Administrators still hoping to get the team racing in Abu Dhabi, but will aim for the grid in 2015 if this is not possible.

  3. Tyler Reddick picks up Texas pole for tonight’s NASCAR Trucks race

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 - Practice Getty Images

    Reddick captures his second Truck pole in the last three races.

  4. Hamilton inches away from Rosberg to top FP2 at COTA

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    British driver finishes just 0.003 seconds ahead of Rosberg in FP2, equating to just 6.7 inches around the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

  5. Seeing red: Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy gets a new look for Texas (VIDEO)

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

    The six-time Sprint Cup champion is driving the No. 48 Lowe’s “Red Vest” Chevrolet this weekend.

  6. Raikkonen: Return to Ferrari “100% the right decision”

    Oct 31, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Finnish driver has endured a difficult return to Maranello in 2014 after five years away.

  7. Late lap puts Brian Vickers atop first Sprint Cup practice at Texas

    Oct 31, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Chase competitors Kevin Harvick and points leader Jeff Gordon crack the Top 5 speeds.

  8. WATCH LIVE: FP2 for the United States Grand Prix

    Oct 31, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Practice Getty Images

    Can Lewis Hamilton double up in the second practice session in Austin? Join us from 3p ET to find out.

  9. Matt Kenseth still remorseful over Martinsville wreck with Kevin Harvick

    Oct 31, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Kenseth says the only way he’d feel a little better about it is if Harvick manages to make the Championship Race.

  10. Sebastian Vettel to start United States GP from pit lane

    Oct 31, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Practice Getty Images

    FIA confirms that the German driver has taken a sixth complete power unit, and will have to start the race from the pit lane at COTA.

  11. Chris Buescher tops first Nationwide practice at Texas

    Oct 31, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Kentucky Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    Ford drivers take the top three spots in opening Nationwide practice.

  12. Bottas confident improved 2015 campaign possible for Williams

    Oct 31, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS Getty Images

    Despite exceeding everyone’s expectations in 2014, Valtteri Bottas feels that the team can continue its upward trend next season.

  13. Hamilton quickest in first practice for United States GP

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    HamiltonFP1COTA Getty Images

    Two-time US GP winner makes the best possible start to his race weekend by topping FP1 in Austin.

  14. Joey Logano goes for Texas sweep, berth in Sprint Cup title race this weekend

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Logano’s currently in position to advance to the final battle at Homestead, but he says he’ll stay aggressive this weekend at Texas.

  15. VIDEO: Behind the scenes at Red Bull, 24 hours before a GP weekend

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Red Bull takes you behind-the-scenes in the lead-up to this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

  16. Austin FP1 features new helmets, liveries and bits and pieces

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    COTAstars AP

    Various updates coming to portions of the grid this weekend, starting in FP1.

  17. Mario Andretti gets the USGP weekend started with COTA Twitter takeover

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Italy F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Mario Andretti takes time out of a busy schedule for fan Q&A for Circuit of the Americas.

  18. This weekend, Helio Castroneves on sidelines as girlfriend runs NYC Marathon

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    The Blacks' Annual Gala 2014 Getty Images

    Adriana Henao is running to raise money for actor Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization and The Long Run to Haiti.

  19. WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the United States GP

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    F1 US Grand Prix Auto Racing AP

    Watch first practice from COTA live on Live Extra from 11a ET today.

  20. NASCAR: Elliott Sadler jumping to Roush for 2015 XFINITY Series season

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Credit: Roush Fenway Racing Credit: Roush Fenway Racing

    Former Sprint Cup veteran will bring his OneMain Financial sponsorship with him.

Video from NASCAR America

Who has the best chance in Texas?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Harvick (1254)
  2. J. Logano (1176)
  3. T. Stewart (1139)
  4. J. McMurray (1124)
  5. D. Hamlin (895)