Skip to content

NASCAR must make sure new 16-driver Chase sticks

Jan 30, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

Federated Auto Parts 400 Getty Images

Change is a constant force in our lives that we cannot escape. But while change can be positive, it can also be negative – especially if they come one after the other.

Many citizens of NASCAR Nation argue that such has been the case regarding the sanctioning body’s willingness to continually tinker with its decade-old Chase format, which emerged in 2004 to redefine the way a champion is crowned in the top-tier Sprint Cup series.

The Chase has taken various forms since its original incarnation, which had the Top 10 drivers in the championship (and anyone else within 400 points of the leader) going into the 10-race post-season. But then came the tweaks – an expansion to 12 drivers in 2007 (with the 400-point bit dropped), followed by an overhauled points system and the addition of two “wild cards” in 2011.

Now, yet another change has arrived. As first reported by the Charlotte Observer earlier this month, the Chase has now officially expanded once more to a 16-driver field and will feature eliminations after every three races in the playoff to set up a four-driver, winner-take-all battle at Homestead-Miami Speedway for stock car racing’s biggest prize.

Depending on your viewpoint, NASCAR CEO Brian France is either to be commended on his persistence in creating a “Game 7”-style playoff environment like those of other sports, or vilified for craving it so much that he’s forgotten that NASCAR simply isn’t like any of the other sports.

We see France’s thought process and I would think that we all understand it.

The last thing he wants is to produce a boring product, especially with NBC Sports coming in to join Fox as the sport’s broadcasters in 2015. Then there’s the fact that the core NASCAR fan is getting up there in age – the sport itself may be at the start of a youth revolution (hello, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon; goodbye, Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte), but that’s not showing up in the grandstands or in the TV demos.

Naturally, France wants to change that with a show that cannot be ignored.

The sport’s purists can complain until they are blue in the face, but society demands to be entertained (and considering that we’ve fueled the rise of the likes of Jersey Shore, the Kardashians and Justin Bieber, we don’t care how). If France believes this new format can entertain more people and help NASCAR enjoy another mainstream run like the one it had in the early to mid-2000s, then more power to him.

But at the same time, he and his colleagues need to put the hammers away in the toolbox and let the changes stick. This format needs to be in place for more than just a few years, because while change can be good, there are advantages when it comes to long-lasting continuity.

Too many changes can make the sport look desperate, as if it’s looking for the magic bullet that instantly brings back the days when NASCAR was part of the “Big Four” of American sports and drivers like Jeff Gordon were hosting Saturday Night Live.

You’d hope NASCAR would know there is no such thing as a magic bullet after seeing the much-hyped Danica Patrick struggle in her rookie Cup season last year or seeing the IndyCar Series continue to suffer with a miniscule national presence after American open-wheel racing united again in 2008.

Furthermore, too many changes agitate the loyal fans that have stuck around for decades and have remained loyal as their sport has evolved into a national phenomenon. There’s the balancing act of this change: Gaining as many new fans as possible without finally driving that longtime base away for good.

NASCAR shouldn’t be attacked for wanting to be more relevant. But it needs to understand that this new format has to be given time to make an impact and that it must resist the impulse to tweak it again in the near-future.

Latest Posts
  1. Reports: Ryan Truex will not return to BK Racing after missing New Hampshire

    Sep 23, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Toyota/Save Mart 350 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Truex has suffered eight DNFs in 2014 while driving BK’s No. 83 Toyota Camry.

  2. Report: Korea aiming for 2016 F1 return with night street race in Seoul

    Sep 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Korea - Race Getty Images

    Formula One dropped the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam last year after several seasons of bad attendance and money loss.

  3. Martin Brundle delivers brilliant comeback to Christian Horner’s dig (VIDEO)

    Sep 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Previews Getty Images

    Martin Brundle’s retort to Christian Horner a great bit of levity from Singapore.

  4. Want one of Townsend Bell’s awesome Robert Graham Indy 500 crew shirts? You can, on eBay

    Sep 23, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    T-Bell-Cockpit AP

    One of the KV crew shirts for Townsend Bell’s multicolored Robert Graham Indianapolis 500 car is up for sale on eBay.

  5. COTA: A circuit to behold from the passenger’s seat

    Sep 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT

    Photo: Tony DiZinno Photo: Tony DiZinno

    Not that we needed further evidence that Circuit of the Americas is awesome, but riding shotgun with Dindo Capello in Audi provides us said further evidence.

  6. Mike Conway sorting out 2015 open-wheel/sports car plans

    Sep 23, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT

    ConwayTOR2 Getty Images

    Mike Conway is operating from a position of strength as he looks to continue open-wheel/sports car balance into 2015.

  7. IndyCar driver presence returns for this year’s Petit Le Mans

    Sep 23, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT

    GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma - Day 3 Getty Images

    Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Bourdais set for Petit Le Mans appearances.

  8. NASCAR AMERICA: Team Penske pushing for incredible season (VIDEO)

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano AP

    They’ve already got the IndyCar title. But can Team Penske claim the Sprint Cup as well this season?

  9. NASCAR AMERICA: The evolution of Joey Logano (VIDEO)

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 Getty Images

    It hasn’t always been easy for Logano since he broke into the Sprint Cup Series in 2009. But there’s no disputing that the kid once known as “Sliced Bread” (as in, greatest thing since) has grown up.

  10. NASCAR: Penske, Roush Fenway squads test at Texas Motor Speedway

    Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Credit: Texas Motor Speedway Credit: Texas Motor Speedway

    Two teams on the opposite ends of the Chase spectrum head for the Lone Star State.

  11. Red Bull GRC: Ken Block, Joni Wiman now the ones to beat in title race

    Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    GRCLogo

    A wild doubleheader in Los Angeles has left Block with an 18-point edge over Wiman as the series heads for Seattle.

  12. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA recaps day of survival in N.H. at 4:30 p.m. ET

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 Getty Images

    Coming up today: Highlights and analysis from Joey Logano’s Chase win at Loudon; an interview with Penske president Tim Cindric; Kevin Harvick’s Chase progress; Denny Hamlin’s nightmarish day; 16-year-old Cole Custer’s historic Truck win.

  13. Alex Zanardi inspires once again in “Touch The Sky” clip (VIDEO)

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:55 PM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

    The former CART and F1 driver’s incredible story is spotlighted in a special clip that previews a new film regarding BMW’s legacy in touring car racing.

  14. Wally Dallenbach Jr. is coming back to Trans-Am

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    DallenbachHeadshot

    Wally Dallenbach Jr. to make competitive return to driving in Trans-Am, starting next month.

  15. McLaren principal says Red Bull used coded messages in Singapore GP

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Eric Boullier indicates that he feels Red Bull breached the FIA’s new radio ban with its messages to Daniel Ricciardo during Sunday’s race.

  16. Mark Webber refreshed, relaxed in Austin return

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    WebberCOTA Getty Images

    Mark Webber enjoys his return to Austin in FIA WEC, even if the result in his No. 20 Porsche goes begging.

  17. Team Penske has early Chase edge, but Hendrick camp can strike at Dover

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Chase for the sprint cup logo

    The clash of the titans has gone Team Penske’s way so far. But next weekend’s race at Dover could see the tide turn in favor of Hendrick Motorsports.

  18. Lotterer: “F1 (racing) isn’t what it used to be anymore”

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    LottererCaterham Getty Images

    Andre Lotterer reflects on the openness of FIA WEC and Super Formula compared to his one-off Grand Prix appearance in Belgium.

  19. COTA weekend thoughts and observations: FIA WEC

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    GDriveSMPCOTA AP

    The FIA WEC headed to Texas this weekend. Here are some thoughts on how it went down.

  20. COTA weekend thoughts and observations: IMSA

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    IMSACota Getty Images

    Both the TUDOR Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge put on a show in Austin this weekend.

Video from NASCAR America

The evolution of Joey Logano
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. B. Keselowski (1729)
  2. J. Gordon (1208)
  3. K. Harvick (1103)
  4. C. Custer (1085)
  5. B. Myers (996)