Chasing in the wrong direction
Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
Erik Jones leads Kyle Larson during the 2015 Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speewday.
By Steven Ellis
January 24, 2016
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Is this exactly what we need?
Seriously? Giving both the Xfinity and Truck Series a Chase? Haven't fans made it clear that they aren't exactly fans of the current format that the Sprint Cup series have used?
I'm not totally against the Chase. In fact, I was a big fan of the pre-Generation 6 Chase era. The 2004 championship finale was one for the ages after weeks of uncertainty. Nobody will ever complain about the 2011 battle that saw two drivers with two completely different paths to Homestead tying on the final lap.
But since then, it's been quite underwhelming.
Switching to a format where drivers can win the title based almost solely on luck in the final race doesn't seem like the way to go. Having Talladega as an elimination race has proven to be a disaster. Imagine the backlash if Kevin Harvick didn't come second to Kyle Busch after causing a major pileup that ended Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s effort on the high banks in Alabama.
What if Ryan Newman ended up winning it all in 2014 despite never finding victory lane at any point in the season?
The past two years have created more concerns than positive feelings. Yes, winning has never meant more, but when the mood is almost always negative every few races, is it really worth it? Well, we've seen some of the most exciting moments in recent series history with dustups between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth, as well as Brad Keselowski vs the other 42 drivers back in 2014.
But ask any fans how they felt during the Chase in 2015 and see how they feel about it a few months later.
It was always refreshing to go back and watch one of the support series produce exciting racing, even if Xfinity lacked at points.
We've seen some good battles in recent years with cup regulars like Busch and Harvick battling it out with the likes of future stars Chris Buescher and Chase Elliott.
Even when the Xfinity regulars weren't dominating the races, the point battles were always close and there were always a few drivers still eligible to win the race heading into the final few laps.
Daniel Suarex leads Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan in the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 at Phoenix International Raceway in March 2015.
But now, despite the outcry, we'll be seeing the Chase system take into effect in 2016. It's been a rumor for a few years, one that fans were surely not excited for. With so many Cup drivers taking part in the two main feeder series, you'll see some strange drivers with a chance to compete for a top-ten in points without being a top-ten driver.
That's not a terrible thing, per say, as it could result in some very inspiring runs by some smaller teams.
But is it really needed? Does NASCAR really think they need to manufacture close battles in two series where we see multiple drivers within mere points of each other heading into the final green flag run? NASCAR says there is large fan support for this idea, but is that really true?
It just doesn't make sense. We don't see this crazy type of point system in IndyCar (which saw Scott Dixon jump up the standings after a thrilling final race at Sonoma), Formula 1 or even the Weathertech Sportscar Series.
The Chase itself isn't the problem, it's the elimination format. Typically with the Chase before the major shakeup, the best teams won the title at the end of the year. Nobody is going to argue that Jimmie Johnson didn't deserve his five straight titles.
But when you bring in a rule that eliminates top end drivers for being involved in just one small accident. Joey Logano won three straight wins and could have had one more if it wasn't for the Martinsville controversy.
Does anyone really think that Jeff Gordon or Martin Truex Jr. deserved to be competing for the championship in Homestead with one win each over a guy who absolutely dominated the first half of the Chase?
Gordon wouldn't have even been in contention if it wasn't for his good old “buddy” Matt taking out his anger on the driver who used to pilot the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs.
If it creates so many problems in the top series, why bring it two others that really didn't need it? Has NASCAR really felt like NASCAR the past few years, or are we just watching a series of heat races?
Heck, 2003 was a terrible championship year, hence why the series decided to go with a new championship system. Nobody wants to see drivers heading into the final race with either the title locked up or having to just finish 26th to seal the deal. The Chase itself was a good idea.
But if the recent changes haven't worked for the Cup series, how will it work elsewhere?