Fans turned off by new Chase format
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images
The remaining eight drivers address the 2014 Eliminator Round Media Day.

By Brandon Caldwell
October 26, 2014



Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.


Talladega just ended. A Superspeedway race is supposed to be one of the most exciting races on the schedule. And you’re supposed to walk out of there with a sense of joy and happiness.

That’s not what fans are feeling after this past weekend’s race in Talladega. And it doesn’t have much to do with the racing, but more to do with the Chase format itself.

When it was introduced before the season, many fans were skeptical about whether or not the new playoff format, with eliminations and three races per round, it would crown a legitimate champion in 2015.

This new format was touted to put more of an emphasis on winning. But really, has it done that? Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Jimmie Johnson each had 3 wins in 2014, and are not going to be contenders for the championship.

Left alive are eight drivers as we roll into Martinsville. Ryan Newman, and Matt Kenseth, each with have no wins. Next we have Denny Hamlin, who has missed a race this season, and the win that got him in, took place at a plate track in Talladega.  

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images
The Sprint Cup trophy. Jimmie Johnson will not defend his 2013 title.

Then Carl Edwards, who has had such a bad season, he’s jumping ship at the end of it. Then there are 4 legitimate contenders, in Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

But most people are confused. Why two drivers with three wins are eliminated, and two drivers with no wins move on, in a format that is supposed to put more emphasis on winning.

I really can’t answer that question. As we sit now, there is a possibility that Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and Denny Hamlin could contend for the title at Homestead. Are those guys really the drivers we think are champions?

Any format that doesn’t have the best car of the season, at least contending for the title is a flawed one, for sure. Now it’s not likely this will happen, as the Penske cars remain the favorites, and both of them will probably move on. But just imagine the top scenario.

Also Ryan Newman. No wins. Matt Kenseth, also no wins and only 3 races before the finale at Homestead. If they’re one of the drivers that doesn’t win one of the three races, they can still advance with consistency. So just imagine if Ryan Newman, who has been mediocre at best in 2014, has a career day at Homestead and finishes second to someone not in the Chase… He’s your champion?

TV ratings for Talladega are way down from 2013. Most people are blaming NFL football, but in case you didn’t take this into consideration, NFL football was played at this time last season as well, and the ratings were 17% higher.

Why are they down? Well it could be several reasons, and none of which include football, but yet have to do with performance on the racetrack, and maybe the fans just don’t understand or like this new Chase format, which rewards drivers for having 2/3 good races in the final 10 race stretch. Not necessarily the best car for the whole season. That sounds a lot like stick and ball sports, someone gets hot and wins it all. But 16 teams don’t make it in, and NASCAR isn’t a stick and ball sport. So let’s just get that image out of our heads.

If someone in this Chase, wins the championship, or even contends for one without winning a race, or that we feel are better than the 88 and 48, then there will be changes to this format next season. And I doubt that the 24, 2, 22, and 4 are all going to make it through to the next round. One of them will have issues.

Fans have already started to write on social media sites in frustration with how drivers with that amount of wins, can get eliminated in the Chase format. Not all publicity is good publicity, and NASCAR needs to understand that. This new format may not be the reason people are turning off their TV’s but it certainly isn’t the reason that they’re turning it on either.