The new changes to NASCAR's Chase format are not that simple but they are both intriguing and filled with potential.
As I wander through my sixth decade of life, I have to admit that I have become a creature of habit. I have become someone who automatically gets suspicious of sudden, radical, changes. As the lady I share life with often says: "sometimes I can become as stubborn as a mule."
For example: I start each and every morning with a bowl of the same breakfast cereal I've been eating for years and I back it up with multiple cups of my long time favorite brand of coffee. Just try and serve me something like health smart egg whites, tofu sausage and decaf coffee and that's when I'll launch a revolution at the kitchen table.
It all started with sweeping changes in qualifying procedures. That one was easy. It was a long overdue change that has already generated a lot of well deserved enthusiasm.
Next came modifications to the annual Sprint All Star weekend format. I made quick work of admitting they were changes for the better that would generate additional excitement for the fans.
However, in mid January, word leaked out that NASCAR was preparing to announce a series of radical changes to their Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship. Two weeks later we all learned that the new Chase format was indeed a radical change. That when this old stubborn mule slowly raised his head while saying "yee haw, what is all this?"
When it comes to NASCAR racing I suppose I'm old school. If a driver dominates an entire season with a significant amount of wins and strong finishes, then the driver deserves the large trophy and bonus check at the end of the year. That's racing. Likewise, if a driver loses a championship to a rival during the final week of the season that's also racing. It's really that simple.
The new changes to NASCAR's Chase format are not that simple but they are both intriguing and filled with potential. Following a January 30th press conference, held in Charlotte-North Carolina, NASCAR issued the following press release:
NASCAR announced a new championship format today that will put greater emphasis on winning races all season long, expands the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field to 16 drivers, and implements a new round-by-round advancement format that ultimately will reward a battle-tested, worthy champion.
" We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race all of which is exactly what fans want," said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO.
"We have looked at a number of concepts for the last three years through fan research, models and simulations, and also maintained extensive dialogue with our drivers, teams and partners. The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be thrilling, easy to understand and help drive our sport s competition to a whole new level."
Here's the basic nuts and bolts regarding the new Chase format:
- A victory in the first 26 races all but guarantees a berth in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup a change that will put an unprecedented importance on winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race all season long.
- Expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, with those drivers advancing to what now will be known as the NASCAR Chase Grid.
- The number of championship drivers in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship will decrease after every three Chase races, from 16 to start in the Chase Grid; 12 after Chase race No. 3; eight after Chase race No. 6; and four after Chase race No. 9.
- The first three races of the Chase (27-29) will be known as the Challenger Round.
- Races 30-32 will be known as the Contender Round.
- Races 33-35 will be the Eliminator Round and race No. 36 will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
- A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round.
- Four drivers will enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with a chance at the title, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Brian France's comment saying this new format will be more thrilling has a lot of plausibility. But, his comment regarding the format being easier to understand may need a little time and promo work. There's already been plenty of comments from fans, and even some drivers, who are somewhat dubious, and perhaps even confused, over the new format. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to get the message out to the fans.
I think the best bet here is to give the new Chase format a fair chance to see how it develops. It could turn out to be exactly what the ten race Chase schedule needs. That's saying a lot coming from a stubborn old mule.