Reactions mixed on 'Chase' changes

NASCAR CEO & Chairman Brian France alluded Thursday to 'adjustments' for the 'Chase for the Nextel Cup' starting in 2007. Among those changes would be a re-examination of the current 400-point margin, whether ten drivers is a large enough field,...

NASCAR CEO & Chairman Brian France alluded Thursday to 'adjustments' for the 'Chase for the Nextel Cup' starting in 2007. Among those changes would be a re-examination of the current 400-point margin, whether ten drivers is a large enough field, and whether the current ten Chase tracks are the appropriate venues.

"What I have always said about the Chase was we needed a few years under our belt to see how it evolves," commented France. "How it changes in strategy, see how the actual formula we have, see how it really works and now, in our third-year, we feel it's the ideal time to for us make adjustments.

"It's the ideal time for us make adjustments, not major changes, but adjustments will be in the off-season this year.

"We'll be looking at nothing new. Everything that we'll be looking at has been brought up by various people the last couple of years. We'll be looking at: is 10 the right number? We'll be looking at the 400-point margin. We'll be looking at the final 10 races: We think we have the right mix; I don't think we'll be changing that, but we'll be thinking about the point structure _ should we add a little more to the win in the final 10."

"Just various things that we think will build what we're hoping for, which are big moments and a bigger stage for the drivers. That's what the Chase has always been about. It's about showcasing their skills.... We'll be looking at everything to see if we can make it a little bit better, but there won't be dramatic changes because the basic format is working well."

Reactions have been mixed in the Cup garage as drivers and crews gear up for the third restrictor plate race of the season at Daytona International Speedway. Brian Vickers, who will drive a Toyota Camry for freshman team Red Bull Racing in 2007 didn't see what was wrong with the points before the Chase and hopes that any tweaks end up rewarding driver consistency.

"Thought the points system was fine the way it was to begin with," said Vickers. "But I also think its great now. Once you have time to settle into a rhythm, and now that we've had a couple of years to see what the Chase can do for the sport, as far as the ratings and coverage, I think everybody's pretty comfortable with it the way it is. I think it's worked pretty well.

"If I had to lean one way or the other, I'd like to see the champion be based a little bit more on overall performance throughout the year. The past two years, Jimmie has obviously been the car to beat year round. Really, the championship contender from Daytona to Miami, and unfortunately he hasn't won the championship. I'd like to see that guy, whoever it might be, have a little bit better shot at the championship."

Roush Racing driver Greg Biffle also isn't a big fan of making another change in the point system just three years after the original modifications.

"I don't know what they're talking about doing with the points system," said Biffle. "But they're the ones that created it to make the race more exciting and to get more people ganged up and put us all back together again. I don't know what else you could do with the point system without just completely throwing it away. I don't know what they want to do. Put everybody equal with 10 races to go? It doesn't seem like that's good."

Points leader Jimmie Johnson said "I think it makes a major impact to the way the Chase is raced. If you look at last year, Jeff Gordon finishing 11th, look at how he came back in the Chase and won some races. To have it all re-rack in a sense with 10 races to go and you're separated by 5 points ... it's great for the fans, but as a competitor I think you have a different view even than someone like Brian France would have. I don't want to see it expand. I'd love to see it be a five-car race. Expanding it might be good news for the fans, but its bad news for the competitors."

NASCAR's facelift of the Chase format may be a reaction to the fans dissatisfaction with the championship design, while minor changes may appease them; the competitors sound like they have had enough of the ever-evolving point system.

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers