With no major topics catching my eye after Martinsville, I decided to 'play' NASCAR for a few minutes and add my take on things to the suggestion box.
This is a special edition of the Factor. Typically I try to stick with two small stories and one big one, but this week I couldn’t really find much newsworthy to talk about so instead I ranted about NASCAR’s Chase like most everybody else has this season. Enjoy!
Excitement? Yes ... Integrity? No
The Chase has definitely done its job well this season, as far as generating excitement.
It has been constant craziness ever since Richmond, with every three weeks being a new point’s battle. It reached insane heights at Talladega, where Jeff Gordon went into the tri-oval on the final lap out of the Chase but passed enough cars in the final few hundred or so to advance to the final eight, while Brad Keselowski dramatically won to get himself in. But is this system actually legitimate?
No, I don’t think so.
It’s still incredibly dumb to have a one race championship. It’s the Homestead championship, not the Cup championship. It’s going to be exciting, of course. But there’s no reason for it. It’s wrong to structure this sport like other sports because it is unique among them.
NASCAR is auto racing, not a stick and ball sport
Let’s say Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in a legitimate spot to make the Chase before his Dega crash, and let’s say Kyle Larson caused his wreck. That wouldn’t happen in other sports because Kyle Larson, as a non-playoff competitor, wouldn’t be playing in, well, THE PLAY-OFFS! And you can’t get rid of the non-Chasers because if there’s anything more boring than seeing 43 cars go 500 miles at a general 1.5 miler like Texas, it’s seeing eight cars go 500 miles.
It also doesn’t help that we’ve seen these guys race against the same exact people for 33 races so far this year. In the NFL, the play-offs work because it can be tough to match two great teams together during the season because there are only 16 games in the regular season and each team is only facing 13 different teams in said regular season. The reason why Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady is such a big deal in general is that it’s usually only once a year they face each other, two if they are in the same division and three if they both advance far enough in the play-offs.
In NASCAR, the play-offs don’t work because 43 teams race 36 races per year, against 42 teams every week. This season alone we’ve already seen, say, Gordon versus Joey Logano 33 times, 35 if you count non-points races and there’s going to be three more times before the end of this season. When Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face each other this Sunday, it will be their 16th time in 15 years. Not this season, not the last five years, but 15 years. Logano and Gordon have raced each other in 216 point races in the last six years. Outside of maybe some Daytona 500s (maybe), each Brady and Manning meeting have destroyed any race Gordon and Logano have raced in together, rating and meaning wise.
Apples and oranges
I might be comparing apples and oranges, but NASCAR is doing just that with the Chase, so I should be able to as well. I feel the Chase was made because the season was/is too long. 36 race seasons are the longest since the start of the modern era in 1972, and before that, with rare exceptions, most top teams and drivers didn’t care enough to run a full 50 race schedule unless the car was painted Petty blue. I can hear the NASCAR board meeting in 2003 discussing this plight...
The formation of the Chase probably went something like this
“Okay, so we have too long of a schedule, what do we do?”
“I know, let’s cut races!”
“But wait, we can’t do that!”
“Because like 90% of the race tracks are either owned by us or Bruton Smith, so we’d either be taking money out of our wallets or we’d be taking money out of Bruton’s wallet, which would probably make him yell ‘monopoly!’ to the government. “
“Okay, what about the other 10%? “
“Well, there’s Loudon, which Bruton is in with so no. Then there’s Dover and Pocono, we can’t get rid of those because reasons. Finally, the last track is Indianapolis, and we can’t cut out IMS! We need to keep proving our dominance over IRL or CART or whoever runs the 500 now. “
“So, what do we do?”
“Well, first let’s cut Rockingham’s dates and give them to great tracks such as Texas, get rid of the Southern 500 after next year because why not, and let’s make a play-off system! We’ll call it ‘The Sprint to the Cup’! “
“No, that’s too corny. Let’s go with ‘The Chase’.”
Stop giving tracks second dates
If I were running NASCAR, I’d get rid of all second dates at race tracks because not one track, with the exception of Fontana (Which I call bull on because there were plenty of empty seats on TV), can sellout. I’d love to give solid attendance numbers to support this claim but they have gotten so bad, NASCAR doesn’t release them anymore. Even if all the tracks are only visited once a year I doubt they’d sell out, but they’d definitely be able to sell more tickets at these race tracks. This leaves 23 races.
My solution (which I doubt Mr. France will give a look)
Now, let’s add Iowa and Road America. That’s 25 races, plus the All-Star at the end of the season at a track voted on by the fans (Another thing: I’d stop giving fan votes on things that don’t really matter in non-point races and instead give them fan votes on things that do matter in non-point races) and the Shootout at the beginning of the year at Daytona, and of course, with no Chase, because you don’t need it with such a short season. This will all never happen because it would be a “step in the wrong direction” (Really means “We have a ten year big money TV contract for 36 races”), but it’s fun to imagine it. It makes these final races more meaningful without sacrificing the legitimacy of the championship.
That’s all for this week. Up the irons and have a good weekend of racing.