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Woody: NASCAR Needs To Tinker With Care

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 8 2010

Brian France and the folks in Daytona Beach need to be care with tweaks to Chase. (File photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We hear reports that NASCAR plans an off-season overhaul of its Chase for the Championship.

Before it jumps off the deep end of the pool and does something too drastic (like making the 12 Chase drivers wrestle under a chicken-wire fence or dance the fandango for bonus points) it should to take a deep breath and beware of over-correcting.

On the track if a driver over-corrects – cranks the wheel too hard to avoid a spin – he can end up in more trouble than he already faced. Same thing could happen to NASCAR’s front office.

I’m not sure that the Chase needs much tweaking. Every driver who rolls out at Daytona in February has 26 races in which to crack the top 12 and make the playoffs. Everyone starts even and each race counts the same. That makes it a season-long battle, not merely a 10-race contest as some Chase critics contend.

Under the old points system if a driver wasn’t in the top 12 with 10 to go he had no chance. The Chase at least gives hope to each of those final 12.

Nobody can deny that the chase to the Chase adds drama to the “regular season.” It grows week by week as the season counts down to the 26th and deciding race: who’s in and who’s out.

Granted, once the Chase starts there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be a taunt, down-to-the-wire battle. And there shouldn’t be. In sports there aren’t supposed to be any guarantees.

We can remember lots of Super Bowls that were boring, fourth-quarter yawners. But the NFL didn’t panic and do something silly to artificially create a close finish, like letting the team that’s behind have two possessions to the opponent’s one, or give the offense an extra player. It didn’t over-correct.

NASCAR should proceed with similar caution. It has taken several innovative steps to spice up the action, including double-file restarts and triple-overtime if necessary.

If it does much more than that – if it implements special, gimmicky Chase rules – there’s a danger of going from a legitimate pro sport to some sort of contrived entertainment bordering on pro wresting.

The only thing I can think of that NASCAR could do to inspire drivers to race harder would be to award bonus points for each lap led. Currently a driver who leads one lap gets the same the same number of bonus points (five) as a driver who leads, say, 200 laps. The total lap-leader gets five more.

Rewarding a driver for each lap led would give him more incentive to battle for the lead on every lap and to hang onto it once he got it. It would be a way for a driver who’s down in the standing to quickly make up ground. It also would discourage teammates from shamefully giving each other freebie passes for the lead, assuming they are both chasing the championship.

Other than that I’m not sure a lot of tinkering is advisable, at least until we see how this season’s championship battle shakes out. We have a captivating chase to the Chase in progress with a dozen dramatic, shifting story lines.

Who knows – this season’s Chase might be the most dramatic, thrilling title fight in NASCAR history, with a pack of leadfoots locked in a frantic fight to the finish. It might not happen, but it’s possible. NASCAR should make sure it’s indeed broken before it fixes it.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 8 2010
9 Comments

9 Comments »

  • Marc says:

    Shiela – “Having a playoff in a sport with no divisions is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Who cares if a 12th place team gets to become the champion?”

    Dare I say the 12th place driver, crew and owner would?

    Not to mention you would care a lot if your favorite driver happened to be 12th after 26 events and went on to win the Cup.

    Sheila, one exit question for you; What’s better having 12 drivers with a legit shot at the Cup after 26 events or… having the Cup won by a driver with 1,2 or several events left on the schedule?

  • Marc says:

    DMan – “Take the top ten drivers in points (DRIVERS–not car owners) and run a 100 lap race at say, Atlanta…normal race rules apply and nothing gimmicky like mandatory pit stop on lap X and must take four tires BS.”

    So… you’re suggesting one race for all the marbles?

    So… 36 races are then meaningless tripe?

    That’s your plan?

    I’d much rather have “Faux King Brian’ in charge than you.

  • DMan says:

    “If it does much more than that – if it implements special, gimmicky Chase rules – there’s a danger of going from a legitimate pro sport to some sort of contrived entertainment bordering on pro wresting.”

    LOL! Too late. Faux King Brian has already done that. Dump the chase altogether. If you MUST have a “championship game” here’s an idea: run the regular 36 race saeason. Take the top ten drivers in points (DRIVERS–not car owners) and run a 100 lap race at say, Atlanta…normal race rules apply and nothing gimmicky like mandatory pit stop on lap X and must take four tires BS. One more while I’m on my soapbox…dump this top 35 BS and all provisionals. Should top 43 fastest qualifyers, period.

    DMan

  • Sal says:

    The more ‘La Brian’ tries to manufacture ‘excitement!’, the farther he gets from a sport to WWE style entertainmnet. If the crapshoot has been so great for the ’sport’, tell me how the attendance and TV ratings have been since it started? If Nascar isn’t careful, mountain climbing and bull fighting will be the only sports, with Nascar reduced to ‘just a game’ like the rest of the stick and ball sports.

  • Having a playoff in a sport with no divisions is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Who cares if a 12th place team gets to become the champion? If he wanted the championship, he would not be 12th in points. He would be leading them. It does not make racing more exciting. And it is chasing away fans and sponsors. Who wants to sponsor a 13th place car that has no hope of getting into the top 10? This is not a playoff. And it isn’t exciting. The system wasn’t broken to begin with. Why did it need to be fixed? And if the chase were working, it would need no tweaks. Drop it already. The fans don’t want it. Give more points for winning each race, and you won’t need this stupid chase.

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  • Joe says:

    NASCAR went “from a legitimate pro sport to some sort of contrived entertainment bordering on pro wresting” With the advent of the Chase.

    NASCAR did “do something silly to artificially create a close finish” when it went to GWC and then totally wet the bed by doing it three times.

    NASCAR is more concerned with creating drama than the product on the track. There doesn’t have to be inflated drama every week. That makes the true drama that unfolds more special.

    The old points system was far from perfect, but at least the best driver from February to November was crowned champion. If you are 12th in the points with 10 races to go, you don’t deserve to have a shot at winning a championship.

    Here’s an idea for NASCAR: Make all races a three-lap shootout; declare the final race of the year “The Championship” and after that race let the top 10 finishers in it draw straws to see who gets the trophy. That wouldn’t be much different than what we’ve got now.