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Woody: NASCAR Shouldn’t Over-Tweak

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 24 2010

During a press conference last week, NASCAR boss Brian France said the times they may be a changin'.

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

NASCAR boss Brian France says some “significant changes” will likely be made in the way the sport determines its champion next season.

Brian hasn’t asked me, but if he should, this is my advice:

Beware of over-tweaking.

As they say, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. And I don’t detect any major cracks in the current Chase for the Sprint Cup format.

It provides a level playing field. Every driver has the same number of points, the same opportunity to race their way into the Chase, when they start the season at Daytona.

Twelve is a good number for the playoffs – not too many, not too few – and 26 races is a sufficiently long “regular season” to determine those 12. If a driver can’t crack the top 12 after 26 races he and his fans have no room to complain.

Twenty-six races allow plenty of time for a driver to overcome early mistakes, or for a late-bloomer to mount a charge.

And a 10-race championship battle is also about right. Any more would drain too much of the importance and drama from each individual race. Any less would permit too much of a “luck factor” – bad and good – to enter the equation.

France said he would like to “create more big-game moments” in NASCAR’s playoff. How much bigger moment could there be than to go into the final race of the season with three drivers in contention for the title? And for the second-place driver to rally in that final race and pull out the championship?

Seems to me that’s about as big a “big-game moment” as you can hope for.

One thing that worries me is Brian’s use of the term “create.” I’d be careful of that phrasing if I were him. Action and drama are “created” in pro wresting; in legitimate sports it happens on its own.

Remember, the biggest gripe by the Chase-haters is that the whole thing is too contrived and convoluted. They say that NASCAR goes to too great extremes to “create” drama.

That’s why I’d be extremely wary about pushing the “creative” envelope too far if I were NASCAR. I don’t think fans want to see drivers wearing capes and leotards and wrestling under a chicken-wire fence to decide the title.

Action that occurs naturally is great. If it is contrived it becomes a farce. Nobody wants to see the sport turn into FARCE-CAR.

Again, Brian hasn’t sought my advice, but I’ll volunteer it free of charge: you’ve got a good thing going. Don’t spoil it. I sense that some of the original Chase-haters are gradually beginning to thaw a tad.

Sure, there’s always a chance that NASCAR will end up with a boring, non-competitive Chase for the Championship – just as there’s always a chance that the NFL will end up with a boring, non-competitive Super Bowl.

Matter of fact, the NFL DID go through a series of Super-stinkers. But it didn’t panic. It knew it had the best and fairest playoff system possible, a system that provided drama and excitement for the fans while maintaining the competitive integrity of the game.

NASCAR has the same thing in its Chase. It shouldn’t tinker it away.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 24 2010
9 Comments

9 Comments »

  • Gordon82Wins says:

    It baffles me to see writers and commentators talk about NASCAR having a good thing going with the Chase and how this year’s Chase was a big success. Looking at the ratings and attendance since the Chase was implemented, I’d say that’s a pretty strange definition of success.

    A majority of NASCAR fans STILL hate the Chase…NASCAR proved it with their own poll. And those are the people still watching.

  • Muddphoto says:

    I agree with Woody, no changes needed for the Chase. But there are 2 things I would change if my name was France; 1) get the “muscle cars” (mustang, challenger, camaro) into Cup ASAP, and 2) no more “cookie cutter” tracks. Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta all look the same on TV. Reminds me of the cookie cutter baseball/football stadiums built in the 60’s & 70’s. MLB learned and they now have some really cool, unique ballparks.

  • Terry says:

    To Chase or not to Chase….tis not the question.
    NASCAR has far bigger Hamlets to fry…
    That said…..make it more win heavy and laps led for points.
    That way we get the question answered…
    To race or not to race……Boy’s you want points be on point.

  • JB says:

    The Chase is already contrived and a farce. If having a seventh and 10th place driver finish 1-2 and the best driver over the course of the season isn’t contrived then I don’t know what is.

  • Jonathan says:

    I agree!! I became a fan in ‘04 so the Chase is all i know in Sprint Cup and to be honest I love it much more than the “orginal” format used in Nationwide and Trucks… Dont change the chase please we like it as is and if you keep changing it you look like a fool! Give the chase some more time to develop heck 2010 was off the charts awsome and I dont wanna see it change!! What i’d like to see is something awarded to the regular season champion maybe say first pit selection every chase race sorta like a home field advantage! any thoughts?

  • Terry says:

    I am sorry …I have NO confidence that Brian “SPANKY” France…
    and Headuptailpipe…..that is Cherokee for Helton….
    have a clue what to do.
    They don’t listen to the core fans. They are totally sponser driven. They see there money as TV dollars and not GATE….
    This said they don’t really interact with the great unwashed that use to be their fans.
    SOOOOOO tweak away it won’t change……
    As they say in the pits ” take a big swing at it “……into the direction of what “MADE” NASCAR in the first 50 years…..
    at least the illusion of ….REAL CARS….REAL MEN…on tracks that folks show up for the race…..
    Let them innovate and compete….let the fans root for the horse not just the jockey….

  • SB says:

    Do you really think it’s possible to drain any MORE importance from the first 26 races? Already the ‘regular season’ points leader is totally washed away with no benefit from leading the points. So, how important are those races, really? That’s a big reason so many fans of racing find the whole ‘chase’ pathetic, and aren’t as impressed with JJ’s five ‘10 race titles’. It’s already so much of a joke that nothing much could make it worse.

  • Mike says:

    The Chase is awful. A omplete joke. Jimmie Johnson has 1 2/3 championships because each of his 10 race titles is really only 1/3rd of a title.

    The Homestead race had flat ratings. Why? Becasue noone like contrived title races.

    The old points system was the greatest in all of sports and NASCAR ruined it. They are getting ready to make the Chase even dumber.

    Can’t wait to see the stands and ratings next year!

    • larry woody says:

      SB: The first 26 races aren’t important? You might ask Mark Martin (or any of the other drivers who came close but failed to make the Chase) how important each one is.