Home » NASCAR - Sprint Cup Series

Minter: The Chase Does Not Need ‘Game 7′ Feel

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 27 2010

Jimmie Johnson has made his way to victory lanes 53 times in his career. That tends to get overlooked. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Regardless of what you think of the current state of affairs in NASCAR, you have to give the brass some credit for trying to get the ship back on course.

Of course some might say that all the changes made in recent years have led to the problems of today, and no amount of changing back can fix things. Every kid who’s heard of Humpty Dumpty knows that can’t be done.

But it might help to go back and reexamine the glory days of NASCAR and see what has changed – for the worse – since then.

It’s no doubt that the Sprint Cup championship, and how it’s determined, is a sore subject for many disgruntled fans.

NASCAR chairman Brian France indicated last week that he’s considering some changes to the Chase format. France is looking for a “Game 7” feel for the Chase, a winner-take-all-in-the-end scenario where the remaining competitors have to race hard or leave empty handed. He said he liked what he saw when Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin were running up front and winning races as the Chase neared its end.

But it could be that NASCAR is looking at things all wrong? It could be that just by the very nature of the sport, there never will be a “Game 7” feel to the season-ending race.

For starters, in Game 7 of the World Series, the participants are two teams that survived separate playoffs to square off and likely haven’t played each other very often in the regular season.

In NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick race against nearly every week, from the Daytona 500 in February on to Homestead in November. Seeing them go at each other at Homestead was nothing new. The main difference in the Ford 400 and the Daytona 500 was that there was almost no attention paid to the other 40 drivers in the Ford 400. That seems like a waste of good tires and gasoline.

Looking back on the races of my youth, the ones that felt like “can’t miss” events, it didn’t seem to matter who was leading the points at any particular time.

When the races came to the old Atlanta International Raceway, it was like the state fair coming to town. And when it was over, a champion was crowned. The driver who won hoisted a big trophy, participated in an elaborate Victory Lane celebration and for the next year was known as the defending champion of the “Dixie 400” or the “Atlanta 500” or whatever the race was called.

It also seemed like that back in the day, the measure of a race driver was tallied in the win column. Richard Petty’s 200 wins and David Pearson’s 105 seemed to stand a lot taller than seven championships for Petty or three for Pearson. Pearson never ran the full schedule, even in the years when he was champion, and many times Petty was one of the few who showed up for every race.

The points systems back in the day were mostly incentives to get drivers and teams to run all the races, not just the lucrative ones. It’s the same at most short tracks today.

Nowadays, it seems that Jimmie Johnson’s 53 career victories, a phenomenal total given his relatively short time in the sport and the stiff competition he’s faced, barely get mentioned. It’s all about the five titles he’s won in Chases contested over the final 10 races of a 36-race season.

And does it really make sense to have “Game 7” played out in an arena [Homestead-Miami Speedway] with 65,000 seats while Bristol Motor Speedway nearly fills a 160,000-seat stadium twice a year for races that have very little impact on the championship as neither is in the Chase?

What Bristol and Daytona and Darlington and Atlanta and the first Talladega do have is that “state fair” feel, and fans seem to have a way of remembering who won there, even though the victories are of little consequence in the Chase.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 27 2010
13 Comments

13 Comments »

  • har says:

    Terry Labonte’s last championship season, he only had one win. Gorden had 10.
    everybody knows the rules before the season starts. this was done to keep interest going to the end. i can see were a bad luck spree could ruin it for someone who may have had it locked up, but JJ and hamlin won the most races and they finished 1…2.
    I wanted to see the champion who had raced for wins instead of getting a comfy lead with 10 or 15 to go then just protect the lead. I think we got what we wanted, 26 races with drivers knowing 10 points for each win. then they had to race their buts off in the last two. most that are complaining just didn’t want the 48 to win

  • [...] Racin’ Today » Minter: The Chase Does Not Need ‘Game 7′ Feel [...]

  • jc says:

    Blt…..because under the chase format, 43 teams race hard for 26 races, the top 12 teams start fresh, for all intensive purposes, and gives the person who started the chase in 12th with no wins to his name the chance to take the championship from someone like hamlin or johnson who have had a great season. I’m not a fan of johnson and could care less if he retired this year but the current system gives an unfair advantage. Would you be happy winning 10 races in the regular season, have a couple wrecks not at your fault and lose the championship to a winless driver? It would piss me off.

  • Terry says:

    To show you how weak the whole thing is …..I don’t care one wat or another…..and I am supposed to be an old school rabid core fan.
    It isn’t whats right or wrong with sport…..all though they have taken the RACE FOR WINS out the sport……
    If they want to make it like NFL play-offs….go back to including whole team car garage engineers …..like we use to…
    You don’t just cheer for the QB….it is the TEAM that wins…
    Peyton Manning is the best “BUT”….He doesn’t have 3 rings because he doesn’t have the “TEAM” Brady has…..
    Why do we have to only root for the drivers…..
    Old NASCAR even in the 1980’s and early 90’s still had the illusion of a competeing team and manufactor based cars….
    You could still make a difference in the garage and NOT be called a cheater…
    That is what football TEAMS do….they out build and out think their opponents…..

  • har says:

    Seems to me everybody seems to think, the chase was started to give one team an advantage, even more so sense the 48 has won multiple titles. In reality it is in place to give the second thru the twelfth a chance to catch the leader at that point in the season. Heck this year the points leader was passed by a few drivers when the chase started.

    Another thing. I haven’t heard nothing but bad about the 48 hanging out in a so called safe zone at talladega until the end. I have heard a number of interviews of Richard Petty were he made commits about how he won so many races. he said other drivers had to be up front right from the start and would use their cars up. and that HE WOULD hang back until close to the end then make a charge to the front. so everybody gives him great admiration for the 200 wins but downs the 48 when they use his strategy

  • Sue Rarick says:

    I’m like you Rick, it has always been about each specific race. I really could care less about who is champion.

    I have 3 drivers I root for each week (Kyle Busch, David Reutimann and Trevor Bayne). I really don’t care if they make “the chase” or not. It’s all about how they did that week at that track. I like drivers that go for wins rather than ride around gathering up points.

    BTW, Am I the only one that noticed Brian only showed up for the Sprint Cup trophy. And even there looked like he’d rather be someplace else?

  • blt says:

    Old points system–all 43 drivers drive under the same rules. One team does better than the others and gets a trophy at the end of the year.

    Current points system–all 43 drivers drive under the same rules. One team does better than the others and gets a trophy at the end of the year.

    What’s the problem (other than that if you’re not a #48 fan, your driver isn’t winning)?

  • dick pingley says:

    Doaway with the top 10 deal,it just keep them from paying the smaller teams a little money,if the smaller teams didn’t show up who would like to see 10 cars on the track.

  • Jerseygirl says:

    Keith, that is the perfect statement to what the “chase” has done to NASCAR and why the fans (unless you root for the 48) just don’t care.

    Nascar can give Johnson as many 10 race trophies as they want, but it is not apples to apples with what Petty, Earnhardt Sr and Yarborough accomplished over full season’s. Cale is the ONLY 3X back to back champion in NASCAR, not matter what revisionist history Brian France wants to shovel at the fans.

  • Jim says:

    When I attend a race, the season championship is not on my mind. At all.
    When I watch a race on TV, the season championship is not on my mind. At all.
    Run the races and award the winner a trophy and purse. When the last race is won, tally the points and name the Cup winner. This worked for half a century. But then again, those guys weren’t very smart, were they.

  • Keith says:

    They took one of the hardest championships in sports to win and turned it into a joke.

  • Cathy says:

    Before I was a fan, I used to joke the NASCAR was a business, not a sport. When I read about this kind of change, it reminds me more of reality TV than either a sport or a business.

    If you like basketball, you will watch basketball, even if one game is not a close one and even if your team is no longer in contention. Did basketball change the rules after the Celtics won all of their games? A dynasty increases suspense; it doesn’t lesson it.

    If you like racing, you will watch racing. I don’t intend to watch a racing version of reality TV.

  • Mike says:

    The Chase sucks period. I couldn’t care less about fake titles.