Everyone is so excited about the Chase for the Sprint Cup and I agree it is exciting. What I am not in agreement about is a Chase Champion is just that, a Chase Champion. The winner of a ten race sprint. To call him the season champion is just wrong. The season is 36 races long. A champion is the driver who has defeated or surpassed ALL rivals in the competition over all 36 races. So the Chase Champion is just a watered down version of a Series Champion. He’s just a Chase Champion, a 10 race sprint season. Most of the supporters of the Chase format want to call it the playoffs. Playoffs in other sports are normally after the regular season is completed or as finals. In the case of NASCAR, it should be run concurrently to the regular season.
Here is my thinking. The season starts in Daytona and whoever wins that race is already in the chase. They at the very start of the season are already locked into the championship battle. The rest of the season they don’t have to push as hard or worry as much about points other than staying in the top 30. The only points that are of any advantage to them are bonus points for wins which will carry over into the Chase. That is the same for all the drivers and teams that win early in the season. Of course they continue to race to win but if things don’t go their way it’s no biggie they will just get em’ next week. That takes away the very heart of NASCAR. The season starts in Daytona and doesn’t end until Homestead but 24 drivers become inconsequential as the Chase begins, several of which may be very close in the points, that’s over half the field. I believe a Champion should be a Season Champion and if there is a Chase playoff for the top ten so be it and they would be the Chase Champion. If a driver has a great consistent season and works hard throughout the whole season and fights for every point in all the races, he would most likely take home both crowns but if he had one bad day in the Chase a whole season would not be lost and go unrewarded by being eliminated in the Chase.
If drivers in the Chase knew that points were still going to be counted until Homestead for the Season Championship, they would race harder and the consistency factor would come back into play. Does anyone remember the days when every point was important? Dale Earnhardt would jump out of the car, pull back his uniform and start working on a wrecked car right in the middle of the crew in order to get it back in to get every single point possible and run it until the very last lap that a point was available? Those kind of things are what real champions are made of. Point champions had grit, and determination and they never gave up and said well let’s just pack up and get home early.
The new age of NASCAR and the younger fans including my son are all for the Chase and as far as a Chase type playoff between the top ten, that’s fine but crowning a Champion that way is ludicrous. The Chase format allows a one-time winner who is barely in the top 30 in points to come in and snag a championship he does not deserve. Most of you would agree there is more to a real champion than that. A champion is built over the 36 races of the season, over the different tracks, different layouts, set-ups, restrictor plates and tire compounds. They have to build a good relationship and communication with the team and crew chief and deal with good days and bad days but the bottom line is they don’t give up until the last point available is gotten. A Champion is made by being a central part of a cohesive team who have the drive and competitive spirit to refuse to lose and that doesn’t mean just the race but just one point available to them that could change their finish at the end of the season. When they stand on that stage at the end of the season to accept the Championship they have everything to be proud of, a whole season of hard work, team work and the will to survive. Thirty-six races they raced their guts out keeping their eyes on the prize, the points Championship, the real Championship, not some watered down playoff called a championship.
For the younger fans who never experienced the excitement of a points Championship I understand your enthusiasm in the Chase. But the heart of NASCAR is consistency. Not just be a one race wonder who makes a name for himself by making the Chase and all the publicity that goes with it. The point system was created and set in place to reward consistency. Sure sometimes the Champion was crowned before the last race because he was dominate, consistent at another level and he deserved it. The Chase was brought in to create excitement and hype for the season ending race and I understand that but I believe by leaving out the points system in settling the season Championship takes the true heart out of the Champion. This year for the first time we have the possibility of having of having a Champion that finished barely in the top thirty in points. How is that fair to 17th and 18th? In the next 10 races they could have moved up several more positions. Stepping in and snagging a Championship does not a Champion make. NASCAR needs to look at reinstituting the points system to run concurrently with any Chase format giving all drivers a reason to race hard and consistently until the last lap in Homestead. How many times has Jimmie Johnson raced all 40 drivers to the Series Championship, maybe three? The other three were Chase Championships. Today’s fans deserve to know what real Champions were like in the days before the Chase that raced for the whole season the be the Champion, names like Earnhardt, Petty, Allison, Gordon, Labonte, Stewart and Yarbrough. Hype and excitement is ok for the fans but consistency is the heart and roots of NASCAR! That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!!