Dec 3, 2007
Chase Okay, Says NASCAR ChairmanBy JR Nerad
This year's Chase for the Nextel Cup disappointed a lot of people. By the time the Chase reached its final race, the issue was all but decided. Though a dozen drivers entered the Chase with a theoretical possibility of winning the Nextel Cup, the reality was that very few of them had any kind of genuine chance to win the prize. And by the time we all reached the last race at Homestead, Fla., only Jimmie Johnson, the eventual winner, and his teammate Jeff Gordon had any kind of chance of winning the championship, theoretical or otherwise. A week before the race began Gordon all but conceded the title to Johnson. This made for a rather dull finale since Gordon and his car were off their game and Johnson did a great job of staying out of trouble, while at the same time virtually giving up any contention for the lead in the race.
All this made for rather boring television, which is quite the opposite of NASCAR's goal. This is a race series made for television and made by television, so it's a shame that its final race fell so flat. But according to a recent report, NASCAR Chairman Brian France sees nothing at all wrong with the current Chase format.
"Our preferable outcome would be all 12 [Chase drivers] within 20 points of each other," France told ESPN's Terry Blount. "But Jimmie Johnson is having a run that may be unmatched in the modern era. He's had one of those years where he's just better than everybody else."
France seems quite comfortable with the current Chase format, and he indicated the format shouldn't be criticized just because Johnson was the dominant driver as the 2007 season came to a close. He likened Johnson's run through the Chase to the current success of the NFL's New England Patriots.
"I'm sure [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell would like a Super Bowl score of 34-31, but that doesn't always happen," France told Blount. "It's part of sports."
In our view, France is missing the point. Throughout the NFL playoffs, a variety of teams will have the opportunity to knock off the New England Patriots with just one victory. Their previous wins will give them no leg up once they reach the playoffs. And that's what makes the playoffs so exciting. An underdog can knock off a dominant team and go on to win the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, that's just what the Chase for the Cup lacks. Until this change occurs within the Chase format, the entire exercise will be a gimmick that doesn't even accomplish what it was designed to do. We think racing fans deserve better.
Driving Today Managing Editor Jack R. Nerad is also the co-host of "America on the Road," the most-listened to automotive show on commercial radio, and the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hybrid and Alternative Fuel Vehicles (Alpha Books).
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