Nov 2, 2009
Chase: It's No World CupBy JR Nerad
Yes, not only am I a racing fan, I’m also a baseball fan. And as I watched the pomp, circumstance and intense national interest in the baseball playoffs and the World Series over the past few weeks, it struck me again that this is what the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup should be but isn’t. This is the kind of suspense and thrills it should create but doesn’t.
The Chase was designed to mimic the playoffs -- which are so successful in building fan excitement and interest in the stick-and-ball sports -- but when all is said and done, it just hasn't accomplished that. The races in the Chase look like every other race, they feel like every other race and they most often result in a season-ending event that is about as suspenseful as a USC-Slippery Rock football game. Sad because NASCAR racing is terrific entertainment and incredibly easy to grasp by a wide audience. But it is hard to build excitement in an event in which the season champion can achieve that goal by finishing 18th. So let me again float an idea I have floated before: Let’s turn the Chase into the World Series and make the last race the equivalent of the crucial seventh game.
Here's our immodest proposal: Based on the standings in the regular season, allow the top 20 points winners (or the top 19 and the defending champ if he is somehow not among the top 20) to qualify for the final 10 races -- the new Chase for the Cup. Everyone else goes home to lick their wounds. Once the initial group of playoff contenders is identified, starting with the first race of the all-new and very improved Chase, eliminate the driver who comes in last, and base starting positions for the next race on finishing order. The same procedure would take place in each of the subsequent Chase races until you arrive at the final race of the season with 11 competitors in the field -- let's call them the Lucky 11.
Sure, in NASCAR terms, it seems like a small field -- and small fields might make for less drama -- but the qualifiers for the final race would be the best, most evenly matched 11 ones in the sport. Any one of them could win -- that's drama in and of itself. But the bigger drama is this: The winner of that race will be crowned the NASCAR Cup champion. That's right -- you can't win the championship simply by staying out of trouble; you can only win it by winning the final race. One race for all the marbles: the best drivers and cars in the sport on the fastest Sunday of the year! And the guy that takes the checkered flag wins the championship. Even the non-race fan can grasp that concept.
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