Winning means everything in new NASCAR Chase format

Photo Property of NASCAR

Photo Property of NASCAR

As the drivers continue to change and adjust themselves for each season, so do the official rules of NASCAR. The format of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has been changed numerous times throughout the 10 seasons it has been used. This format is used to determine the Sprint Cup Champion at the end of a race season.

Last Thursday, Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO, announced changes to the organization of the Chase, yet again. This change will expand the field of drivers from 12 to 16 teams with three shootout-style rounds adding up to a single event among the final four remaining teams in a single championship.

Is this format the answer officials are looking for? Personally, I don’t think so.

With this new format, the 16 open positions for the Chase will be awarded to the drivers that have at least one victory during the first 26 races. As long as he or she is in the top 30 in points and has attempted to qualify for each of the season’s previous point’s races, they will be awarded one of the 16 positions. Is that fair play?

NASCAR officials also explained that a medical exemption could be given to a driver if they miss a race during the season, but only if there is a valid medical reason and they still had won a race at some point during the season.

So, more than 16 drivers have the ability to earn at least one win? Interesting. If more than 16 drivers earn at least one win, the drivers with the highest in the standing following the 26th race would advance to the next level of the Chase. If the points leader, after 26 races, is winless, he or she will be awarded the 16th position for the Chase.

On another hand, if fewer than 16 drivers have at least one win, all remaining positions will be determined based on the points standings.

Each of the 16 drivers will have their points reset to 2,000 and will be placed in the seed based on bonus points that they earned prior to the start of the Chase. Then, the nine races that bring the season to an end are divided into three individual rounds consisting of three separate races.

As the Chase continues, drivers with at least one win in each of the rounds will continue on. The lingering positions will be determined based on points earned during the separate rounds.

Once again, the points for the drivers in the Chase will be reset prior to the start of each round resulting in the same amount of points for each driver at the beginning of a race.

Drivers that are not involved in the Chase will continue to earn points under the current non-Chase points format.

You can find a very simple breakdown of the new format on NASCAR.com.

It seems to me that these new format changes are not actually centered around winning. I feel that the more they change the rules to these “qualifying races,” the aggressiveness and chase for the Sprint Cup is being taken away.

The entertainment factor is taking away from the actual sporting event.

Many questions are being raised by NASCAR fans about the new format and after reading about them, and I have a few as well. Will this eliminate points racing? Will each race be more important? Will this cut certain drivers out of the sport?

There are many confusing scenarios within the new format change especially after hearing from France that the goal is to emphasize winning.

Since one win allows a driver to get in the Chase, what if a driver wins the sixth race of the season? Then, all they have to do for the next 20 races is show up and qualify for each race and make sure they drive safely to end the race and protect themselves. As long as their car is within the top 35 in points, they are still eligible to be in the chase. Does this really emphasize winning? I don’t think so. I think it is giving teams the option to win one race and then sit out until the Chase, if they choose to.

A single win automatically advances a team to the second round of the three separate races. When a team wins the first race, they no longer have to push themselves as hard for a win until the second round. That is another instance that does not feel like winning is taking on much importance.

Let’s get a little technical here. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was a completely winless driver in the 2013 season, would have won the title last year if this new points system were in place at the time. It does not seem fair that a winless driver could have won the championship under a new format that was supposed to be created as a format to highlight winning.

“We didn’t eliminate the  points racing by doing this. It will still be playing a role,” France said. “The probability is that the best teams down the stretch in the fall are going to be the best teams (in general). Anything is possible, (anything) could happen today, but I think this (format) makes it more probable that teams are going to have to win and be at their best over a longer period of time.”

France strongly believes in this new format along with NASCAR President Mike Helton who said that he thinks the format change will make “every race special.”

As President, Helton is stressing to the fans that he’d like them to give this change a chance and wait to see the results after the new rules are put into play.

NASCAR is a season long sport centered around winning. If drivers aren’t striving for excellence and wins consistently throughout the ENTIRE season, then it is not an exciting sport to watch.

Fans are usually interested in watching NASCAR because of the head to head competition between drivers and teams. Speed is so important but so are the different tactics and planning that go into each race. That is what fans look forward to. I know I do.

Let’s give them a chance. Maybe we’ll like the results.