NASCAR boss Brian France says some “significant changes” will likely be made in the way the sport determines its champion next season.
Brian hasn’t asked me, but if he should, this is my advice:
Beware of over-tweaking.
As they say, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. And I don’t detect any major cracks in the current Chase for the Sprint Cup format.
It provides a level playing field. Every driver has the same number of points, the same opportunity to race their way into the Chase, when they start the season at Daytona.
Twelve is a good number for the playoffs – not too many, not too few – and 26 races is a sufficiently long “regular season” to determine those 12. If a driver can’t crack the top 12 after 26 races he and his fans have no room to complain.
Twenty-six races allow plenty of time for a driver to overcome early mistakes, or for a late-bloomer to mount a charge.
And a 10-race championship battle is also about right. Any more would drain too much of the importance and drama from each individual race. Any less would permit too much of a “luck factor” – bad and good – to enter the equation.
France said he would like to “create more big-game moments” in NASCAR’s playoff. How much bigger moment could there be than to go into the final race of the season with three drivers in contention for the title? And for the second-place driver to rally in that final race and pull out the championship?
Seems to me that’s about as big a “big-game moment” as you can hope for.
One thing that worries me is Brian’s use of the term “create.” I’d be careful of that phrasing if I were him. Action and drama are “created” in pro wresting; in legitimate sports it happens on its own.
Remember, the biggest gripe by the Chase-haters is that the whole thing is too contrived and convoluted. They say that NASCAR goes to too great extremes to “create” drama.
That’s why I’d be extremely wary about pushing the “creative” envelope too far if I were NASCAR. I don’t think fans want to see drivers wearing capes and leotards and wrestling under a chicken-wire fence to decide the title.
Action that occurs naturally is great. If it is contrived it becomes a farce. Nobody wants to see the sport turn into FARCE-CAR.
Again, Brian hasn’t sought my advice, but I’ll volunteer it free of charge: You’ve got a good thing going. Don’t spoil it. I sense that some of the original Chase-haters are gradually beginning to thaw a tad.
Sure, there’s always a chance that NASCAR will end up with a boring, non-competitive Chase for the championship – just as there’s always a chance that the NFL will end up with a boring, non-competitive Super Bowl.
Matter of fact, the NFL DID go through a series of Super-stinkers. But it didn’t panic. It knew it had the best and fairest playoff system possible, a system that provided drama and excitement for the fans while maintaining the competitive integrity of the game.
NASCAR has the same thing in its Chase. It shouldn’t tinker it away.
Larry Woody is a veteran, award-winning sports journalist. Woody began working at the Nashville Tennessean in the 1960s and took over the auto racing beat full time in the early 1970s. Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.