The debate continues…
Many have criticized the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase format for several reasons. Some feel it lacks legitimacy while others feel the system just needs tweaking. And with that, comes an array of possibilities.
POPULAR SPEED guest writer Andy Marquis tackled this subject last week and brought up an interesting idea. To award consistency among strong teams, should NASCAR implement a “bye-week” rule, similar to that seen in “stick-and-ball” sports?
I would like to elaborate on this.
In the wake of the new Chase format, consistency is in desperate need of consideration. Joey Logano scored six wins last year and earned the second best average finish of 9.2 – he finished sixth in the Chase. Drivers who perform well in the regular season should be given some kind of reward, and if not in the form of points, the possibility of a bye-week could be considered. After all, the new Chase format was an attempt to fall in line with other “traditional” sports.
But there’s one big problem with that: NASCAR isn’t a traditional sport. NASCAR, and the venues it visits, are sponsor-driven. The absence of major names could hurt the sport in several ways – let’s break it down.
It all starts with the fans. Families wanting to see Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, or Kevin Harvick race at their home track may be completely disappointed when they find they’re out on a bye-week – and that might have an economic impact.
Drivers with two wins, or more, at the top of the standings, can clinch a Chase berth about six races in advance. This would include tracks like Pocono Raceway, Watkins Glen International, Michigan International Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and of course Richmond International Raceway where the regular season finale takes place. Some of these venues only have one NASCAR Cup event and need to make it count – but instead, they could take a hit if the big names of the sport didn’t show up.
Not to mention the absence of “A-list” drivers at an event would further question the legitimacy of a subsequent win/Chase berth.
And then there are the sponsors, who set up events, displays, meet and greets, and more – typically involving their driver. A bye-week would throw a wrench into those plans and would need to be scheduled weeks in advance.
But there’s a bigger point I’m trying to make. Through the explanation above, one can see that the very fibers of NASCAR are woven in a different pattern than other sports – and it may reveal a problem.
Our sport’s 36-week schedule is a strenuous one, and the venues, teams and drivers are strongly tied to sponsors and multi-million-dollar TV deals. These strings make it difficult for the sport’s officials to make any changes – especially concerning driver availability and events. Perhaps that’s why there haven’t been any changes to the format yet.
No doubt, consistency needs to be rewarded. Many, including Marquis, have given interesting, clever theories on how that factor could be fulfilled. However, NASCAR has a lot to juggle. They need to figure out which ideas are plausible and which ones are unsustainable and come up with a solution.
Furthermore, they may just need to take a look at their latest Chase format and assess the same.
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