Saturday, August 13, 2011

To Chase or Not to Chase

Over the course of the Nascar regular season I have heard people with a lot more knowledge on the Chase than me talk about the changes this season. Naysayers are bemoaning these changes. Some go as far as to say that it cheapens the sport. I however think it’s just what the sport needs.

For those of you who do not know the Chase consist of the top 10 drivers in the points standings after the regular season and the next two drivers (from 11th to 20th in the points) with the most victories.

The Chase which was implemented, after Matt Kenseth’s rather uneventful championship season in 2003 has not been perfect by any means but I believe the changes made this year are steps in the right direction. There are several reasons for these changes. One has been old 5 Time himself. Jimmie Johnson has been the man since the 2006 Daytona 500. He has won an amazing amount of races and to borrow his phrase “turned chicken sh** into chicken salad” more times than his haters would like to recall. So some say change the format to even it out. But remember my friends in the words of the Nature Boy Ric Flair, “In order to be the Man, you’ve got to beat the Man.” Many have tried to beat the 48 and since the Chase inception only two has actually done it (Kurt Busch 2004, Tony Stewart 2005).

The second and the biggest reason for change was Jamie Mac’s winning the two biggest races of the year and not making the post season playoff because the team lacked consistency. There were other guys without a win but with the consistency (Bowyer, J.Gordon, Edwards, Kenseth & Burton). In a Chase where wins are suppose to be more important how could the rules not be changed to reward wins?

I really like the changes this year. I feel that the additions of the wildcards or “at large bids” (excuse the basketball terms) give new blood to the chase. When you think of college basketball you think of the powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas. They are the teams that find ways to win and have the hardware to prove it. There are then the mid-listers, teams that have had success like Louisville, Florida, Georgetown but have not reached dynasty status yet. Then there are the teams no one has ever heard of and during the madness of March get named Cinderella and go dancing. They may not win the championship but they do affect the game.

The Powerhouse teams of Nascar have to be Johnson, Gordon, & Stewart. They know what it’s like to hold that trophy up at season’s end. The mid list consist of guys like Harvick, Edwards, both Ku. & Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Earnhardt (even winless he remains here mainly because of popularity).

With the two wildcards (aka Cinderellas) the battle alone to get the wins and be in the top 20 has made the racing this year some of the best I’ve seen. Whoever manages to actually get the two coveted slots is not going to simply be happy to be included. They are going to be in it to win it. These guys have everything to win and nothing to lose by pushing their car to the limit. Come chase time I would much rather watch these guys, who know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. And guess what? With 43 guys, and 10 races…maybe the slipper will fit Cinderella someday…

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