When the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season ended so did the tenth year of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format to decide the champion in the series. Since its inception in 2004 there have been some minor changes to the format but mostly it has stayed the same with 10 to 13 drivers racing over the final 10 events of the season to decide the champion. Motorsports 101 debates whether the Chase has been a good thing for NASCAR.
If the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was never implemented the NASCAR landscape might look totally different than it does right now heading into the 2014 season in a few months. The key word is might because even if you say – under the old points system so and so would have won the championship – you also have to take into consideration that the teams might not have raced the first 26 races to the maximum points since they were just trying to make the Chase and not necessarily be leading the points.
It all hypothetical since there is no way to really know. But if we just go by amount of points gained in the 36 races then Jimmie Johnson would only have three championships (2006, 2009, 2013) instead of six. Jeff Gordon would have six championships instead of four, adding the 2004 and 2007 championships to his collection. Kurt Busch would not be a Sprint Cup champion. Tony Stewart would only have two instead of three titles. Carl Edwards would be a two-time champion in the 2008 and 2011 seasons. Kevin Harvick would have brought Richard Childress Racing a title in 2010.
Overall though the Chase format has been good for NASCAR. The "playoff" system for NASCAR does as much as it can to try to keep NASCAR relevant in America's fall sporting culture when the NFL and college football are in full swing and the MLB playoffs are also going on.
Sometimes a full season points battle would have actually ended up being closer than the Chase format in these first 10 years but not often. Most of the time it does create a closer points battle and also brings more drivers into contention. The best thing the Chase may have done, and especially since the wild card entries were added, is create a lot of intrigue in the summer months for NASCAR. The races leading up to race 26 at Richmond have become drama filled with drivers going all out for wins to be assured of a Chase spot. The most exciting race of the season now seems to be the Chase deciding race at Richmond with so many drivers usually in contention to still make the Chase and have a championship shot. A race in late August or early September at Richmond without the Chase format would not be able to say that.
The Chase system does have its negatives like hindering the sponsors of drivers that don't make the Chase because they become virtually irrelevant. Or if you a Jimmie Johnson hater then the Chase is a bad thing but overall the Chase has served its purpose and it will be interesting to see the small tweaks made over the next 10 years to make the Cup season even better.
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