Now that the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase Grid format has been announced as the way the championship will be decided there have been a lot of opinions flying around about whether it is good or bad. Some people are excited about what this format will create and others are writing it off before even giving it a chance.
One thing is for sure with the new format. It is different, a huge change, and nothing like NASCAR has ever seen before. People thought the initial Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format was bizarre and way out the box back when it was introduced before the 2004 season. What it was though was the next step to take NASCAR to the next level.
NASCAR of course tweaked the Chase over the years by adding drivers and the wild card format and the changes were for the better. Now what people need to remember is that NASCAR made this new format based on the polling and studying of what the fan base wanted. Not just in the past month but over several years of data.
Is this new system perfect? No. By no means is it. Some things may need to be changed even as soon as next season but the system seems to have a ton of potential to create a fantastic playoff system in NASCAR.
A lot of people are saying the format is confusing. It really isn't but it may take a little time for it to sink in. But if you have an open mind then the system does make sense. Winning a race in the first 26 will get you in the Chase Grid and then by winning in each Chase round you will advance to the next. This puts an emphasis on winning for sure since it is the easiest way to work your way to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
By no means though does this format mean you actually do need to win even one race to be the champion so maybe that is where NASCAR's thinking is flawed with this system. If the Chase Grid was used in 2013 (and since it was not the system in place it is very difficult to say that things would have gone the same way as they did in 2013) Dale Earnhardt Jr would have been the champion. That's right the winless most popular driver in the sport would have won.
There were only 11 different winners in the first 26 races in 2013 which meant Earnhardt would have made the top 16 based on points. In the Challenger Round Earnhardt would have advanced as the 11th driver of 12. In the Contender Round Earnhardt would have advanced as the fourth driver of eight. Then in the Eliminator Round Earnhardt would have advanced to the Championship Race along with the three winners in the Eliminator Round which were Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick. Dale Earnhardt Jr would then have been the champion by finishing third at Homestead as Johnson was ninth, Harvick tenth, and Gordon 11th.
Zero wins on the whole season but Earnhardt would have been the champ. Matt Kenseth who won the most races in 2013 with seven would not have advanced to the Championship Race after being eliminated in the Eliminator Round. Jamie McMurray, who was not even one of the 13 drivers in the Chase last year would have made it to the Eliminator Round. So for NASCAR to say that all the emphasis is on winning in this new system is just over exaggerated but it is surely going to be a big factor in helping a driver make the finale with a title shot.
Kyle Busch spoke the truth on Thursday when he said that this system won't make the drivers race any harder because each and every driver is already trying to win every race. What this new format will create is buzz and what should actually be true excitement in each race throughout the season.
The first 26 races will be exciting because whoever wins will most likely earn a Chase berth. Accumulating multiple wins will be very important for the fact that it will set your team up better in the Challenger Round of the Chase Grid because for each win you will be granted three extra points to start with in that first round. Also by winning multiple times it means that you could keep one of your rivals out of the Chase by not allowing them to find victory lane at all.
The Chase itself is going to be exciting for sure. There is really no way around it. With drivers racing with the fear of being eliminated every three races the Chase races are going to be great. So while the system certainly is not perfect and many old school fans will not even give it a chance because they still long for the 1980s and 90s this system will be a success.
Is it the most fair way to determine a champion in racing? No. Is it a playoff system similar to the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, college basketball, and now even college football? Yes. The new Chase Grid is something that I am excited for even if it was a radical step and change in NASCAR history.Tags: Chase Grid, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series