This Week In NASCAR: NASCAR pondering changes to Chase

At a press conference in Daytona last weekend, Brian France confirmed that NASCAR is looking at the going-on six-year-old Chase for the Sprint Cup 10-race playoff system the series implemented in 2004.

France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, said that while looking at the chase is something that isn’t uncommon, the series is looking at even closer it this year.

“We’re (NASCAR) looking at the Chase format very, very carefully, as we always do – maybe even more carefully,” France said.

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[media-credit name=”Chris Graythen | Getty Images” align=”alignright” width=”400″]
[/media-credit]The goal for NASCAR?  To create more “impact moments” and push the emphasis on race wins to a higher level.

“The main reason is we want to make sure it’s giving us the biggest impact moments it was designed to do,” France said. “That means, it is over a 10-race schedule in itself. Everything to us means pushing the winning envelope to mean what it needs to mean in our sport.

“It’s different because there’s 43 teams, not 1 or 2, 2 or 3, some tournament thing here. We’re in a situation where, you know, in some cases winning can’t be possible. So we can’t have a winner-take-all, per se, like some of the other playoff systems.”

The chase has only undergone two major changes since its debut six years ago.  Debuting with a ten-driver field that competed over a ten-race playoff to decide the series’ champion is now a 12-driver field.  As always, points are rest to 5,000 points after 26 races, but NASCAR has since added ten additional bonus points for every win to a driver’s point total.  Thus “seeding” the drivers based on race wins.

Further decisions on changes to the chase will take place after meetings inside NASCAR over the next few months.

“It wouldn’t be surprising for us to take back the original objectives,” France said. “We’re happy with the Chase. It just means that if we can enhance it in a pretty significant way, we may do that. So that will be the thing that we decide in the next couple of months.”

Changes that have been rumored include an addition of the road source and a change that would make the Chase an elimination type playoff, with positions being eliminated from contention every week or two.

Jimmie Johnson, who has won four-consecutive titles under the Chase format, said that he doesn’t mind some sort of elimination process, but he doesn’t think a winner-take all setup would be fair.

“I don’t mind some type of elimination process, but I think that when you come down to crowning the champion, it can’t be about one race and that option has been thrown around as well,” Johnson said. “I just think that’s unfair.  I think it takes away from the history of our sport and we’re already down to 10 races to crown a champion, to have things reset after nine and winner take all—I just don’t think it reflects and respects what our sport is about.  But I’m just one opinion; I’m sure there are many other out there.”

In the end, however, making sure the chase sticks to the history of the sport is the most important thing to Johnson.

“The thing I keep questioning them on is making sure that it follows the history of our sport and a champion is crowned in a way that respects the past and past champions” Johnson said. “Some of the ideas I’ve heard are absolutely crazy—it’s more of a craps shoot than anything.  That side of it, if it comes down to it, I wouldn’t agree with, but it’s not my series and I don’t get to make those decisions, so we’ll just role with it and see what happens.”

One thing that isn’t likely to change is the number of teams at Stewart-Haas Racing.

According to Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet, there is a “zero-percent chance” of a third team next season.  Well, maybe not a zero-percent chance, as it all depends on sponsorship and funding.

“I would say there’s probably a zero-percent chance we’ll expand to a third team for next year,” Stewart said during a national media teleconference this week. “We’re still trying to fill the void when Old Spice changes this year.  We’re talking to a lot of great people.  There’s a lot of good opportunities out there.  It’s just a matter of finding a pack a package that works for somebody to fill out spot.  There’s still races we’re trying to take care of on Ryan’s car.

“The hard part about it is, it just takes funding.  We could be up to a four-car team very quickly.  But it takes funding to get it done.”

News ‘N’ Notes, Chicago

  • Curtis Aldridge, crew chief for the No. 49 team, was fined $10,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until December 31, 2010 for an improperly attached weight that caused a crash during a Nationwide Series practice session at Daytona last week.
  • Gary Showalter, crew chief for the No. 40 team, was fined $5,000 for a venturi height that was not dimensionally correct.
  • Jeff Gordon is set to make his 600th start of his career.  Amazingly, every one of those starts are consecutive.
  • Jimmie Johnson is a new father.  His wife, Chandra, gave birth to their first child — a baby girl.  Both mother and baby are doing fine, according to a spokesperson for Johnson.  A name has not yet been decided, however Johnson referred to her as “Baby J” in a statement. She weighed 6 lbs., 14 oz. and measured 19.5″ long.  She was born on July 7 at 1:44 p.m. ET in Charlotte, N.C.
  • Johnson is also searching for his first Cup Series win at Chicago — the home track for his crew chief, Chad Knaus.  Chicago joins Homestead, Michigan and Watkins Glen as current tracks that Johnson is winless at.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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