From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Your reactions to potential changes to the Chase

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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Where is Jeff Gordon hiding? (Getty Images)

Once the season starts, throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg. We'll post them here, have a good time and everyone's happy.

As you may have noticed, the season hasn't started yet. But we needed to have a special edition of Happy Hour after what surfaced on Friday night. We asked for your feedback and you responded. Do you like the proposed ideas for the Chase? How would you structure the Chase?

The responses we got were all over the board as the most critiqued and discussed thing in NASCAR history has gotten even more critiqued and discussed. Let's do this, shall we?

To recap, the idea that was reported in the Charlotte Observer had an expansion of the Chase field to 16 drivers. Those 16 drivers would make the Chase with a win, and any spots left would be filled by points. (If 13 drivers had wins in the first 26 races, the top three winless drivers get in.) Then, four drivers would be eliminated after the third, sixth and ninth races of the Chase, leaving a winner-takes-all (shootout-style?) race at Homestead between the top four. Got all that? Good. We're now on the same page.

I really think Brian may be on to something with this idea. We saw how conservatively drivers played Talladega this year, and on the verge of eliminations, it stands to reason that it would be even more of a conservative race. Talladega is the sixth race of the Chase in 2014.

Without the benefit of an extra race to make up points, you could see many drivers on the bubble playing it very safe and refusing to take a risk late in the race. Sure, you could have a driver who needs to make three passes in the final three laps to survive, but it may be more likely you have a driver who needs to not lose three places in the final three laps. That latter driver isn't going to make a move.

Eliminations happen naturally in the Chase, and we're kidding ourselves if we don't think it's an "elimination" format already. But the prospect of tossing four teams out of the Chase after Talladega makes me fear an anticlimactic race. And we don't watch Talladega races to be bored, do we?

Now, let's start with some suggestions for format. I've wondered about this idea for a while now.

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To add four more to the chase would be lame. If NASCAR wants to make it more interesting, do this!
Have the 12 be awarded points relative to the 12, not the other 31. In other words, if a person blows a engine or gets caught up and ends up last, give them 12th or 11th place points vs 43 or 42nd. That way when it comes to Florida, it will be an eight or nine horse race vs one or two.
And another thing, in 2013 how many in the chase didn’t have a win?
- Mike

First off, three drivers entered the 2013 Chase without a win. If the expansion to 16 happened in 2013, 11 drivers would have entered the Chase with wins, leaving five to make it without a win. Those five would have been Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray, who would have snuck in by a single point over Brad Keselowski.

Secondly, I like the idea of ranking the Chase drivers amongst themselves. Granted, NASCAR has trumpeted the idea of Chasers racing against the entire field throughout the Chase, but it's not unprecedented for a marketing U-turn to happen. And if the sanctioning body is going for the "game 7" feel, then it's not crazy to simply rank the drivers competing against each other. They're already on a different points level.

It would certainly keep things competitive with or without eliminations, and could intensify the racing within the Chase. Suddenly, 10th place wouldn't be 34 points out of a possible 48. If you're 10th among Chasers, it could be three out of a possible 12. All the sudden 10th isn't so good.

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Basically, the Chase is fundamentally sound. But it is obvious to many fans that Jimmie Johnson has it "figured out." He has the last 10 Chase races figured out or dialed in. The last 10 races never change venue. During Daytona, NASCAR could have a "lottery pick" type system for picking the last 10 races for the Chase. Tracks that only have a chase race (like Homestead) would have a race during the season. You could poll the different tracks to see if they want to be included as well as if they have available dates.
There would be a couple of races that would be in the Chase regardless; Daytona and Talladega. The present format has several drivers in the running until Talladega. As a matter of fact, most fans know the races leading up to Talladega don't mean a lot until this race. The drivers have little or no control in getting caught up in the big wreck, which throws the Chase in a spin! Driver's hate it. Fans love it. You would also have 2 short track races. They could be a lottery pick by themselves. That leaves 6 lottery picks where no one knows where the races will be until the start of the season. The day of the lottery pick could create excitement with the media coverage. It would keep the teams from "dialing in" the last 10 races of the Chase..... like Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson. I promise you would bring the fans back to the tracks and TV that left because of the predictability that exists now.
- James

The idea that the Chase needs to change because of Jimmie Johnson is absurd. No other sport would change because of another team's dominance. And while we can criticize NASCAR for changing the Chase, I don't think Vader is one of the reasons. Heck, the top storyline on the media day teaser email that the sanctioning body sent out was his run at title number seven.

Does the Chase need a shake up of tracks? Sure, let's get some new circuits in there. Does the Chase need two restrictor plate tracks? I'm not so sure. It needs another short track, and potentially a road course, but with four plate races in 36 races, two in the final 10 seems a bit much.

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I think the championship challenge should be from the 1st race. The highest total of points at the end of the season would win the championship. This is the best way, this would make more races interesting – they are beginning to get quite boring – everyone knows that once the chase begins and you are not in it you only work towards the next year or to see who you can screw out of it.
- Judy

NASCAR had this for many years and decided that it needed to be spiced up. It's not going to come back. This argument against the Chase can also be used towards it as well. Without the Chase, many teams are out of the title Chase in August, and maybe even before. If you're 18th in the final 10 races with or without a Chase, your team's goals aren't changing based on the presence of a playoff.

And who would be getting the (metaphorical) screws? Am I missing something?

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I think the last three races should take the top 5 drivers start them all even at 0 points. Unless they win the pole give them a bonus point and let’s have a shoot out, that way no one can just run away with it and make it a tight finish.
- Brian

I could get behind this idea as well. I'm just not sure I'm in favor of one race determining the champion of a 36 race season. Yes, the MLB playoffs get heat because of their small sample size and tendency to produce random results. But that's a possible 11 (at fewest) or 21 (at most) games for a World Series winner. Either of those numbers divided by 162 produces a greater percentage of the season than one race does divided by 35.

Would it be dramatic? That's very likely. Would it be our best barometer of a champion? No way. It's obvious that NASCAR is looking for that balance. We'll find out soon enough where it thinks that balance is.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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