NASCAR will likely announce changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Thursday afternoon. Changes that have previously been reported as an expansion of the Chase field to 16 drivers, redoing how the field is set and a eliminations throughout the Chase to set up a winner-take-all finale at Homestead.
Don't count Carl Edwards as someone who's a fan of the proposal at the moment.
"You don't want someone to win 35 races, have a blown tire in one race and not be the champion," he said. "That would seem kind of odd, juxtaposed to how we've crowned a champion – not just in NASCAR, but auto racing."
The fact that Edwards has reservations isn't surprising. It's likely that other drivers do too. But the Sprint Media Tour has a tendency for unbridled optimism. And the specter of the fine levied on Denny Hamlin for his comments at Phoenix 13 months ago looms large. Why would a driver risk criticizing something that hasn't been formally announced, especially if NASCAR could discipline that driver?
Those factors make Edwards's comments so newsworthy. The 2011 runner-up was very measured in his comments. You could tell he had thought of how he wanted to express his views for considerable time.
He brought up a scenario in which a driver dominates the 26-race NASCAR regular season, only to struggle in the first few Chase races and be immediately eliminated. But then the driver would get on a roll again and win at Homestead.
"There's a guy who has won seven Chase races and 10 or 15 regular season races standing in victory lane in Homestead (after the championship race) and not be the champion," Edwards said Wednesday at the Roush Fenway media tour stop. "That would be confusing to people."
Edwards did praise NASCAR for the changes that the sport is making to the cars. Aero packages have made single-file racing a necessity at larger tracks, and the sanctioning body held a comprehensive test at Charlotte in December to test out different ideas.
But the changes that are likely coming to the structure of NASCAR are the ones garnering the most attention. It all goes back to the "game 7" feel that was brought up by Brian France a few years ago. A game 7 that Edwards was in with Tony Stewart in 2011. After finishing second to Stewart at Homestead, Edwards lost the championship on the wins tiebreaker when the two finished tied atop the points standings.
"To me, you have to decide what you're going to do: Are we going to be the sport we were for 50 years, or are we really going to change this thing and make it different?" Edwards said. "I think they're prepared to change it and make it different. The result could be really spectacular."
We'll officially find out the direction tomorrow.
- - - - - - -