It's Chase time, so that means … time to pick apart the Chase.
You'd think seven years in, this debate would die down – or at least cool off. It hasn't.
Let's get to the mailbag:
The debate that never ends
Among the criticisms of the Chase format [and there's a ton of them], I think it's one of the reasons we see largely boring races through much of the first 26 weeks. All a driver has to do is get into the top-12 in points to make the Chase, which encourages "safe" driving; get into the top-12, and you have almost as good a chance to win it all as if you're 1st. Winning in the first 26 races is only worth 10 points, and there's no incentive to actually be 1st in points after 26 races.
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As long as you're in the top-12 before the Chase, why take risks and chance losing points in the process if you don't have a shot at winning the race and there's no incentive to be 1st in points before points are reset?
That seems like such an elementary question that you can't believe you're actually asking it, can you? How NASCAR came to the conclusion that the points leader at the end of the regular season isn't necessarily the points leader going into the Chase is beyond me. If you needed any verification that the regular season really doesn't matter, they're telling you right there. It doesn't.
I'm all for incentivizing wins, but if for 26 races you determine your standings based on points, why all of the sudden do wins matter more? This would be like if Major League Baseball seeded its playoffs based on home runs, the NBA on 3-pointers, the NFL on which team scored the most touchdowns.
If this is how NASCAR thinks it should seed its playoffs, then throw out points altogether and only allow in drivers who have won a race – which a lot of you are advocating already. I'm not one of them. I don't think Ryan Newman (one win) is anywhere close to being a championship contender, but I do think Carl Edwards (0 wins) is.
What I am for, as I've stated in the past, is giving more of a points bonus for wins during both the regular season and the Chase; seeding the Chase based on how you finish in the regular season; and making the differential between the seeds substantial enough that it's worth drivers' while to go for that higher seed.
As Chip rightly points out – and as Juan Pablo Montoya proved a year ago – coasting into the Chase IS an option. NASCAR can make all the changes it wants to the Chase (elimination, devise a separate points system, whatever) but it will remain flawed, to the detriment of the regular season, until they scrap this ridiculous seeding system.
Welcome to NASCAR, where the #2 guy in points over 28 races is now magically #8. The Chase was and is the biggest contrived flop in the history of major sport.
Dana Point, Calif.
Your point about the flaw in the seeding process is dead-on, John. However, I don't agree with those who complain about the regular-season points leader seeing his points lead wiped out once the Chase begins. Yes, the regular-season points leader should start the Chase as the No. 1 seed. (And whoever finishes second should be the No. 2 seed.) But seeing the points lead wiped away is no different than in any other sport where, say, the Yankees' 10-game division lead is erased once the playoffs begin.
Ranting about Richmond
That was great. The weather was nice at times and bad at times. There were some close calls, good calls and bad calls. There was action at almost every moment. It was all capped off with an exciting Victory with Joe Gibbs celebrating. I can't wait for week 2 of the NFL! See you guys in February!
Candidate for best email I've ever received, though I hope you're kidding about bailing on us until February.
Hey what do you think of ABC's coverage of the Richmond race? I kept track and up until the rain delay they went to commercial on average every 10-13 laps for 6-8 laps there were 12 commercial breaks in the first half covering 75 of the first 200 laps and only 10 of those caution. I understand the TV network needs to pay the bills but wouldn't you think with the falling TV rating they may want to show more of the race?
Ft. Stewart, Ga.
Yes, the number of commercials are ridiculous, but after watching about 10 hours of football on Sunday I realized something: The number of commercials are just as ridiculous in football. The only difference is that football isn't a continuous-action sport. If there were predetermined breaks in racing, we wouldn't be having this discussion. But there aren't, so we are.
So the way I see it, you have three options: 1. Accept that this is the way it is. 2. Let sponsors know that you're boycotting all products that you see advertised under the current commercial system, but that you'd be more apt to buy products you see advertised in a side-by-side format. 3. Stop watching altogether.
Bruton Smith on racing in California
Jay, Just wanted to say that Bruton Smith might want to think a little more before calling himself a historian. He says auto racing never has been great in Southern California and Riverside International Raceway never drew many people. Neither statement is true. During its 30-plus years in business, Riverside hosted every form of racing – from Formula One to off-road and amateur sports cars – and for major events like NASCAR and Indy Car routinely drew 50,000 to 100,000 people.
The problem people have realizing that is that only a small portion of those fans were in the grandstand. The rest were spread out over the 3.25-mile race course in motor homes, tents, etc.
As for the racing, the closest Winston Cup competition in history was settled at Ontario Motor Speedway, some of the fastest and best open-wheel races have been run at California (Auto Club) Speedway, Riverside was the birthplace of the International Race of Champions and several other events, and Long Beach is second only to Indianapolis in terms of Indy car races.
Smith's erroneous pronouncements also ignore the fact that California (Auto Club) Speedway had a very successful, sold-out NASCAR race – until NASCAR decided that two races would be better and made changes in the speedway schedule without understanding the Southern California market or taking a major factor like weather into consideration.
I don't consider the speedway a failure, although I do believe it's woefully under-used, and those who do think it's a bust have to recognize NASCAR/ISC's role in its demise.
Great email, Jim. In Smith's defense, he never mentioned Riverside by name. Still, your point is duly noted.
Great interview. I would like to add on thing about Southern California. The promotions on TV and the local TV stations participation is not their. ACS needs to get more coverage in Southern California area and more involvement on local news. We are 4 weeks away and I know fans that don't know when the local race is.
Maybe this doesn't mean much, but it's worth mentioning: I get more email from Southern California than any other part of the country. Just saying.
Are races too long?
I think they should keep the races [length] as they are. The reason for that is it will separate the good and physical driver from the rest. I go to nearly every race at Dover and you can see for yourself that at the end the good drivers take care of their car for the end of the race.
Says the guy who attends nearly every race at the one track where they've actually lopped 100 miles off its races.
Jay: in total agreement with you on the race length. My father and I said the same thing when sitting through Martinsville last year. Makes total sense.
Now onto my question: what do you think Red Bull will do next year? Is Scott Speed done, or at least going to Nationwide? If Vickers comes back with determination, and if Kahne lives up to his potential, 2011 could be a watershed year for the team. I know Red Bull has invested a lot in Speed, but all signs seem to be pointing to the exit for him.
Red Bull has a nice insurance policy in Kahne, don't they? That deal was a no-brainer in my opinion. If Vickers has to sit out another season, Kahne slides into the 83 and Speed, likely, stays in the 82. If Vickers is back, Kahne takes over for Speed in the 82. Either way it was an opportunity for the organization to rent one of the most marketable drivers in the sport. Even if it's for only one year, it's still a great deal.
Speed's situation is a bit complicated. Yes, he's made a little progress since coming to NASCAR last season. But does Red Bull want that seat occupied by a work in progress if there is potentially a better option out there? Speed's contract reportedly runs through 2011. I have a hard time seeing that being extended if he doesn't show improvement next season – and that's assuming he has a ride to actually prove himself.
Last call …
No, the races are not too long. I set aside Race Day for whatever time it takes to run the distance. If I wanted to see a shorter race with senseless driving I would go to a dirt track and see the 25 lap feature race. I am looking for 500 miles of racing and all that goes with it.
If I wait all week and get to see a 250-300 mile race in a TV time limit of about two hours, I'm done. Give me my NASCAR that was not made for cry-babies or the politically correct, cosmopolitan sipping, casual viewer who doesn't have a clue what Jr. means when he says his car is pushing, or loose as a goose. Stand up for tradition, skill, and a real race, not a made for TV mini-movie.
Ridge Island, S.C.