Changing The "Chase"

Three years ago, NASCAR came up with a way to spice up the championship battle by coming up with the idea for The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

While there are several opponents of the current system, which virtually has 10 drivers vying for the title in a playoff format during the final 10 races of the season, the system, for the most part, has worked.

In both 2004 and 2005, the championship has come down to the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the excitement The Chase has created should be undisputed.

It’s not to say that there aren’t any flaws, however. The way the points work could be tweaked here and there, with more points going to the winner of a race or something like that. But then that point has been argued for years.

What could make things better is a few more changes in the schedule. You’ve got several different types of tracks involved in The Chase — two half-milers (Bristol and Martinsville), three one-milers (New Hampshire, Dover and Phoenix), four 1.5-milers (Kansas, Lowe’s, Atlanta and Texas), and one 2.66-mile track (Talladega).

What do you say we make it a little more interesting?

Why not, for instance, take Dover out of the equation (they should perhaps take a second race there and at New Hampshire completely out of the picture), and stick a road-course event in the mix? Some drivers have yet to master the art of road-course racing, and it would certainly make teams put more effort into their road-course programs if it were part of The Chase.

Then, just for the sake of argument, why not switch the New Hampshire and Richmond dates and allow Richmond — a three-quarter-mile track that a majority of the drivers absolutely love — to be a part of The Chase? That would certainly be a popular decision among the drivers and the fans.

Instead of finishing the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which has only NASCAR Cup Series races since 1999, why not finish the season at a place like Phoenix International Raceway (same warm climate) or, to make it really interesting, a half-mile track like Martinsville Speedway? That would certainly test the intestinal fortitude of championship contenders, wouldn’t it?

Certainly, NASCAR is mulling over changes to The Chase. Hopefully they’ll make some schedule changes to make it just a bit more intense over the last 10 races.

My take on some of the rumors and news swirling around the NEXTEL Cup Series recently:

  • Danica Patrick staying in the IRL — good thing. Win a race in the IRL and then start talking about driving stock cars.

  • Elliott Sadler, where he’s going — You can probably bank on Evernham Motorsports, but, in this business, you never know. Loyalty just isn’t there any more, he should have stayed at Robert Yates Racing. Yates gave him a big chance with a big sponsor, and then he flies the coup. Same thing with Dale Jarrett. Should have finished his career at RYR.

  • Rusty Wallace coming back to finish the season in one of the Yates cars — Like Jeff Burton said last weekend at Pocono, ain’t gonna happen. Rusty’s done with Cup, everybody should get over it.

  • Tony Stewart vs. everybody — Seems like Stewart is getting on everybody’s nerves this season because of his driving. Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards. Hard to believe it, but Stewart may have a big target on his car these days.

  • Junior falling fast — It’s hard to believe Earnhardt is out of the top 10 right now. If he doesn’t watch out, he could find himself right back where he was last September, out of The Chase.
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