Chase On Pace
August 14, 2009 | 12:00 A.M. EST
As the format goes through its sixth year, what about the Chase rubs some fans the wrong way?
The fact that NASCAR gets put into a bigger spotlight in the fall as the playoff format plays itself out?
Or the wild battled to just get into the championship stretch over the end of summer months, which in the past had been punctuated by many the Bristol night race as a "must see" event?
How about the title race going down to the last event of the season in Homestead rather than being sewn up two or three weeks before the official close of the season?
I don't see what about the old format of adding up points over the 36 race schedule was appealing in the first place. The season just rambled along with little or no excitement in terms of who would win the championship until maybe the last two or three races of the season.
Since the introduction of the Chase, talk about the championship begins at the beginning of the year. Where in the past only a handful of drivers had a legitimate opportunity to take home the title, the Chase idea opens the door up to a much broader spectrum.
Sure the best teams and drivers are still contenders. That would be the case in any championship scenario. It's a simple case of facts folks in any sport - the cream rises to the top.
But with the Chase the road to a title isn't as cut and dry for even the most dominant team and driver. Despite Tony Stewart's impressive "regular season," there's absolutely no guarantee he'll be the guy holding the trophy in Homestead come November.
At this point last season many were gift wrapping the championship for Kyle Busch.
How'd that work out?
This weekend's race at Michigan has an added layer of importance because of the Chase implications. Without it, Sunday's CARFAX 400 would be just another week in the long and grueling schedule that is the Sprint Cup Series calendar.
Instead we have the pressure of guys like Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth trying to hold on to their precious 11th and 12th spots in the standings. Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer need to be nearly perfect to have any chance of taking advantage of a slip by someoone within the top twelve to move into Chase territory.
And it will continue this way for the next four weeks.
It's time to stop debating whether the Chase is successful or not.
It is and as far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best ideas in NASCAR's sixty plus year history.