Change Of Pace
October 22, 2009 | 3:24 P.M. EST
The reality is when the Chase went into play back in 2004, the season was simply broken into two segments - the 26 races that made up the regular season and the final ten of the 36 event calendar was then designated as the playoffs.
Maybe it's time to re-examine that plan.
I've said before that for NASCAR to really get fans excited about its playoff system there needs to be some glamour put into the program. Kicking off the Chase with a prime time Thursday night special is an idea I've championed for a while and I believe a great way to start things with a bang.
But it's equally important to maintain that excitement level over the next nine weeks. And with all due respect to a number of tracks currently part of the Chase schedule, a makeover would help achieve that goal.
One of the biggest complaints of the Chase slate has been the glut of intermediate-sized tracks over the last ten. Even with this year's change of sliding Atlanta to Labor Day and moving Fontana to a Chase date, half of the playoffs are contested at 1.5 or two-mile tracks.
That's too many and gives the Chase a feeling of sameness that I think has turned off some fans.
Rearranging the line-up to bring in another short track to pair with Martinsville would bring immediate results. And while I've resisted the inclusion of a road course to the Chase in the past, what I saw this year at Sonoma and Watkins Glen - thanks mostly to the debut of double file restarts - showed me those circuits can provide exciting and unpredictable racing.
The idea to spice things up has nothing to do with Jimmie Johnson's dominance. While it's true he and the 48 team have an unbelievable record at the ten tracks that currently comprise the Chase, it's not NASCAR's responsibility to change anything in response to one driver's excellence.
Let's be honest, Johnson and company are pretty darn good at just about any track on the Cup schedule.
But infusing some electricity into the most important part of the year is the reason NASCAR should look at a potential Chase makeover. It's been well documented just how tough a challenge it is for the sport to breakthrough in the fall against the NFL, not to mention college football and the baseball playoffs and World Series.
There's nothing wrong with ensuring the schedule visits tracks capable of providing the best racing and an interesting run to crown NASCAR's champion.