New Hampshire Rear View Mirror

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If Sunday’s race wasn’t the best Chase opener in history it was certainly in the team photo. (Photo: Getty Images)

The buzz heading into Chase 2010 was positive in and around NASCAR Nation. Most everyone around the sport felt like this would be a very competitive Chase - wide open was the term used liberally in the week leading up to the start of the championship run - and if it was overly optimistic to think any of the 12 drivers in this year's playoff lineup could win having three or four battle for the crown seemed realistic.

However, outside of the stock car enthusiast arena the start of NASCAR's championship sea on seemed to go a bit unnoticed.

Drivers did a multitude of media appearances in the days leading up to the New Hampshire kickoff and the sport did grab a few headlines and ink. But the glitz and glamour that should surround the start of a major sport's playoff season was more of a dull roar.

Part of the problem is of course being buried by the mighty NFL. With a full slate of games on Sunday, NASCAR had to fight for any publicity it could muster.

There's nothing NASCAR or any other sport can do about that. Unless a league or sanctioning body is willing to sacrifice September through February and basically shut down, the NFL will be a heavyweight that must be dealt with.

Throwing the green flag in the quaint but hardly major market location of Loudon, New Hampshire doesn't help the cause. The track is a great venue, the fans support it tremendously and the racing is exciting. But New Hampshire Motor Speedway does not carry the gravity of a Daytona, Talladega, Darlington or Bristol.

Next year the Chase moves to the big city for it's opener with Chicagoland Speedway set to inherit the lid lifter. That move should allow for more major market media exposure at least leading up to race, but I'm still concerned with just now much coverage the weekend will get battling for attention against the frenzy of the Bears as well as the rest of the busy Chicago sports landscape.

The best way to generate the kind of spotlight the Chase opening race deserves continues to be a Thursday night prime time start. The NFL has demonstrated how successful that idea can be and just enjoyed record TV ratings when the Saints and Vikings began this year's schedule two Thursdays ago.

NASCAR needs to take some dramatic steps to break out of he increasing clutter that divert so many fans' attention these days. The opening of the ten races to decide the championship should be a bigger deal than it was this year. A stand alone stage would help.

  • If Sunday’s race wasn’t the best Chase opener in history it was certainly in the team photo. Hard racing, lots of drama and a surprise winner added up to a great way to open up the NASCAR championship season on Sunday.

  • A race like the one we saw on Sunday will hopefully squelch the talk of NASCAR tinkering with the Chase format next year. Twelve drivers are plenty and there’s no need to have some kind of formal elimination. That will happen naturally through the racing on the track and there’s no doubt some drivers who hope that isn’t the case after their finish on Sunday.

  • I find it laughable that some fans still complain their favorite driver doesn’t get enough coverage or attention during the Chase and the focus is on the twelve guys running for the title. Duh. Guess what, if you want your driver to get more of a spotlight make sure he makes the Chase or at the very least run upfront in the final ten races of the year. Several non-Chasers were in the mix on Sunday and received the exposure warranted. Simple math – run in the lead pack and you’ll get noticed.

  • A few empty seats but not too shabby to say the least with another solid crowd turning out at New Hampshire. Sunday was the last time Loudon will host the Chase kick-off with the opener moving to Chicago next year. I wonder how that will impact the turn styles at both tracks in 2011.
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