Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's NASCAR's World, I Just Live In It


Once you get beyond 2 + 2 = 4, I become a math moron. I have a mental block about numbers. Trying to balance my checkbook is torture; figuring a budget is hell. I have a remarkable memory for history except that dates make my eyes glaze over. Thank heavens, by the time I got into real estate, you could buy calculators that automatically figured monthly payments if the balance was x and the interest rate was y and the term of the mortgage was z. It would not have been cool to tell prospective buyers, "oh, heck, I don't know, somewhere between $300 and $1,000."

So, you can see why I usually just shrug when NASCAR contemplates yet another change in the point system. It doesn't matter to me because I never understood the old point system. When I'm watching a race, I can't automatically figure - "let's see, he's 8th in points and he running third now so if no one else who is higher in points finishes ahead of him, he'll end up jumping up to fifth". No! I count on the announcers to tell me or I simply wait until the race is over and the standings flash on the screen. Everyone tried to convince me the last change made figuring points simpler but not for me.

Now the rumor is that NASCAR will be changing things up again. If what we read is true, there will now be sixteen drivers in the Chase. A win will automatically put you in. If there aren't sixteen different winners, they'll go by the highest in points among non-winners. There will be an elimination system in the final ten races with the field being cut by four after the third, sixth and ninth races, leaving the top four drivers to compete in a winner-take-all final race. Those four would be tied going into Homestead.

Someone who understands numbers better than I do (or who is smarter about computers) will have to tell us how that would have affected the Chase in previous years. I know that there were 13 winners in 2013. Dale Earnhardt Jr, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch made it in without winning but with only 13 winners, they would have qualified under the new system based on points. Who would the other three have been? Well, David Ragan won a race but didn't make the Chase. So did Brian Vickers (a part-time driver in 2013). Martin Truex, Jr won but was taken out because of the fiasco at Richmond. Tony Stewart won but an injury took him completely off the track for the last part of the season. Denny Hamlin probably would have won a race if not for an accident that caused him to miss several races (he's never not won a race in any year and in fact, won the final race at Homestead). If Smoke and Denny had remained well, it's very possible they both would have made the Chase.

All in all, it doesn't appear to me that this part of the change would make that much difference in terms of who is in and who is out.

Neither does the elimination process. Drivers usually unofficially eliminate themselves as the Chase moves on anyway. But now, having them enter Homestead on a level playing field, that seems as if it could be a real game changer. No one will have the luxury of being able to coast having only to finish 23rd, or whatever, as Jimmie did last year to win the championship. I'm not sure I care for that concept. It seems to give too much influence to a single race but I suppose it would be that 7th inning moment Brian France is looking for.

All of this may simply be NASCAR floating a trial balloon to see what kind of reaction they get and may not ever come to pass.

It doesn't matter much to me either way. Let the sanctioning body do its thing. I'm a NASCAR fan. Put race cars on a track and I'll watch them. End of story.