Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Eliminate Eliminations

I've decided I don't like this Chase format. I don't mean the Chase itself. Having been a NASCAR fan only since 2008, the Chase is all I've ever known. It is the elimination aspect of it I don't care for. I may be accused of being biased because my driver, Jimmie Johnson, was knocked out in the first round. And I don't deny that may play a part but I honestly think that is the least of it.

We all know that luck is critical in stock car racing. So many things can go wrong to determine where you end up. A wreck you had nothing to do with; a $10 part that inexplicably fails - either of them can have a huge impact on your race and your standings in the points.

Luck is part of it, whether you are helped by good luck when the caution falls just when you need it to or hurt by bad luck when a tire goes down and pitches you into the wall. Drivers know this and accept it and so do fans.

But having said that, I think we should minimize the role luck plays as much as possible. Racing should be primarily about skill. The garage's skill in building a fast car, the crew chief's skill in setting it up and making the correct changes throughout the race, the driver's skill in controlling it and communicating what is happening, the over-the-wall crew's skill in pitting it.

To me, it seems that 26 races gives everyone plenty of time to see who has proven themselves to be championship contenders. I think 12 or so drivers was about the right number. Now it is 16 but we pretty much know that anyone who is 14th, 15th or 16th most likely isn't going to challenge. Did anyone really think Paul Menard had a prayer of actually being in the championship hunt?

After that, prior to the changes, the drivers in the Chase had ten full races to try to be to get to the front of the standings. That didn't take luck completely out of the picture but it ameliorated its most drastic effects. If you had misfortune, you still had time to over come it.

Now, some of the best drivers are knocked out early with no hope of coming back. Yes, Jimmie, for one. Maybe after Talladega, it will be Matt and Junior and Kyle. After that, even if you win three or four races, it doesn't matter.

Without rounds that are independent of one another, it would be unlikely that those four drivers would be mathematically eliminated so soon.

And it isn't as much fun without them. I love NASCAR but when everyone I'm rooting for is gone, I lose part of my interest. I still watch the races but not the pre- and post-race programs. I still root for Jimmie to win the race and for Danica and Kyle Larson to do well but my heart isn't really in it.

Besides, has the eventual winner really been tested against the best clear to the end this way?

And I hate that the championship comes down to a single race. I think the Cup championship should be a marathon, not a series a quick dashes.

Just my view of it. Your mileage may vary.