Tuesday, January 19, 2016

NASCAR's Chase To Nothing

Brian France does little more than prove he is utterly clueless about racing, and now he astonishingly has changed NASCAR's Busch and Truck Series into Chase formats despite respectable point races in those two series over the last decade without a Chase format.   France's cluelessness shows in his comments about the misbegotten format -

"When we looked at how successful the format is (in Winston Cup)...."  Stop.   There has been no success with the format in Winston Cup.   The artificial exclusion of fields from any kind of points contention for the final three months of the season, the artificial reracking of points, and the resultant lack of legitimacy to the series champion - all shown with winless Ryan Newman's reracking into title contention in 2014 and Kyle Busch's title despite missing a third of the season, and with the Racing Reference website's comparison of the Cup champ with what the actual champion would be under a points format that flowed naturally as was done until 2004 (with Kevin Harvick beating Joey Logano for the title by 21 points if 2015 was a non-Chase format) - has resulted in an undeniable net loss in popularity, attendances, and sponsorships for racing.  

"The way to win in the future is you've got to beat people, you've got to be winning, you've got to be in the crosshairs of elimination at any given moment." 

So where are the lead changes?   For any of that to be true, Brian, the lead changes would have to be increasing.  The strategy would have to be "I have to go for the lead right now."  That lead changes are nonexistent shows apart from the sport's dismal handling of technology and spending issues that drivers are NOT trying harder.   The winner of the most races is not gaining on winless drivers.    Incentive to win, far from being enhanced, has been stifled - to where Kevin Harvick's crew chief acknowledged Harvick's pursuit of win after win hurt his Chase chances in 2015..   No one is trying to win these races because NASCAR will not allow anything to be gained from it - they're just riding and trying to collect points.  

This makes NASCAR honcho Steve O'Donnell's assertion that the new format would eliminate points-racing - he cited Erik Jones' stroker ace imitation at Homestead as an example of what the Chase format will ostensibly eliminate - all the more dishonest.  

Stifling incentive to win is the inevitable result of a new format to the Truck Series - a caution clock.   Every twenty green-flag minutes will see a mandatory caution.   "We think it's going to add to the strategy during the race," says O'Donnell - this in the face of realworld evidence that knowing when cautions will fly makes drivers not try to lead.   Citing that Cup teams make pitstops under early competition cautions by O'Donnell as usual ignores what really happens - nothing changes as far as going for the lead - the only spot in a race that's worth having - goes.

In 1974 NASCAR ran a one-season-only points format that rewarded purse money won times number of starts divided by 1,000 - the purpose was to reward winning races above everything else.   That format worked - the only issue was it worked too well - the 1974 point lead changed nine times between Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough, who won ten races each; Petty outpointed almost the entire field at several late-season races because he'd won more money than anyone else, while David Pearson campaigned just 21 races and finished third in points with seven wins.   Convoluted as that point system was, it was fundamentally the correct idea - and it's what NASCAR needs, a points system that requires winning races and most laps led, with top finishes secondary to points success. 

Brian France's lack of understanding about racing continues to prove itself with another misbegotten idea for a sport woefully dry on competitive worth, a sport whose competitive apex was among the most compelling sporting dramas anyone could imagine.   2016 is supposed to be better than what Brian France thinks.

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