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We are just a couple of weeks away from the start of the 2014 NASCAR season and everyone is really excited about the new season. Everyone’s excited because of all the changes that are happening this year. NASCAR has gone to group qualifying instead of cars qualifying by themselves. They have also made changes to the Gen-6 cars, which debuted last year, to improve the racing on intermediate tracks.
However those aren’t the biggest changes this year. The biggest change in the history of the sport came on Thursday when NASCAR changed the Chase for the Sprint Cup format. The Chase field has been expanded to 16 drivers, with winning during the first 26 races being the main criteria for making the Chase.
The Chase will be broken down into three three-race segments and the season finale, with four drivers being eliminated after each segment. The season finale is a winner take-all with the highest finishing driver winning the championship.These changes should result in a very exciting season. But why the major overhaul of the Chase format?
NASCAR Chairman Brian France, who announced the changes, said that they wanted to put more emphasis on winning and get rid of points racing. He said that this new format will make the drivers race harder for wins and make every race of the season important. I agree that every race is more important now. Every race is important because if you don’t win, then you may not make the Chase.
However, I don’t believe that this will make the drivers race harder. They are already driving as hard as they can to win. Another reason and perhaps the major reason for this change is France’s desire for a “Game 7” moment and to be like other sports. France wants to have the championship be like a game 7 in other sports, something like what happened in 2011, when Tony Stewart beat Car Edwards for the title in a tiebreaker. However the desire for a “Game 7” moment is moving the sport away from being different.
Being different from other sports is what makes NASCAR great, but NASCAR loses that difference with this format. The new format is basically an admission by NASCAR that the way that they determined the champion was the wrong way to go, according to USA Today. I think that determining the champion in a way similar to other sports is wrong. NASCAR is losing its uniqueness by having the champion determined this way.
What I like most about this format change is the emphasis on winning. Gone are the days of just being consistent and points racing. You now have to win to be in the Chase and to win the championship. However there is a possibility that a driver could win the championship and not win a race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have won the title last year under this format, Sporting News reports. I think that the champion should be someone who wins, so hopefully we don’t see a driver win the championship without winning a race. Overall I like these changes made by NASCAR. They should provide entertainment and great racing.
Only time will tell if this championship format is right for NASCAR. We’ll just have to wait and see.
image: Wikimedia Commons