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Is NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup Really That Bad?

Posted by chadmusselman on December 16, 2009

Champ JimmieYou don’t hear many people talking about how much they love the Chase for the Cup that NASCAR put into place back in the 2004 season. Whenever anyone talks about it, they usually to say how their favorite driver got screwed out of the championship because of the chase format. A lot of the “old school” NASCAR fans want the old point system back and to get rid of the chase.

Well, people, get used to it, because it’s not going anywhere soon. NASCAR may tweak it a little more, but they want a playoff system like other sports so viewership won’t fall off late in the season and make the points chase much closer. They want the last few races of the season to actually mean something. The old system did not do this. There were some drivers winning the championship by 200 or more points. With that system they didn’t even have to go to the final race a lot of the time, and they were guaranteed the championship. How is that fun to watch?

Since the chase began in 2004 the largest point difference between 1st and 2nd place was the 160 points that Jimmie Johnson won by this past season over Mark Martin. Before that the largest margin was 77 points. In the first year of the chase the top 3 finished within 16 points of each other. Now that is a real battle for the championship and makes people want to watch!

So, your favorite driver got screwed out of the championship because of the chase? Are you sure? I was at a Hooters a few weeks ago and heard a guy talking about how much he hates the Chase because for the 2009 season, “Tony Stewart got screwed out of the championship since he was leading in points when the chase began.” I don’t think so. Here’s one of the big problems. People don’t actually do their homework. They assume that since their driver was in the points lead before the chase began, they would have won with the old points system. In the old system Tony Stewart would not have won the championship, he would have finished 3rd, behind Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

In the 6 years the chase has existed there has only been one driver that led in points when the chase began, and would have won the championship with the old point system. That was Jeff Gordon in 2007. He led the points chase by over 300 points, and would have won the championship by more than 300 points. Because of the chase he ended up losing the championship to Jimmie Johnson by 77 points.

The only driver to lead in points going into the chase and actually win the championship was Tony Stewart in 2005.

The bottom line is that NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup isn’t screwing drivers out of championships. It gives more drivers a chance to win a championship, and gives the races late in the season more story lines and makes them more watchable. For those that are clamoring for the “days of old”, remember back in those days, there weren’t 43 cars at every race, people won races by a lap or more, and championships were won without even needing to participate in the last race or sometimes the last two races of the season.

The chase makes NASCAR better and more fun to watch later in the season. If your favorite driver is really as good as you think, then they’d step up their game when it counts and show how good they are. You know, like Jimmie Johnson has done the past 4 years.

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One Response to “Is NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup Really That Bad?”

  1. Vic said

    You’re absolutely right in everything you said. I think people just like to believe their driver would have won under different circumstances.

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