NASCAR is planning a "vast restructuring of the points system" in the Sprint Cup Series that would "greatly emphasize winning races and feature eliminations" in the Chase for the Cup, according to sources cited by Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. In addition to "expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, a win in the season’s first 26 races would virtually ensure a driver entry into the championship Chase." If there were "more than 16 winners, the 16 with the most wins and highest in points would gain entry." Once the Chase field was set, a "round of eliminations -- similar to the NCAA tournament -- would take place after the third, sixth and ninth race of the Chase, culminating with the championship determined by a winner-takes-all season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway." Should 16 drivers not win races, the remaining slots "would be filled by the drivers highest in points." NASCAR VP & Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes in a statement said, "NASCAR has begun the process of briefing key industry stakeholders on potential concepts to evolve its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format. This dialogue is the final phase of a multi-year process that has included the review of extensive fan research, partner and industry feedback and other data-driven insights" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/18).
CHANGE WOULD DO YOU GOOD: Driver Denny Hamlin on his Twitter feed wrote, "This points system change is going to be a really good thing. Trust in it and watch how exciting each Chase race is going to be." In response to the tweet, '12 Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski said that he "agreed with Hamlin." But the OBSERVER's Utter noted fans' reactions to the proposed changes "took opposite tacks -- social media posts tended to be negative, while callers on Sirius' NASCAR radio shows Friday night and Saturday overwhelmingly supported the changes" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/19).
NO SIR, I DON'T LIKE IT: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote NASCAR's "spin will try to convince everyone that a sport that stands still, that doesn't change, is a sport that falls behind." But a sport that "changes its fabric so often ... is a desperate sport, an insecure sport trying to manufacture a recipe for excitement instead of organically relying on its natural flavor." The proposed points system would "move NASCAR from professional sport to professional gimmickry." It would "cheapen the sport’s championship," and would "render totally worthless any comparison to previous championship races and formats." The new system would "just celebrate mediocrity even more while trying to manufacture an exciting finale." But NASCAR’s problem "isn't the Chase," but rather an "economic model that requires teams to hire not the best talent, but the best sponsored talent, with limited vendors for equipment that stunts competition, coupled with the inability to create an exciting game thanks to a mechanical exercise in the hands of engineers instead of drivers" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/18). SPORTS ON EARTH's Matt Crossman wrote after "spending much of the early 2000s bragging about how hot it was," NASCAR has since "cooled off." So now after "years of declines in attendance, TV ratings and the ever-sought, ever-elusive buzz, NASCAR is trying desperately to get back to where it was." The "problem is, it was never there in the first place." NASCAR officials "spend too much time concentrating on what will make NASCAR more popular and not enough time on what will make it better." Instead of "asking themselves, 'is changing the points system a good idea?' NASCAR officials ask themselves, 'will people pay more attention to us if we do this?'" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 1/18).