Roger Diez: Tweaking Chase is a bad idea
January 26, 2014
For years I've accused NASCAR of edging ever closer to the WWE in terms of gimmicks to improve the attendance and TV ratings. Well, according to an article last week in the Charlotte Observer, the sanctioning body is getting ready to deteriorate into the chair-throwing, hair-pulling, histrionic levels of pro wrestling. NASCAR has floated a proposal to modify the Chase for the Championship, itself a departure from 50 years of allowing the best driver/team win on season point standings. If you haven't yet heard, Brian France wants to create "game seven moments", borrowing from baseball's World Series, by expanding the Chase field to 16 drivers and then whittling down the field by eliminating drivers during the final 10 races, leaving only four to contest the season-ending race with a winner-take-all shootout. All the details are yet to be ironed out, and feelings are definitely mixed on the proposal. On one website I visited, fans were eight to two against, but on the Sirius Speedway call-in radio show that statistic was reversed. Some folks were advocating a return to the good old days of a straight-through season with no reserved spots by points or past champion's provisional, while others wanted to tweak the NASCAR proposal even further. A 12-race Chase with a road course thrown in was the one I liked the best.
The bottom line is that no matter how NASCAR tries to create those "game seven moments", our sport is different from the others. The World Series, the Superbowl, the NCAA Final Four, and all the college bowl games boil down to two teams fighting it out on the field or the court. They don't have 41 other teams on the field at the same time, all trying to win that last game. And in the final analysis, NASCAR's attempts to lure non-fans with gimmicks will only serve to alienate many of their long-term fans.
The 2014 racing season got underway yesterday, when the green flag flew on the Daytona Rolex 24. The checkered flag will drop at in just a few hours, so tune in to FOX Sports 1 if you want to catch the closing laps. It is 52nd running of the race, and the first event for the TUDOR United Sports Car Series, an amalgam of the old Grand-Am and American LeMans series. Sixty-seven cars were scheduled to start, racing in four different classes: Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT LeMans, and GT Daytona. As I wrote a few weeks ago, a number of stars from NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula 1 will be in the field. Young Kyle Larson, who has so far shown talent in midgets, sprint cars, and stock cars, is having his first outing in a Prototype sports car, driving number 02 Ford Ecoboost-powered Riley for Chip Ganassi Racing. It will be interesting to see how he does this weekend.
Several Formula 1 teams introduced their 2014 cars last week, all new designs based on the drastically changed technical regulations. Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, and Lotus all released photos, and the most notable difference between them is the nose treatment. All the teams expect to continually develop their cars throughout the season, particularly after the first test coming up this week.
Minden's Tanner Thorson acquitted himself well at this year's Chili Bowl classic in Tulsa last weekend. Thorson won his heat and his qualifying race and transferred to the A feature, where he finished 17th out of the 24 starters. Just making the A feature at the Chili Bowl is a major accomplishment among the Midget racer ranks, let alone winning two of the preliminary races. It's a great start to Thorson's 2014 season.