’09 Chase not what NASCAR wanted

Published 12:18 am Saturday, November 7, 2009

When the Chase system was developed and announced before the 2004 NASCAR season, the idea was to increase attention and excitement for the series. A playoff-type system would keep fans interested until the end of the season and compete with the popularity of NFL and college football. Or so thought the suits at NASCAR.

Somehow, I don’t think a 184-point lead with three races remaining is what NASCAR had in mind. And I don’t think the news of a possible move by a female IndyCar racer, Danica Patrick, to drive a handful of races in the Nationwide series overshadowing the Chase is what they had in mind. And I don’t think widespread criticism for a competitive decision made hours before the race at Talladega overshadowing the Chase is what they had in mind.

Somehow, I don’t think the Chase, at least the 2009 version of the Chase, is happening the way NASCAR had hoped.

I think Brian France, CEO of NASCAR; Mike Helton, President of NASCAR; and Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition of NASCAR, have some real tough decisions to make during the upcoming offseason.

The decisions made shortly before the green flag dropped at Talladega had many scratching their collective heads. The mandate of no bump drafting in the corners at Talladega was nothing new—that has been the case for the last several races there. But to hear Helton say, “We don’t want to see two cars hook up and leave the field,” was downright silly.

How do you think a driver wins at Talladega and Daytona? They get nose-to-tail, take advantage of the draft, and move to the front of the field. It’s been that way forever, especially since the introduction of the restrictor plated carburetor in the late 1980s.

Television ratings are dropping like a rock, sponsorship money is drying up, and despite furious attempts at parity, one guy is dominating the sport.

To me, the 2009 season is complete: Jimmie Johnson will be a four-time champion, and Mark Martin will record his fifth runner-up finish. Oh, I will still watch the final three races, but the excitement is gone.