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Musings on #NASCAR championship changes

NASCAR has announced changes to the rules by which its champion will be decided from the season, but has it hit the right solution?

The Chase has been modified so that there will now be sixteen places, up from twelve, but this group will be whittled down until there are just four and the one of those that does best in the final race picks up the title.

In some ways the changes sound good, for they appear to favour winning rather than driving for a finish and the fans want racing don’t they? Surely a formula that results in someone who does the bulk of the winning being crowned champion has to be better?

Let’s look at the proposals. First off populating the Chase with the winningest drivers rather than those that have ground out good points finishes is a good start, but you could get a similar result from making a win worth a lot more points than second place. If a win was worth 250 points, second 125 and third 75 that would make a real difference rather than the minuscule gap that NASCAR currently uses.
The elimination process that has been announced might work better if only the Chase cars were on the track, but there will still be the full 43 car grids, so the chances of an unlucky tap ending a driver’s chances is very really (and let’s not discuss the chances of a deliberate tap).
Championships are supposed to be about a season long performance, not the last few races, but that is the sporting view and not the money men’s one. Since racing ceased to be a sport and became a show the move to fixing the result was a inevitable consequence.

NASCAR first did this with those competition cautions or the ones for phantom debris on the track to close up the field for the last 50 laps. Regular readers here will know how much we have opposed that practice, but the introduction of The Chase was little more that putting a competition caution on the championship race.

For the real fan it doesn’t matter if the title is wrapped up by mid season because we can still go to watch the racing. None of us complained when Jim Clark rattled off all those wins in ’65 and had the title won half way through the year, nor in any of those years when it was won at Monza in September. Sure the FIA tried to adjust the results by slitting the points race into two halves and cost Graham Hill the title in 1964 when he actually scored one more point that John Surtees, the practice was eventually done away with.

One hopes that NASCAR will see the error if their ways and return to genuinely sporting ways of finding a champion, but it seems unlikely and that is a shame because they do have one of the best racing championships anywhere. The specification rules are good, the mix of tracks makes a real test and the length of the races harks back to the good old days. Why then to thay need to stoop to the level of professional wrestling in deciding their champion? Because they are being led by commercial interests and not sporting ones. People who don’t understand sport, but do understand hype.
For this NACAR fan, and I have been one for nearly 50 years, I will still follow the races as individual events, but any interest I had in the championship race vanished when The Chase was introduced, and the latest changes have killed any possible revival.

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