The 2014 Sprint Cup just got more ridiculous as NASCAR chairman Brian France announced the new rules for the championship series today.
The “Chase for the Cup” has been around since 2004. Essentially, it’s meant to be the playoffs of NASCAR’s top racing series. What they did is simple, in theory: the points are reset for the top 10 drivers for the last 10 races of the season, mathematically eliminating all other drivers from championship contention. Then, these 10 drivers are given bonus points for having wins during the regular season, and the field is set.
This worked, sort of, but in many ways it changed things for the worse. For instance, drivers who had consistently performed better over the prior 26 races in the season were shortchanged more easily by bad performances or misfortune in the last ten. The most notable instance is Jeff Gordon, who, were it not for the Chase format, would have six championships to his name. He currently has four.
So the fans complained, and eventually NASCAR revamped the Chase again, this time allowing 12 drivers instead of 10. That’s fine, but today, Brian France and company have gone completely off the deep end with what they announced for the 2014 season.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup has now been extended to include 16 drivers. A greater emphasis has been placed on race wins, too. If you win a race, you are virtually guaranteed a spot in the Chase. If there are more than 16 winners, tiebreaker spots are awarded to the driver that has more points through the regular season. Bonus points for wins during the first 26 races of the season will still assist here.
The new Chase will still be 10 races – sort of. After the first 3 races, some drivers get eliminated from contention for the cup. Likewise at race 6 and race 9. However, if you win a race in the Chase, regardless of position, you advance to the next elimination segment. So yes, if the driver in 16th place wins a race in the first segment, the driver in 13th is displaced. Then, after the first 9 races are done, you are left with a field of 4 drivers in contention for the championship. What happens next, you ask? Points don’t matter anymore. Whoever finishes the highest in the final race of the season wins the championship.
Go home Sprint Cup, you’re drunk.
Essentially, what they have done is trivialized the entire 36 race season down to a single weekend event. You can win 14 races in the regular season, 5 more races in the Chase (yes, I know the odds are against you here, but hear me out), and then have an accident on the first lap of the final race completely eliminate you from the championship that you earned by BEING THE BEST DRIVER ALL YEAR. That’s right. Winning over 50% of the races in the entire season doesn’t matter. Just your finishing position during one race at a track that isn’t particularly exciting to watch (I’m sorry, Homestead. We can still be friends).
2014 Sprint Cup Chase Rules
- Races 27-36 of Sprint Cup season
- 16 drivers – all season winners or the top 16 in points after races 1-26
- Drivers eliminated from contention after race 29
- More drivers eliminated after race 32.
- More drivers eliminated after race 35.
- Only four drivers will be eligible for the championship at race 36
- The highest finisher of race 36 wins the Sprint Cup, regardless of performance in the previous 35 races
Perhaps it’s an attempt to turn the final race of the season, held at Homestead-Miami Speedway, into a “Super Bowl” of NASCAR, but it’s not going to go down well with fans. Maybe Brian France forgot about it, but NASCAR already has a Super Bowl. We call it the Daytona 500, the Great American Race, and it already has its own set of special rules that differentiate it from other races.
Brian France says that this format, “makes every race matter more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races, and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race,” and then continues by saying that this is, “exactly what fans want.”
Not this fan, Mr. France.
Jokes aside, how about you? Do you think this is as terrible as I do? Will you still watch? Honestly, after following the NASCAR Winston… err… NEXTEL… um… Sprint Cup since 1994, this just might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I guess now I’ll have more free time for blogging on Sundays.