This weekend marks the end of the 10th year for the Chase playoff format in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For some, it’s important since it puts NASCAR more in line with other professional sports in having a post-season. For others, it’s a gimmick that has been around for far too long.
But I believe that both sides of the argument can agree that the schedule of tracks that make up the Chase could use a scramble. For the last three seasons, the 10 Chase facilities have remained the same: Chicagoland, New Hampshire, Dover, Kansas, Charlotte, Talladega, Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami.
Five of them are 1.5-mile ovals, and all but Talladega and Martinsville fall within that “intermediate” label of tracks between one and two miles in length. One could argue that since the majority of the Cup schedule consists of those “intermediate” tracks, the championship should largely play out on those tracks.
But with the racing product at those ovals still not all that special – even with the onset of the Generation 6 cars – it may be time to shake up the final 10-race stretch of the season. Kevin Harvick appeared to think that way on Thursday at Homestead-Miami, before Championship Weekend got rolling.
“I like the format,” he said. “[But the] things I don’t like about it are the same racetracks year after year. I think it would help our schedule, it would help some of the racetracks, help build some excitement around some different racetracks.
“I think there needs to be a road course in it. I think there definitely needs to be some things mixed up in it. I think the format is great, but I think the tracks need to change on a yearly basis.”
Harvick didn’t elaborate further on whether he thought a few or all of the Chase tracks needed to be swapped annually. That may or may not be too big a task for NASCAR to do every year.
But a road course race? “Happy” may be really on to something. Road races, along with short track events, have hosted some of the better racing in Sprint Cup over the last few years if we’re being honest.
I’m also tempted to say that a Chase road race ought to replace Talladega, which often comes down to plain old luck instead of pure driver skill – something I’d prefer to see in determining a champion. But NASCAR benefits too much from having Dega’s particular brands of danger and excitement in its playoff run.
Still, if NASCAR indeed decides to carry out big changes to its schedule in 2015, I think they’d be wise to put a road race somewhere in its post-season and add a new wrinkle.
But that’s just my opinion. I’d like to hear yours. Feel free to sound off in the comments below, just keep ’em clean.