Good idea or bad idea: A road course race in NASCAR’s Chase

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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.

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”