In a press conference this morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR Chairman Brian France declared that the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format has accomplished its goals and set the right balance between winning and consistency.
The latter note may strike some as odd considering that Ryan Newman, one of the four Championship drivers that will race for the Sprint Cup title in Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400, has yet to win a single event in 2014 – and could still wind up taking the big prize over Joey Logano (five wins), Kevin Harvick (four wins), and Denny Hamlin (one win).
However, while such a scenario may not be considered by some to be ideal in a system that has put so much emphasis on winning, France insists that he would be fine if it came to that.
“Any format that we’ve ever had always has the possibility that somebody might win the championship without winning an event,” he said. “Short of us – which we’re not gonna do – making it a hard prerequisite, that you have to win a race to qualify…That takes it out of balance, frankly.”
Later in the conference, France returned to the “balance” thing when asked if the fact that a winless driver could claim the title meant there was a flaw in the current system.
“We’re not gonna be able to have a system – we don’t want to have a system that ignores consistency,” he explained. “There’s 43 teams who all compete every weekend on the same track. It’s not a basketball tournament or something else – obviously, it’s auto racing. So we need to reflect the idea of consistency.
“The question is do we have the right balance. And I would say, unmistakably, we do. I think wanting to win events has taken on an undeniable importance. At the same time, there oughta be room for teams that do it every week and can be consistent.”
He closed by adding that no matter the path, being able to make the finale and beating the other championship teams to win the title “will be an achievement for anybody” – and that NASCAR would be “delighted” if Newman emerged victorious.
Going back to the Chase format itself, France said that while NASCAR reserved the right to make changes to it for 2015, he put the chances of tweaking it for 2015 at “very modest to zero” and again mentioned that b-word.
“It’s exceeded what I had hoped for and it’s done precisely what we wanted to do, which is recalibrate competition, or winning, rather, and still have a strong place for consistency and all the rest – but recalibrate that balance,” he said.
“It’s only Year One, but clearly we’re on our way.”