When NASCAR announced in 2004 that they would be instituting the Chase, I have to admit I was a skeptic. Why punish a guy who has had a perfect season, but wasn’t so great in the final few races? And then I got to thinking, isn’t this what every other major sport does? The Chase for the Sprint Cup has added a new dimension to the sport we love, creating a playoff system that has altered the course of more than one season.
As we enter the third race in the Chase this week at Kansas, things are looking drastically different than they did coming out of Richmond. Points leader Kyle Busch now sits in 12th place, with the odds stacked against him. Carl Edwards has emerged as Mr. Consistent and Greg Biffle has surprised many with his back-to-back wins. Even Jimmie Johnson is getting in on the act, tied for second with Biffle, just 10 points away from the lead.
One argument against the Chase is that, for the most part, early season success does not do the leader a lot of good coming into the final stretch. Sure he has a 40 point lead, but that can easily be wiped out in one race. Any bobbles can mean the end of his season. While I do agree with this to some extent, I think the Chase makes the sport more interesting as the season winds down. Before, there was often a clear championship front-runner by this point in the season, today though, any one of the top 12 cars has a shot. It makes for good TV, and enjoyable competition. Just look at Dover last weekend as an example.
This playoff is really not unlike any other sport. Remember last year when the Patriots had their almost undefeated season? What happened when they got to the Super Bowl? They lost to a 14-6 Giants team that only got to championship game by winning the NFC Wild Card.
Success in sports often comes down to clutch moments. You can lead eight of nine innings in a baseball game, but if the other team is only a few points behind you, a loss could come very easily. The same is true in racing. You may have won several races throughout the season and been on top in the standings, but if you can not get it done when it matters most, you won’t win and frankly don’t deserve to win the championship.
There are still eight races left this season, plenty of time for a turn around. However, I can not stress enough how important consistency is for success. Winning the race every week is not necessary, but finishing in the top five or ten is.
So now it’s your turn. What were your initial thoughts on the Chase? Do you like where it is today? Would you like to see some changes to the system? Let us know what you think!
* P.S. Sorry for not posting in the last couple of days. I have been swamped with other things and TC has graciously picked up my slack. Thanks for the patience.