Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Chase for the Cup - Too Black and White?

This is a subject I feel very strong about. The Chase for the Cup is undoubtedly one of the best additions to the season that NASCAR has ever made. There's nothing like that "playoff" atmosphere in stock car racing with every race of the Chase being just as tense and critical. One single wreck or equipment malfunction can bring your quest for a championship to an end, unless that is, your Jimmie Johnson in 2006.

While the Chase for the Cup has been very successful during its first 4 years, I still think it needs some more refining in addition to the small changes that have been made. For those of you not familiar, the Chase was implemented starting with the 2004 season, with the top 10 drivers after 26 races qualifying for a shot at the championship. The point standings leader's total was reset to 5,050 points, with the other 9 positions separated by 10 points each. Whoever was on top after the final 10 races was declared the Champion.

Even though this format proved successful for the next 2 years, many felt that race wins throughout the season weren't factoring in as much as they should. A good example of this was the 2006 season in which Kasey Khane won 6 races, yet barely made the Chase by edging out Tony Stewert by 16 points. Because of this scenario, NASCAR decided to make some changes to the Chase beginning with the 2007 season. After the first 26 races were complete, the top 12 drivers would qualify for the Chase with everyone's points being reset to 5,000. An additional 10 bonus points were awarded for each race win and then the drivers were seeded accordingly.

This is where I feel that NASCAR is being a little too black and white with the situation.
I love the idea of awarding the drivers for race wins, but with this format I feel that a driver's consistency with top 5 and top 10 finishes is being totally disregarded. There are drivers such as Jeff Burton and Dale Jr. who spend virtually the whole regular season within the top 3 or 4 in the points standings because of their hard work and consistency, but because they only have 1 win, they would start the Chase in the basement. Like i said before, I'm all about putting an emphasis on winning, but without consistency you wont even make the chase and I think that needs to be a little more recognized.

Now I know you shouldn't complain unless your going to offer a solution so I will try to do that. I really think NASCAR could fix this by somewhat combining the 2 formats. Reset the standings after 26 races with drivers 1-12 separated by 10 points each, and then award the 10 bonus points for each win, or something along those lines. Drivers like Jeff Burton and Dale Jr. would still lose some positions but at least they wouldn't be in the basement for being 2 of the most consistent drivers on the track.

I also want to make this clear. This isn't an issue I have all of a sudden because Dale Jr. happens to be in this predicament at the moment. The same thing happened with Matt Kenseth last season. He was easily one of the most consistent guys on the track, sitting near the top of the point standings during the first 26 races. But because he only won one race, he started the Chase at the bottom.

As always, comments/opinions are welcomed.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

DEI in need of assistance?

I wanted to start with this subject because I found this an interesting development. A couple reports surfaced recently suggesting that Dale Earnhardt Inc. was possibly sniffing around for potential money-backers or maybe even a buyer. Of course President Max Siegel was quick to deny the rumors which is obviously the common practice in a situation like this. Now we all know that NASCAR is directly affected by our economy, and right now, our economy isn't in the best of shape. However, DEI has always been in the upper echelon as far as Cup teams on the track go. So if there is in fact some substance to these reports, then why the sudden financial issues? Especially when all the other teams in that upper echelon such as Hendrick, Gibbs, Childress, and Roush don't seem to be having these issues. Again, this is all purely speculation, but I feel that it has something to do with the departure of Dale Jr. Now I know that selling t-shirts and hats isn't going to fund a Cup team, but 45% of all NASCAR merchandise sales is made up of Dale Jr. merchandise. That sounds like a decent chunk of change to me.
After Dale bailed, this is what the team is left with:

Martin Truex Jr. - He's pretty much the "flagship driver" of DEI if you really want to call him that. He was money in the bank in the Busch series but has left something to be desired as far as Cup racing goes. He had a nice first and only win at Dover last season and has the occasional decent finish. He could possibly excel in better equipment but that's a different story for a different day.

Aric Almirola - He'll take over the 8 car full time next season when Mark Martin comes over to the Good Guys to drive the 5. Aric has shown some potential in the Busch series but its hard to imagine he'll be something to watch out for.

Regan Smith - I would probably bet my bottom dollar that this team/driver gets dropped come next season if something else doesn't happen first. If the financial issues are in fact true, you've got to start by cutting the dead weight, and this team would be first on the list.

Paul Menard - He, along with Martin, showed some great driving ability in the Busch series. I think his biggest issue in making the transition to a Cup car was that it came too soon. When Michael Waltrip decided to leave to start his own team, Paul was put in the car right away. He looked great for the first half of the July Daytona race this season, but that's about it.

So what does all my rambling mean? DEI could really use some improvements on the roster to bring in some more money or else they could find themselves in the same company as teams like Yates, Ganassi, and maybe even Furniture Row Racing.
I will leave you all with this final thought on the subject: Wouldn't it be ironic if Teresa did in fact sell the team after denying Dale Jr. majority ownership and making ridiculous requests when Dale wanted to bring the 8 to Hendrick? I hate to say it, but I've always had this feeling that maybe Teresa isn't the best candidate to own a NASCAR team. I'm just putting it out there.