By TOM HIGGINS
So now the 10-driver field is set for "The Chase" in quest of NASCAR's Nextel Cup championship.
And the sport's traditionalist are grumbling that a "playoff" over the final 10 races has supplanted a season-long tussle for the treasured title.
No one stands taller in NASCAR tradition than Richard Petty, The King of stock car racing who drove to an unbeatable record 200 victories and who shares the mark for championships at seven with the late Dale Earnhardt.
Don't count King Richard among the grumblers.
Petty has praise for The Chase, and he explained why in writing the foreword of a new magazine devoted to the shootout, "Race For The Cup," published by Mainstream Media of Clearwater, Fla.
"Of the seven NASCAR championships that I was fortunate enough to win, I think four of them were under different point systems.
"To me, the point deal that NASCAR now has in place is better than any of those we had when I was driving.
"Heck, one system back years ago based points on how big the race purse happened to be. You could even earn fractions of points. It was very confusing--tough even for us to figure out, and almost impossible for the fans to keep up with.
"So I think this new setup is great, especially from the standpoint of where the sport is now, with live telecasts of the races playing such a big part and creating all the new fans.
"Modern-era fans of practically all the big-time sports are accustomed to having playoffs at the end of seasons. Playoffs add to the excitement and make it possible for more teams to have a chance at winning championships.
"Now, NASCAR has a playoff, too, and it has both intensified the competition and boosted interest by a bunch.
"Among fans, the interest doesn't just center on the final 10 races where points count for the championship. Things also are real compelling in the six or seven races leading up to the last 10 as we watch who is going to qualify for the 'playoff' and who is going to fall out.
"What NASCAR has done, then, is create a situation where there's more anticipation among fans and more storylines for the media in the last half of the season than there ever was before.
"I think coming up with what's being called 'The Chase' is one of the better things the NASCAR leadership has done in a long, long while and I congratulate them for it."
Being an ol' fogey who has covered and followed NASCAR since 1957, I grumbled, too, when The Chase came into being in 2004. It simply seemed too drastic a departure from the points plan that had been in place for three decades.
However, I've changed my mind. A 10-race showdown to cap a 36-race season adds loads of extra excitement.
And if it has the praise of an icon like Richard Petty, it's certainly good enough for me.
September 12, 2005 in Sports | Permalink
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The King speaks. And if anyone should know the rights and wrongs of racing its Richard Petty.
Posted by: MBVoelker | Sep 12, 2005 10:58:03 AM
Having gone through the first playoff format, not only have I not changed my mind about it, all the first format did was prove the doubters correct.
First of all, the Chase does NOT - repeat, NOT - add more excitement. There are more storylines, true, but they're not about going for any kind of race win; they're about "what position do I finish in to get into the playoffs?" That isn't excitement, that is contrivance. There is literally ZERO emphasis on winning the race and absolutely no incentive to win the race.
What the Chase has done is contrived a reason to get excited over a battle for 20th in the field. Contrived is the proper term, because racing for 20th isn't what racing is supposed to be excited about. It is impossible to be exciting unless they HAD TO WIN THE RACE to get in.
And what of the other 33-plus drivers who are now locked out of ANY shot at a top ten points position? They re-scored last year's playoff format and found massive differences in the outcome using the old system. That there were so many such differences showed the fundamental weakness of the Chase format.
Don't say there is lots of extra excitement now, because there isn't. The only way you can get excitement into the point race is to MAKE THE DRIVERS HAVE TO WIN RACES.
Posted by: Mike Daly | Sep 12, 2005 12:53:30 PM
I don't understand Mr. Daly's comments:
1. If a driver happened to win a race but place 30th or worse the rest of the season, does he win the cup?
2. Does only winning count? Because Roush could gear up and take all the mile-mile $ a half tracks and win like that, regardless of what happens at Daytona.
3. In the Chase format, a driver gets bonus points for winning and points for leading. Are you saying they shouldn't?
4. Should NASCAR not award points for second?
5. Should a driver be eliminated for placing 20th or worse?
I'm guessing that the win system would make it a battle much like the Busch series because only Stewart, Biffle and Kurt Busch have a shot right now. Right?
But Stewart has had a DNF, so's Biffle and Bucsh - so they're gone. That leaves DNF-free Rusty Wallace the champion.
Oops, he hasn't won.
Posted by: Buddynoel | Sep 12, 2005 5:16:00 PM
Mike, for your sake, I hope someday you have a chance to spend some time walking through the garage or up and down pit road in the moments leading up to and during race #26... trust me pal, it was not only exciting this weekend, but extremely tense every lap.
You can voice your displeasure all you want about the new system... that's your right and you're welcome to it. But to say it's not exciting at all... well, I respectfully disagree.
And before you talk about last year proving your "theory" about no emphasis on winning the race... how about remembering how Mayfield made the Chase that September a year ago -- HE WON!
Posted by: Hemi | Sep 12, 2005 5:29:41 PM
Good points by Hemi and Buddy. The Chase is exciting, it's changed the whole season. I'm a huge race fan and would lose a significant amount of interest when the race for first was over. I never buy the arguement that guys don't race for the win. They'll always race for the win if they have a car capable of winning but will settle their car in where it needs to be and can run beyond that. Does anyone really give a rats ass about anyone finishing in any other positon besides first when it's all over? Is 7th significant? No. So worrying about the guys who are locked out of the top-10 is pointless. None of those drivers were going to win the championship anyways. Who finished 6th, 7th and 8th last year? I'd have to look it up to find out. The chase makes a far more interesting and challenging championship. If you don't think so go back to Mark Martins comments last year about getting in and "being the hardest thing he's had to do in all his years racing".
Posted by: Tony Karais | Sep 12, 2005 9:17:17 PM
1 - If a driver wins the most races in a season, THAT is the best criteria for a champion.
2 - Winning is supposed to count, period. "Roush could win all the mile and 1.5-milers regardless of what happens at Daytona." If one of his drivers wins the most races in a season, then that makes him the strongest driver in the season - winning the most races in a season is supposed to be the best criteria for a champion.
3 - In the Chase format the drivers only get a few bonus points for winning the race and for leading. The format should be - NO PLAYOFFS, increased bonuses for winning the race and leading laps (the race winner's spread should be over 60 points and lap leader points for the race should be 5 for leading, 5 for most laps led per race quarter, and 20 for most laps led in race total) and massive quarterly and seasonal bonsues for race wins and net laps led - 300 points per season quarter for most wins, 300 per quarter for most net laps led; 500 for most wins in the season, 500 for most laps led in the season.
4 - NASCAR should award points for second on down, but they should be substantially lower than for the win; it should be physically impossible to win the title without the most race wins.
5 - Drivers should not be eliminated; right now a driver who DNFs can't make up the difference with numerous wins - it should be the other way around, you should have to fall out of a lot of races to nullify the gains made by race wins.
On Mayfield winning at Richmond to get into the Chase -
1 - I never noticed him race that hard all that race.
2 - Why the hell doesn't he (and everyone else) race that hard for the lead every race?
Posted by: Mike Daly | Sep 12, 2005 9:51:54 PM
ON Mark's comments, I'll say again what I said above -
WHY THE HELL AREN'T THESE DRIVERS RACING FOR THE LEAD THAT HARD?
Posted by: Mike Daly | Sep 12, 2005 9:56:58 PM
Before you put the crown on Petty's head, please realize that most of his wins came before the modern era of NASCAR. He wouldn't stand a chance today. Calling him the King or even equating him as Dale Earnhardt's equal is not only insulting....it's just plain incorrect.
Posted by: Jeff | Sep 14, 2005 11:06:58 AM
Richard's career achievements (which span both eras) clearly rank him as one of the greats and deserving of the nickname "The King"
Earnhardt was a great driver - you shouldn't have to diss Richard Petty to say it
Posted by: Valdez | Sep 14, 2005 12:20:20 PM
Well Jeff... you're certainly entitled to your opinion. But regardless of what "era"(I put that in quotes simply because IMO, it's a stupid way to speak of things), RP ran in, he holds records that will most certainly never be touched.
"Modern Era"... ever take notice how many times that's used in reference to Jeff Gordon, or for that matter in the past, Dale Earnhardt Sr. when referring to accomplishments? The entire reason that term came about is because if someone hadn't come up with it, Sr,Gordon, or anyone else for that matter, would have very little they could put their name next to in the record book.
I could list the "All Time" records The King holds... but that'd be a waste of space, as I figure you'd just look past them anyway. But know this... Richard Petty was, is, and forever will be, The King when it comes to Nascar. Period.
As for the Chase? I think it could stand some tweaking as I think they could make it even more exciting. Overall though, I like it. And yes, this coming from a fan of over 30yrs.
Posted by: 43fan | Sep 14, 2005 12:32:30 PM
Richard Petty set stock car racing records which will never be broken. As an aside, no one in any form of racing ever gave more time to the fans. He would make himself available hours for an autograph. I'll never forget seeing him still signing autographs when track owners were trying to shut off the infield lights after a race ended. Kyle obviously will never be a driver like his Dad, and Dale Jr. will never be as successful as his dad no matter how much help the France family gives him. I love it that TIVO allows me to skip DEI commercials.
Posted by: Dredfrick | Sep 14, 2005 9:21:05 PM
The Chase for the Chump points disgrace was, is and ALWAYS will be an illegitimate, insulting, sleezy roadside carnival gimmick that has turned what WAS the best racing in the world into just another stupid and irrelevent network sitcom and will NEVER produce a real champion. You race ALL YEAR for that title... PERIOD.
Add to this the deliberate killing of Rockingham, Darlington and soon Martinsville for that useless waste of real estate in California and you have THE unforgivable sin. NA$CAR racing is dead. It sold its soul for a buck.
After 45+ years rabidly following the SPORT, I no longer watch HRH Brian's BS series. We used to have racing with TV coverage. Now... its a TV show with VERY little racing... AND IT JUST PLAIN SUX.
At least the IRL governing body gets out of the way and allows thier drivers to actually race for thier championships.
Posted by: Gary Hammond | Sep 14, 2005 10:29:56 PM
I agree with many of the points & comments raised in this 'Track Bar' discussion.
The Chase has many faults and a few gems going for it..And whether you love 'it' or hate 'it' really depends on which driver(s) you follow.. I for one, have followed Rusty for over 10 years.. I am happy that he is now only 10 points behind..Instead of over 300 with 10 races to go ! RW would have a daunting challenge ahead of him if it wasn't for the 'Chase' format. Of course if I was a Stewart fan..I would of course be Pee ODE as HECK ! (cleaned up version).
I must admit as a purist .. I think the Chase sucks.. As a regular fan.. I think it will be fun as heck to watch !
Posted by: Larry | Sep 15, 2005 7:28:27 PM
Petty won the majority of his races against two generations of drivers who RACED FOR THE WIN. Earnhardt raced against two generations of drivers who raced for points, NOT for wins.
You statement is not only inaccurate, it is defamatory.
Posted by: Mike Daly | Oct 1, 2005 11:15:37 AM
The KING is the king, even when he's mistaken about something like this latest NASCAR faux-paus. For those who have never watched this champion race then stared in youthful awe as he shook your hand and years later watched as he hoisted both your daughters to his waist and gave a guided tour of his shop, you'll never understand. The KING is the epitome of a champion and still a down to earth good ole boy who years later, when it was mentioned at an autograph signing remembered those 2 little blondes and treated those same now young teens as princess's and insisted their STILL awe struck father call him Richard. NASCAR like its champions are no longer what they once were and this latest fiasco of a point system is IMHO appaling, the last ten races hardly worth the effort to turn on the tv....
Posted by: doc ink | Oct 3, 2005 6:03:26 AM
The Chase is a format derived from short track racing's Hooters ProCup Series, which started the Four Champions as a tribute to Alan Kulwicki in 2001.
There, a five-race showdown with the top 15 teams from each division determines the championship, with starting points based on position, with a bonus for the regular season champion.
Last year's Darlington race was the greatest example of Chase pressure. Put playoff pressure of a Game Six or a Final Four on the Lady in Black, and she shone.
Posted by: Bobby | Oct 7, 2005 2:09:59 PM