|nascar (Photo credit: rogerblake2)|
First off, NASCAR isn't like football. I'm not sure it needs a Super Bowl.
While it may very well be a team sport, few fans see it that way. NASCAR fans focus on their favorite drivers--period.
So, when only 12 of them matter, which is what happens during the final 10 races of the season--the Chase for the Championship--that leaves 31 other drivers and their fan base out in the cold.
With the number of empty seats at races, it seems that NASCAR can ill afford preferential treatment of just a few drivers. With all the changes that have come to NASCAR in the past several years, mostly due to the leveling of competitiveness through NASCAR-imposed rules both in the car and the teams, the sport is seeming losing fans around every turn. I would think the last thing NASCAR would want to do is whittle away at its shrinking audience. Yet that is exactly what the Chase does.
While some small changes have been made in order to appease fans, most of NASCAR's changes are profit-driven. From a fan's perspective, one step forward is taken, but always followed by ten steps back. NASCAR's quest for every dollar they can get their hands on has made them far less appealing to so many.
Focus on the drivers
Let's face it; if my driver isn't in the Chase, he is far from Sunday's spotlight. That isn't fair to the sport, the drivers, or the fans of the 31 other drivers.
Because fans of the sport are focused on their favorite drivers, those whose drivers are not among the 'elite', may not bother to watch or attend the last ten races, especially if one or two drivers have dominated the season and the final ten races. By dominating, I don't mean winning. While the current points structure finally rewards race winners, it still isn't an assurance that the winning-est driver will become the champion. A consistent driver may trump a winning driver in the battle for the best. That leaves a bad taste in the mouths of fans who expect the best to be the winning-est as well.
Yet, if the same driver wins consistently, the sport becomes too predictable, and loses its appeal. Now last year, when Tony Stewart came from behind to win five out of the last ten races--that was one to watch.
Certain race tracks
Oh, there will always be certain tracks that promise excitement. Talladega and Daytona are always unpredictable, which makes them exciting. The short tracks, with their beatin' an bangin' are a real draw. Road courses are fun to watch too, as somewhat of a novelty. The key to a good race is its unpredictable nature. NASCAR had done everything in its power, to make racing predictable. But let's face it, watching a bunch of drivers turning left has little appeal to anyone. It is also pretty boring when a driver obviously and knowingly, lays back to wait for the last 100 laps.
Let's face it--if my favorite driver is virtually ignored during the pre-race shows which focuses on the top drivers, why should I watch the last ten races? If my favorite driver is never shown on TV, cameras rarely follow him on the track, none of the commentators talk about him, or he is never interviewed, what is my incentive to watch? I don't particularly like Jimmy Johnson. I've seen him win often. One time is just like the next. I am not a Dale, Jr. fan and frankly am sick of hearing NASCAR and its favorite commentators gush over him. I'm embarrassed for him.
Competition is the draw
Actually, the best part of the season occurred, not in the top one or two spots, but just beyond the top 10. That momentum and the excitement it provided, died when the chase began.
When Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, and others fought hard for the wildcard spot in the Chase, that was exciting. All the fans for all of those drivers bit fingernails, as they watched points add up with each car their favorite driver passed on the track.
Eliminate the Chase
For me and the millions like me whose drivers suddenly become irrelevant after September at Richmond, the season is over anyway. During the regular season, I make time to watch practices and qualifying. I usually catch most of the pre-race shows and of course the race. I'd love to see that excitement last until Homestead in November. I believe that fight for points should last for the entire season.
What would be wrong with continuing the regular season to Homestead?
Or, if a championship run has to take place, why not one final race with just the top 12 drivers. One final race with only 12 drivers would be a winner takes all. Changes such as these might make for a more interesting, dynamic experience for race fans. Perhaps they would come back to watch again.