Friday, September 17, 2021

Latest Posts

Does NASCAR Truly Need A Game 7 Moment?

By Brody Jones

There is an old addage that goes along the lines of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, if you’re NASCAR, that line of thinking does not apply as they are, yet again, pondering another change to their points system. They want to go from a system that has worked very well over the years to a 43-to-1 points system that seems to be concocted solely in a futile attempt to force a “Game 7 moment” in NASCAR to counter-act the dominance of Jimmie Johnson in the last half-decade. The big underlying problem with this line of thinking is that you cannot force Game 7 moments. They just magically happen. Take last year, for example. The Chase for the Cup had more drama last year than a Broadway production of “Hamlet”. There were three drivers in the final race within 46 points of the title. But, since Jimmie Johnson won his 5th consecutive championship, the forces behind the scenes want to make more nonsensical changes to the format.
Now change, at times, can be a good thing. But in the last six years of NASCAR, the landscape has changed so much that the hard-core fan-base that loyally backed the sport for years have become alienated and disillusioned with the product they once loved to the point that fans have departed in droves. First of all, many long-time fans have harbored a bitter grudge toward NASCAR for instituting the Chase format to keep viewers from departing during football season. The irony of that is, as much as NASCAR was made into a scapegoat for the play-off system, they actually took the idea from the then-USAR Pro Cup Series. Then the change to the COT, which altered the cars from actually remotely resembling stock cars into an unholy abonimation of a brick with wheels combined with the handling of your grandmother’s station wagon and a wing on the back that made the car not just aerodynamically unstable, but a total eyesore as well.
Of course the dominance of Jimmie Johnson has not helped the declining fan base either, as his vanilla personality and the fact that no one has ended his dominance as of yet have played a part in the ratings demise. But truthfully, is it really Jimmie’s fault that he’s just that good? Bland personality aside, the fact remains in the past five years, he has become something of an “unsinkable” commodity and has proven he is the best driver NASCAR has to offer. So what is the point of changing the points system around solely just to try and curb his dominance?
NASCAR has made a few minor changes here and there to the point system devised by former NASCAR PR director, the late Bob Latford. The system, instituted in 1975 was largely consistency-based with 5 bonus points for leading a lap and 5 more for leading the most laps. A few years back, the points system was tweaked after Matt Kenseth only won one race en route to a Chase Championship to place more emphasis on winning races. That points system had worked, for the most part, fairly well and really did not need any tweaking. But NASCAR, apparently feeling as though they needed to “spice things up”, has decided to go with a 43-to-1 point system, awarding a driver 43 points for a win and working down to one point for 43rd position, which would most likely go to an independent, or start-and-park team, depending on your point of view.
As stated earlier in this column, Brian France and Mike Helton want to desperately manufacture their own “Game 7 moments”. But those moments can’t be manufactured like a phantom debris caution, so it seems Mr. France and Mr. Helton are missing the point. You can’t make every Super Bowl a thriller. You can’t force a World Series to go to Game 7 every year. Those moments, when they do happen, are made all the more special because they are not the norm. If they become the norm in the world of NASCAR, initially fans will be appeased, but then, much like the last few years, the boredom and apathy that plagues this sport like a virus will set in again and then what do you do?
In closing, NASCAR is only exacerbating their glaring problems by trying to force their own moments. People eventually will catch on that the great championship races in NASCAR are as pre-determined as professional wrestling, which only further accelerates the downward spiral the series has had in terms of fan viewership. And besides, who’s to say that someone won’t figure out a new way to beat the system and win on consistency again instead of the most races as, playing the devil’s advocate here, it is mathematically possible to win all of the first 35 races and still lose the championship. It’s improbable that would ever happen, but that potential is there. If NASCAR truly wants to create that “Game 7 moment”, why not do an elimination format in the Chase where whoever is last in points in the Chase after each race is eliminated to truly let the best three duke it out for the championship at Homestead each year? Not only would NASCAR fans rally behind the idea, but casual fans who seem drawn to reality shows like “Survivor” would be intrigued as well. But unfortunately, this idea has not been accepted and until then? One can only dream.

Latest Posts

Don't Miss