With NASCAR's Chase for the Cup heading to round 3 this weekend, I'm guessing most diehard gear heads aren't thinking about what the 2011 season holds. But back in July NASCAR CEO Brian France hinted that there could be some major changes to the Chase, beginning with the 2011 season.
I wonder if anything has happened in the first two playoff races to prompt his mental wheels to turn?
Without going into specifics, he suggested that if the format was tweaked, one change might be to eliminate drivers from contention as the Chase progresses.
That's already the case, isn't it? When the Chase reached its final even in 2009, the only drivers capable of winning it were Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin.
You can look at the standings right now and tell that Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer are pretty much out of the running.
The three are still mathematically alive, but that's about it.
Obviously an elimination format would mean the drivers would be kicked out of Chase consideration, and I suppose by officially knocking drivers out of the field that would make for a little added drama.
Still, I don't think it has much of a "wow" factor -- and would be greeted by shrugs from the masses.
Frankly, nothing France said leads me to believe any serious changes will be made.
He mentioned something about a big moment or "Game 7" type of deal, but what does that even mean?
If you want a Game 7-style situation, make the last race winner-take-all.
The person who crosses the stripe first is the Cup champion. Period.
That would certainly create drama.
If I ran NASCAR -- and its should be noted that, to date, they have not responded to my application -- here's what I'd do:
You stick with the 36-race schedule, and different events are worth different points.
For example, superspeedway race victories would count more than intermediates, intermediates more than short tracks, and short tracks more than road courses.
However, you don't start the Chase with 10 races to go.
Instead, you run all 36 events and once the checkered flag flies at Homestead, the top 12 drivers in the points standings advance to the NASCAR Cup Championship Race at Daytona.
There the 12 drivers duke it out on the asphalt for 500 miles, and the winner of the race is the new Cup champion.
Certainly it would cause a backlash from old school race fans who still believe consistency should be rewarded, but there's no doubt it would be different.
In all seriousness -- and to be fair -- France also said that after the situation is studied, it might be determined that the Chase is just fine as is. And I suspect that when all is said and done, any changes to it won't be of the earth-shattering variety. Change for the sake of change isn't necessary. And if NASCAR just sticks to good racing and the championship is still in doubt entering the season finale, well, that's all fans want or expect.