Sunday, August 07, 2005

Look for a rule change next season

With only a few races to go until the "Chase for the Cup" begins in NASCARland, I'm expecting a change in the rules next year. Given that some of their most popular drivers (Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne) are out of contention under the current rules, NASCAR is faced with a potential lack of fan interest in the final 10-race run to the points championship.

The current rules say that the top 10 drivers plus anyone within 400 points of the leader qualify (everybody else keeps racing, but they aren't eligible for the overall championship). The rule was made after Matt Kenseth won in 2003, with the goal of making the race tighter. Unfortunately, it penalizes drivers who have a few bad races, or get knocked out by no fault of their own. It also takes away some incentive to try and win races for drivers in the front, because they get rewarded just for finishing.

SoI think next season the new rule will be: the top 10 in points, anyone within 400 points, and any driver who wins a race will be in the Chase. Interestingly, I picked the four drivers above as examples of popular drivers who are out of contention right now without looking at the standings or results for the year. Then, just for the heck of it I looked up the season results to-date - and all four of those drivers have won races and would be in the Chase under the rule change I just suggested (Gordon's won three races, the others one each). Consider this rule change a sure thing for 2006.

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