November 12, 2005
This week NASCAR announced a new rule to take effect in 2006 limiting the number of teams an organization can field in the NASCAR Nextel Cup series. The team cap is set at four, though a fifth team will be allowed to compete on a limited schedule under special circumstances, like breaking in a rookie.
Roush Racing, the only team to currently be over the four-team cap, will be grandfathered in and allowed to run their five teams for an unspecified time period. Currently all Roush teams have sponsor commitments through 2008.
NASCAR CEO Brian France defended the decision, saying NASCAR had to step in sooner or later or else multi-car teams would make it impossible for new owners to enter the sport without a vast operation already underway. He also said that they picked four teams because it seemed like a good place to start, though they may readdress it in the future. He denied any attempt to penalize Roush Racing, the only organization with more than four teams, all five of which are in the Chase for the Championship.
Jack Roush wasn't exactly pleased.
"There are no details," said Roush. "It has the feel that we're going to make it up as we go. The WWF has their ways of determining who is going to win and what the ranking is and maybe NASCAR behind the scenes is trying to do the same thing. ...
"The thing they did by picking on five rather than four is they singled me out," Roush said. "I'm the only guy with five viable teams and the worst of all scenarios is we put all five of them in the Chase and, of course, that gave the bonus to our sponsors for the exposure that they got for being involved with us rather than somebody else and they want to diminish it to some extent.
"I take it personally. I do take it personally," said Roush.
And you can't blame Roush. He helped pioneer the multi-car team strategy and it's finally been paying off for him with two championships in two years, and now five teams in the Chase for the Championship. Other owners have certainly had more championships, but I think the threat of half the Chasers being Roush cars really scared NASCAR. It's kind of odd that a monopolizing organization like NASCAR would be so against monopolies.
October 28, 2005
Everyone loves to speculate about the Chase and whether or not it's a good idea. Personally I've enjoyed it as a way to focus the season, and I like hearing driver's reactions to it.
"I hated the Chase, the idea of the Chase. I was sick in my stomach to think that we would make changes in a historic format for the sake of entertainment," says Mark Martin. "I think I was wrong. I think I've made that clear to everyone that after the first (Chase), at the banquet in 2004, I gave Brian and NASCAR an apology for being wrong. ... I think it's exciting and more interesting for the fans, and that translates into health for the sport that we love."
When asked how it's changed for the drivers, Martin says he doesn't know. Is it more exciting?
"Probably not the ones that don't make it," says Martin. "You'd have to check with them. I've made it every year, both years, so I don't know. It's been good for me."
It's cool to see people like Martin come around to the idea of the Chase. Nobody wants to change everything about NASCAR, but it does need to adapt to survive.
August 26, 2005
There's been a lot of discussion about the new rules NASCAR introduced last year that started the "Race for the Chase." Some suggest the rules were introduced to limit the possibility that a driver with only one win could win a championship (ahem, Matt Kenseth, 2003), though I think it had more to do with building excitement into the season to boost ratings.
A little background for those unfamiliar: It used to be that the NASCAR Cup champion was determined each year strictly by points. You earned points based on how you finished each race, with 5 bonus points for leading a lap in a race, and 5 more bonus points for leading the most laps in a race. Simple system. Apparently too simple. So last year they started a new system where after the first 26 races only the top 10 drivers would be eligible for the championship. They redistribute the points for the top 10 and duke it out in the last 10 races to see who wins. Drivers outside the top 10 in points, well, they still race for the win and to see where they end up in points, but the championship is out of reach.
Basically what it does is give the season a major focus: Drivers need to be in the top 10 in points after 26 races (there is a 400 point loophole: drivers within 400 points after 26 races are in, regardless of whether or not they're in the top 10). Then they focus on those last 10 races to win the championship.