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Speed Reading: Without the Chase, there would be no drama
OK, show of hands.
When NASCAR head honcho Brian France announced his plan for the Chase for the Nextel Cup, who among you immediately threw his hands up and said, "What a bunch of crap; this will never work!"
I have my hand up. And if you're being honest, so do you. And so does Ryan Newman, Richard Petty, Dale Jarrett and every motorsports writer in the country.
Man, were we wrong.
For those of you that still aren't buying into the excitement and the genius of The Chase, you are probably the same people who always think the beach is too hot and snow skiing is too cold. In other words, you won't be happy no matter what point system we have in place.
To further prove how great we have it, let's take a look at the headlines we could be looking at... and trust me, it's not very impressive.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. quits driving and goes fishing!
With The Chase: With two races remaining, no less than 12 drivers are within 184 points of that highly-coveted 10th position, five above the line and six below. Six of those guys are within 50 points or less and four are within 20 points. 20 points? That's the difference between finishing 1st and 4th on Sunday night. That's it. Which means that anything and everything can happen when the green flag drops at California Speedway and again six days later at Richmond. Just as the wild card has done it for Major League Baseball, The Chase has opened the door to a world of postseason possibilities.
Jeff Gordon wins a seat in the kitchen of the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom!
With The Chase: The guy who manages to finish the Richmond race in the 10-spot suddenly finds himself in contention for the whole enchilada. Last season, Mark Martin came into the cut-off event 424 points out of first. Four hundred laps later, he was only 35 markers back and ended up climbing his way to 4th and nearly winning the title.
Tony Stewart's name already engraved on Nextel Cup trophy!
With The Chase: After the checkered flag falls at Richmond, Stewart's lead over the 2nd-place driver will be reset at five points. He has 10 races to defend that very small hill against an onslaught of nine drivers. That's certainly anything but boring.
American TV's unable to make contact with NASCAR satellite feed!
With The Chase: NBC/TNT posted record ratings for each of the final 11 events of 2004, the first run under The Chase format. And last year's Richmond battle wasn't nearly as tight as this one looks to be. And headed into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR won't just share the front page of sports sections across the U.S.; it will actually steal the headlines from Spurrier and T.O.
Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images. He can be reached at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.