It’s a big deal no matter who you are to make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase field. Separate from the Chase itself, just making the Chase is quite an accomplishment. The additional exposure your sponsors get for simply being in the Chase goes can go a long way in keeping those sponsor dollars flowing.
This year, as most of you have heard by now, NASCAR is expanding the field to 16 cars. A part of me says this will definitely benefit the mid-size teams. These are the ones that don’t have the vast resources of a Hendrick, Gibbs or Roush team, for example. However, there is another part of me that feels like this format change might simply give the those bigger teams, like the ones I mentioned, more of a chance to get more of their cars into the Chase.
So, there are a lot of unknowns to this, and we’re just going to have to wait and see how it all unfolds. I know one thing it does instantly: It makes our biggest race — the Daytona 500 — even bigger. I say that because now the winner of the Daytona 500, along with any other winner in the first 26 races of the regular season, pretty much knows they are guaranteed a spot in the Chase come September.
I am in favor of the 16-team format. It definitely opens the door wider for those that might not have had a chance under the other format. The reality is the world isn’t going to start spinning backwards here. By that, I mean the cream is still going to rise to the top. Anyone who seriously believes that NASCAR’s sole purpose in making this format change was to keep Jimmie Johnson from possibly winning another championship is in for a rude awakening.
You are still going to have the same folks battling each other for the championship. I love the fact that this format puts the emphasis back on winning. That’s what racing is all about, right? The other thing I love about this new format is you aren’t already knocked out of the Chase if you have a bad first race of the Chase. It happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano last year. They had a bad first race and their Chase chances went out the window. Now they know they can come right back the next week and, if they win a race, they are going to move on further into the Chase.
So, I really like what NASCAR has done here. I know there is a contingent of race fans that doesn’t like the idea of going to Homestead for the last race of the season with four drivers eligible to win it all. I don’t get it, because I simply don’t know how you can make that more exciting with four drivers, one race and one championship on the line.
I don’t think they can. We all head to Daytona in the middle of next week and it’s finally time to get this 2014 season started. I truly believe this is going to be one of the best seasons our sport has ever enjoyed.