Can Jimmie and Chad master NASCAR’s new playoff system?

Jimmie Johnson (left) and crew chief Chad Knaus pose with the trophy after winning at Texas Motor Speedway last November.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Spe

NASCAR made it official this week with a change in the Chase format. They have put the emphasis back on winning. They also expanded the Chase field to 16 cars. Cars in the Chase will also be eliminated after every three Chase races. When you boil it all down, come Homestead in late November this year, there will only be four cars with a chance to win it all.

Who does this help? I think it helps everybody in the sport and the fans who support our sport. What this says is, if you can win a race in the first 26 races that are our regular season, which will pretty much guarantee you a Chase spot, then you have a shot at the championship.

So, the new key will be getting up on that wheel and staying in the top four in points through the first nine races of the Chase. If you do that, you go to Homestead and the championship is yours if you can go get it. Don’t get me wrong, because getting and staying in the top four through nine consecutive weeks is a tall order.

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However, if you can do that, then you’ll start the final race of the year on equal ground with your other three competitors. It’s really pretty simple after that. You simply have to outrun those three other cars at Homestead. If you do that, then you will be crowned our 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have shown everyone they can win under the old points system, a 10-car Chase field, a 12-car Chase field and even in the case of last year, a 13-car Chase field. You’d be making a grave mistake if you don’€™t count them as a favorite again this year under the new system.

This is yet another exciting new direction for our sport, and I applaud NASCAR for their willingness to do whatever it takes to make the Chase more exciting. While the NFL Super Bowl is this weekend on FOX, we’re only a couple weeks away now from kicking off our season in Daytona, and, yes, it’s also on FOX!