I am going to keep the faith that we are going to have an exciting 2009 Chase. One reason I think it will be exciting is that I really don’t see a clear-cut favorite in the Chase. No one really jumps out at you as being the front-runner.
Now last year at this time, you had to figure that it was going to be the No. 48, No. 18 and the No. 99 as the front-runners and obviously the No. 48 was the one. However, right now nobody to me stands out as the team to beat.
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So my hope is that we have even three-quarters of the excitement and anticipation that we had leading up to this Chase over the last month or so. The buildup has been unbelievable with the teams, the media and most importantly the race fans. The big question over the last month was who would make it in and who would falter. We have got to keep that same excitement and anticipation level all the way to Homestead.
On the flip-side, if we don’t have that, well then my challenge to NASCAR is alter the format of the Chase to keep one or two teams from running away with it early on. NASCAR has already proven it’s not afraid of change like we saw with the willingness to implement the double-file restart.
Now what I would do is create an exclusive points system only for those drivers in the Chase. I think the top finisher should get 100 points, second-place gets 95 points, third-place 90 points and on and on. If a Chase car wins a race, well they should get an additional 25 points. We simply have to do something to keep the energy, excitement and anticipation rolling. It’s just sad that all this excitement has built up and there are still 10 races to go.
As the Chase has gone along, it has lost its excitement. That first year, well it couldn’t get any better than that with it literally going down to the wire. However, the last few years it hasn’t.
That’s what I loved about Saturday night at Richmond. You didn’t know until the end who was in and who was out. If Kyle Busch maintained his position and then if Sam Hornish and Kevin Harvick got by Brian Vickers, then we would be talking about Kyle in the Chase and not Brian. That’s the vision I think NASCAR had in creating this deal.
Again, I don’t think we will have a runaway in the points like we have in previous years. I couldn’t remotely sit here and tell you who our champion is going to be. If you simply look at the performance over the past month, it isn’t going to be Tony Stewart or Jimmie Johnson. If you go based on performance, then you need to say Brian Vickers or Denny Hamlin.
In this year’s Chase you have a guy with four wins, some guys with three wins, some guys with two wins, you have three guys with one win and four guys with no wins. That’s a pretty darn wide spread right there. The makings are there for an exciting Chase. Now granted, somebody might check out on this deal and run away with it again. It’s a possibility that in five weeks we could be saying “good grief.” But right now the first 26 races of the season have given us no indication of that.
FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.
“How to Become a Winning Crew Chief” is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com.