The Recorder – Racin With Jason: Party pooper
Published: 11/12/2020 7:40:05 PM
First, I must explain my lack of columns the past few weeks. My mother was sick in a nursing home, and she has since passed away. My focus was on her fight.
Now, I put the spotlight on the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, which were won by Chase Elliott. A hearty congratulations goes out to the 24-year-old from Dawsonville, Ga., but I’m here to rain on his parade a little bit.
I’m not a fan of the playoff system. It does not always fully represent the season as a whole. Auto racing is not like stick-and-ball sports. The entire body of work should be considered at the end of the season. I would like to crown Kevin Harvick as the real Cup Series champion — nine wins, the “regular season” championship, leader by the old non-playoff points system.
NASCAR instituted the “Chase for the Cup” in 2004 as a response to Matt Kenseth winning the 2003 championship with only one race win. The first year, it did its job — keeping as many drivers as possible alive until the final race. The champion was not decided until the final lap.
And then Jimmie Johnson happened. The No. 48 team won five straight titles from 2006-2010. The margins of victory varied, but it was still a foregone conclusion in the minds of many that Johnson would emerge victorious.
In 2014, NASCAR announced the playoff system currently in use. The only thing I really like about it is its emphasis on finishing first: win and you’re in, win and you’re on to the next round.
Where the system went wrong this year is Harvick’s lack of inclusion in the “Championship Four” based on one bad race that kept him out of contention. A suggestion I read on Facebook makes sense: give the regular season champion an automatic bye into the final four. If the playoffs are truly a representation of the season as a whole, then make the first 26 races truly worth something. Imagine the kind of excitement you’d get if teams that were assured a spot in the playoffs went for that regular season title and the free trip to Phoenix.
Or, you could just ditch the whole thing and go back to pre-2004 conditions. Or, at least pre-2014. I am OK with the 10-race Chase format as long as the points system remains the same.
Either way, as long as someone who has a season like Kevin Harvick gets rewarded, it’s fine with me.
Jason Remillard is a copy editor and page designer at the Recorder. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @racinwithjason.