The Playoffs are a controversial part of modern NASCAR. Some absolutely love it, some hate it, and some are indifferent to it. However, what would it take for NASCAR to get rid of the Playoffs and account for a complete upheaval of the current Championship format.
Why Would NASCAR Do This?
Many NASCAR fans wish for NASCAR to make major changes to the points format, but, in reality, they need to take a step back and look at it from NASCAR’s perspective. What does NASCAR want from their late-season races?
They want these races to be exciting, with high stakes and high drama. They want the drives to be put in pressure-packed situations that make for unforgettable moments. That is where a format like the original Chase Grid from 2014-2016 comes from.
However, there has to be a balance between that and fair competition. That is where some of the 2017 changes including Playoff points come into play, so that those who run up front and win races throughout the season have some advantage in the Playoffs. Now, whether this is the best way to balance that is up to the fans to debate for themselves, but this is what NASCAR is trying to create.
For NASCAR to have any sort of motivation to change the format, there would need to be clear-cut reason for why this format does not create the excitement NASCAR wants it to. If NASCAR feels the format is creating exciting moments late in the season, with enough balance to make the regular season worth something, then, why would they change it? It has typically taken some drastic circumstances to cause NASCAR to change a Championship format.
Why NASCAR Has Changed Points Formats in the Past
2004: The Chase
What precipitated the 2004 original “Chase” format? The 2003 season, which saw the point system criticized heavily. Matt Kenseth won only one race, but he ran away with the Championship, clinching it before the season ended. From his win at Las Vegas in race three onward, he never lost the points lead.
As a result, NASCAR decided to change the format to the original Chase format. This was controversial, even at the time, but, it was created to prevent runaway Championships while placing a higher emphasis on winning races. Well, every Championship under the Chase format through 2013 went down to the final race.
2014: The Chase Grid
What preceded the 2014 format change, Spingate. Clint Bowyer was deemed to have intentionally spun out to cause a late caution at Richmond in the cut-off race. This set off a litany of penalties, which eventually ended up with 13 instead of 12 drives in the Chase. It was a mess.
That along with Jimmie Johnson winning six Championships is what many theorize caused NASCAR to go back to the drawing board for 2014. Then we got the Chase Grid, which eventually evolved into the Playoffs as we know them today.
What Would it Take? A MAJOR Issue
NASCAR has overhauled formats in the past because of major scandals or major issues with the current format. Until there is a major loophole discovered with the current format, NASCAR probably will not change the Playoffs regardless of what some fans want them to do.
However, the other side of this is why should they change it. The Playoff format has created some iconic moments including the “Hail Melon”, Jimmie Johnson’s 7th Championship, and Kyle Busch’s 2015 Comeback. Regardless of how fans feel about the specifics of those Championships, they were interesting stories.
This is a very complicated discussion overall, and everyone has an opinion on it. However, discussion is not a bad thing either as there should always be discussion for how to make the sport better. Would changing the points format be worthwhile is a fair question ask?
However, it would take a lot for it to actually be changed. There would need to be a major loophole in the eyes of NASCAR that would be exposed.