NASCAR Changes Chase and Hits a Home Run

NASCAR Changes Chase and Hits a Home Run

At the start of the 2014 season NASCAR changed the rules for qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The changes were supposed to make winning races more important. As much as that sounds silly when talking about racing, it isn’t so silly when talking about winning championships.

The past week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his crew chief Steve Letarte used pit strategy to almost win the race. They ran out of fuel on the last lap and finished second.

What may not be evident to many fans is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gave up a sure top ten finish in order to potentially win the race. This type of strategy would never happen without the new rules for qualifying for the Chase.

When asked if they would have tried that strategy Earnhardt, Jr. said, “Absolutely not.  I can say that without a doubt.

Earnhardt, Jr. further elaborated, “I think the way the new format is, nothing is perfect, right, but it definitely is showing it has tons of positives, and it’s better as far as entertainment for our sport.  Yeah, it gives us freedom, and it’s nice to have that freedom to do the things that we did today, even though we knew our odds weren’t good.  We really shouldn’t have made it, and we didn’t, but we got to try because of the new system.  So yeah, I think it’s pretty cool.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet Team showed the other NASCAR teams the last few weeks how a little less conservative strategy can pay off on the track. This has only come about because NASCAR made changes that make winning a race more important than having a bad finish.

Its only three weeks into the season, imagine what will happen when all the crew chiefs eyes have been opened up to the potential gain of bailing on a sure decent finish for the potential of a win. A little swing for the fences attitude is just what NASCAR needed to add some excitement and it appears to already be working.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Feature Photo Credit: 295983 NASCAR Via Getty Images

6 thoughts on “NASCAR Changes Chase and Hits a Home Run”

  1. At one time I knew the entire points system 1-43 and I understood the rules. NOW…… I just give up trying to keep up with the ever changing Nascar points and rule system. I just turn down the volume and try to halfway keep up with the race, and that isnt easy with the super tight camera angles. ((( ZOOM OUT PLEASE!!!! ))) so we can see whats going on……

  2. The new Chase format will free up Sunday afternoons (and some Saturday nights) for a lot of people. What’s the motivation to watch the races after your favorite driver is locked into the Chase until the Chase starts? It’s like reading a mystery when you already know who did it.

    1. Simple….the motivation is to watch your driver go for the win each & every weekend. If he gets locked into the chase, all the better, because now they have the opportunity to run hard, not worry about a “points day” and take chances. Did you happen to catch the finish at Vegas last week?

  3. So far this has not actually changed anything but strategy and has not made the racing itself any better at the front of the field. If Earnhardt would not have run out of gas he would have won but over 100 yards which does not a good finish make. Also he had enough cushion to still finish second which means the 3rd place car was still way back. so far this has not truly affected the racing. Phoenix was a better race than Vegas but only partly due to a late caution that gave fewer laps at the end.
    To get the fans back NASCAR needs to fix the racing so cars can actually be racing not running essentially single file with a few exceptions. Reminder a close finish does not necessarily equate to a good race overall. I am all for using strategy, taking risks, and doing what can be done to win, but that only holds attention for so long if the racing itself is still not close. By close I am not talking restrictor plate close but having a few to several cars battling for positions throughout the field even if 2-10-30 seconds behind the leaders who hopefully are also racing for position. Keep in mind one of the best races and actual finished was Darlington 2003 with Craven and Busch battling for the win but the 3-5th place cars were also within striking distance if those guys even got remotely sideways and off the gas. Granted I do not remember who those drivers were but they were in the TV analyst conversation as Busch and Craven battled for the win.
    I personally believe the TV coverage with the mega contracts are to blame for the lack of viewership right now. Yes at race attendance is down and likely for a lot of reasons naming costs but shouldn’t that equate to higher TV ratings if the product was watchable on TV?

  4. Hits a homerun??????! On what do you base that observation? Ratings are down. The racing has been about the same as the last several years. I’m not sure about track attendance because they don’t announce that but I’d bet dollars to donuts it’s down (or level at best).

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