Elimination Chase: Good, bad … or both?

September, 9, 2010

NASCAR is methodically informing Sprint Cup teams that it is strongly, legitimately considering an elimination Chase format, backing up what chairman Brian France said at Indianapolis -- that he and his team would discuss the topic with race teams, weigh the pros and cons of making this type of change and implement it for 2011 if they deem fit.

Sources from multiple organizations tell me the current thought is an expanded Chase field comprised of 15 drivers, with two rounds of eliminations that culminate with a five-driver, winner-take-all season finale.

The decision hasn't been finalized, I'm told. I repeat: This is still in the planning/banter/what-do-you-guys-think-of stage.

But for the sake of a pre-2010 Chase argument, can you imagine the electricity a 5-Alive format would generate for the last race of the season? (5-Alive. I may even have just branded it.)

Holy smokes. It would be amazing.

But would it be fair?

Say, hypothetically, Driver X wins eight of the first nine races leading up to the finale. It's a stretch, certainly, but it could happen. So he and four others would spend 400 epic miles battling for a title … until 50 laps in, when another driver runs out of talent and takes him out.

Game over -- and through no fault of his own.

In turn, many folks offer the stick-and-ball argument that star players get injured and favored teams fall. In an earlier life, I probably used that same logic. If I did, my opinion has changed some.

I like the Chase. If nothing else, it breaks up the monotony of a season that is entirely too long. And despite what many feel, I think, to date, it has produced viable, deserving champions.

But in a sport where others' mistakes have far greater impact on determining another's fate than any other, I think some brand of consistency should be rewarded.

I don't necessarily equate a blown engine to a blown knee ligament. Here's why: If Drew Bledsoe gets hurt, there is a Tom Brady on the sideline, prepared and ready to execute.

And even if the backup stinks, the team still has the chance to continue playing. The team doesn't stop playing because a comrade is injured.

In racing, a blown engine means you load it up on the truck and go home. There's not even a chance to overcome the setback. None.

The 5-Alive concept would make for one heck of a show. One by which I'm certain I'd be captivated.

I'm just not sold that it would be genuine.




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