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Thursday's question: Given the lack of suspense and falling TV ratings, does NASCAR need to fix The Chase and if so, how?

November 19, 2009 | 11:28 am

Given the lack of suspense and the falling TV ratings, does NASCAR need to fix The Chase and is so, how? Reporters from around the Tribune family tackle the question of the day, then you get a chance to chime in and tell them why they are wrong.

Barry Stavro, Los Angeles Times

Qotd The problem with the Chase is it rewards consistency, not wins. A driver can win the title without winning any of the 10 Chase races.
How to fix this? Easy. Keep the first five races on its current, Byzantine points system, with a certain number of points for winning the race, finishing second, third, etc., plus extra points for the number of laps in the lead, and so on.
Then shake things up in the second half of the Chase. For the final five races make this the equivalent of a poker pot that’s growing, with something like a winner-take-all hand at the end.
In this revamped system, each of the final five Chase races gets a bigger share of points to award, and they are heavily loaded to the driver who wins each race, with dramatically reduced points awarded for finishing second, third, laps led, etc.
Then make the final race the most valuable by having it worth three-to-four times more points than any other Chase race.  Using this graduated scale, five or six drivers out of the dozen in the Chase should still have a chance to win the title in the last race, but only if they cross the finish line first.
Now that’s a true Chase to the finish line.

Shawn Courchesne, Hartford Courant

There’s nothing for NASCAR to fix because there’s nothing wrong with the Chase for the Championship. Falling TV ratings are more a result of the Car of Tomorrow design than the lack of suspense in the Chase. That design has made what were dull Sprint Cup Series events even less interesting.

The Car of Tomorrow has made side-by-side racing virtually obsolete on most tracks where Sprint Cup cars compete. The most dramatic finishes this year either involved cars flying in the air at restrictor plate races or drivers running out of gas in races affected by fuel mileage. True racing to a checkered flag is virtually nowhere to be found. And the TV ratings started falling well before the Chase began.

The Chase doesn’t need to be changed just because Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team have mastered the format. Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, and the team he leads, shouldn’t be punished because they’ve made the competition look silly for four years.

Tania Ganguli, Orlando Sentinel

Jimmie Johnson said Thursday afternoon that he really wants to win a championship in the old, pre-Chase, format. That was something he couldn’t do early in his career, and thinks he could now. In fact, Johnson is confident that no matter what championship format NASCAR adopts, if they make changes to curb his dominance, his team could find a way to adapt and to win.
No tweaks would eliminate the possibility of a dominant force pushing everybody else around.
In fact, the sport’s penchant for constantly changing its rules makes records hard to keep and comparisons between eras nearly impossible.
The decline in ratings isn’t because of the Chase. It’s because the casual fan isn’t connecting with the series. Johnson’s merchandise is among the top sellers of any driver, but for some reason the series isn’t captivating people as it has in the past.
These kinds of things go in cycles. NASCAR should let the championship format remain as it is, watch what happens and avoid a knee-jerk change.