NASCAR open to Chase changes
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR is still considering changes to its title format even though this is the closest championship race in seven years.
"Right now every sports league, or almost every one, is looking at what they need to do to change their formats a little or a lot, depending on who they are, to make sure their playoffs or their championship runs are what they want them to be," NASCAR chairman Brian France said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "We're no different."
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France said this year that NASCAR would consider offseason changes to its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, which debuted in 2004 and replaced the traditional season-long points system. Tweaked several times since it was launched, the system pits 12 drivers against each other over the final 10 races of the year.
Jimmie Johnson has won the last four championships and three times had his titles well in hand before the season finale. That lack of drama likely spurred NASCAR to consider more changes, and France said at the time he wanted more "Game 7" type moments rivaling those from other professional sports leagues.
NASCAR has had exactly that this season, with three drivers entering Sunday's finale with a chance to win the title.
France is thrilled with how this Chase has developed, but said he plans to move forward on potential changes.
"We're going to have a championship that puts a lot on the line, that's critical, and rewards the drivers who have the biggest performances throughout the season," he said. "Whatever we might consider will accomplish that. But, hey, first thing's first. We're not going to look ahead to 2011 until this weekend is concluded because this could be a very, very memorable Sunday."
Drivers have mixed feelings on what they'd like to see to the Chase.
"I don't think they need to change the Chase," said Clint Bowyer, ranked 11th in the Chase. "I think the competition is closer than it has ever been. That is what we were lacking. Hats off to everybody involved in this sport. This has been a great year."
The championship contenders were asked this week about their preferences. Harvick and Hamlin support a variation of tracks in the final 10 races. The venues have shifted slightly since 2004, but as NASCAR discussed tweaks to the 2011 schedule, the only change was moving Chicago into the Chase and removing California, which has had attendance problems.
"I'd like to see a little bit more diversity in the racetracks," Harvick said. "I don't think the last 10 weeks should be the same racetracks over and over and over again. I think it should rotate around. You have it end at different places, have it start at different places. Maybe you go to some of the same racetracks, but I think a different 10 weeks, even a road course at the end of the year would put that full diversity on your champion."
Johnson actually deferred on Chase changes and set his sights on two other NASCAR issues: The grueling 36-race schedule that stretches from February to November, and an abundance of 500-mile races that stretch more than three hours.
"I think a shorter schedule would be awesome. Shorter races, too," Johnson said.
France said such races are on the radar, citing the shortening of the October race at California this year from 500 to 400 miles.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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THE END OF THE ROAD
The 2010 Sprint Cup season came down to three drivers -- Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick -- with a shot at the championship trophy. Only one was left standing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Columns• Hinton: Six in a row for Johnson?
• Blount: Hamlin falls short
• Newton: Harvick serves notice
• Hinton: Sunday should be fun
• Newton: Chase for Cup too close to call
• Blount: Sunset dreams at Homestead
• Newton: Are Chase changes needed?
• Hinton: Bowyer still left wondering
• Hinton: Johnson's back to the wall
• Blount: Harvick channeling his inner-E
• Newton: Hamlin one cool customer
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• Newton: Hamlin's crew chief ready to roll
• Newton: Chase drama trumps Edwards' win
Racing Live!• Homestead on ESPN.com: Rewind
Blogs• Smith: A candid conversation with Hamlin
• McGee: Trash talk is good
• Willis: Is it Kevin Harvick's turn?
• Newton: Owners kick-start Homestead week
• Willis: Does Hamlin have confidence?
Practice, qualifying and news• JJ qualifies ahead of Harvick, Hamlin
• Earnhardt unsure crew chief change needed
• Denny Hamlin car at fuel disadvantage
• NASCAR open to Chase changes
More weekend coverage• Edwards wins; Johnson rolls to title | Results
• Kyle Busch takes Nationwide finale
• Kyle Busch rolls in Trucks race
• Danica's Double 2010: End of the line
NASCAR Video• Homestead highlights
• Jimmie Johnson celebrates again
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• Sprint Cup qualifying
• Have at it boys remix
• Denny Hamlin's long road back
• Hamlin's crew chief Ford ready
• NASCAR Now: Is the pressure off JJ?
• SportsCenter: Tricky for contenders
• The Final Chase: Kevin Harvick
• The Final Chase: Denny Hamlin
• The Final Chase: Jimmie Johnson
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Podcasts• Jayski: Ford 400 preview
• Rusty Wallace on Mike & Mike
• Denny Hamlin with Doug Gottlieb
• Jimmie Johnson on Mike & Mike
• Jayski: Jimmie, Denny and Kevin
• Jayski: Around the sport
Chats and wraps• Sunday: Garrow on fantasy, 9:30 a.m. ET
• Thursday: Ed Hinton wrap
• Wednesday: Terry Blount wrap
• Tuesday: David Newton wrap
• Monday: Ryan McGee wrap