Tag Archives: Jimmie Johnson

New Chase Grid Format Gives NASCAR Their Answer To March Madness

New Chase Grid Format is NASCAR's Answer to NCAA's March Madness

New Chase Grid Format is NASCAR’s Answer to NCAA’s March Madness [NASCAR]

HICKORY, N.C. - Beginning with the implementation of the NASCAR Chase format in 2004, the sanctioning body sought to appease a long-time wish of the core fan: making winning matter more. Many fans had become disenchanted by the “winning is not as important as consistency” mentality that accompanied a points system that, for all intent and purposes, had been in place since the mid-70’s.

Nevermind you that this point system was the one that made Cale, Darrell, and Dale household names or that those drivers, among others who would win championships in ensuing years such as “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville”, would win their championships not so much by laying back and being consistent but by trying to place their machines in victory lane at each available opportunity.

Yes, each of those drivers would find themselves points racing from time to time, taking a sub-par car back to the garage in one piece and a solid 8th place finish rather than back to the garage on the hook after trying to make something out of something that wasn’t there on any given Sunday.

But by the mid-2000’s it felt like something had changed within the driver’s mindset, even if the points system had seen very little alteration in three decades of successful growth and rising national prominence. For some reason, and a potentially statistically invalid reason, it felt as if drivers were no longer going for broke but rather racing to not go broke.

Enter the Chase. NASCAR’s answer to the detractors who said the racing had become stale and that motivation was lacking. For a decade the Chase has worked fairly well for the purpose intended, with the only real change being the expansion from 10 initial Chase contenders in 2004 to 12 in 2007.

Ask a fan about the Chase and you will inevitably hear a large percentage of them echo the sentiment that since installation of the new system one major flaw in the chase ointment has emerged. This one major flaw has not been so much a loophole to winning a championship but rather a name, the name being that of Jimmie Johnson.

It has never been so much that Johnson does not race hard, or race to win, as the numbers from his impressive string of five championships in a row from 2006 to 2010 will attest, but that Johnson always seemed to be able to “turn it on” at just the right time to win yet again. People, as is human nature, tire of the same old, same old, everyone that is but Rick Hendrick, Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock, Johnson and his wife Chandra, the crew of the #48 and its vast reaching fan base.

With Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski winning the respective 2011 and 2012 championships fans thought that maybe the Chase had turned a corner and the Johnson dominance had ended. Then along came the 2013 Sprint Cup season, a season in which Chad Knaus and the #48 crew again sprinted all the way to the Chase championship.

This past season was one in which it felt as if Matt Kenseth was reaching the winner’s podium every other weekend, though in actuality he finished the season with seven wins, only one more than Johnson’s six. Many long-time fans disdain for another Johnson championship would quickly escalate into cries for change, with passionate fans taking to internet message boards and fan forums near and far, pleading NASCAR to do something to make winning the end all be all of a championship.

Luckily for the fans, Brian France and Co. had been paying attention all along. Departing from the gleaming tower of steel and power situated alongside International Speedway Blvd in Daytona Beach, France would find himself in Charlotte on Thursday for the annual “State of the Sport” speech, a speech in which France would announce sweeping changes to the Chase formula, changes which will send the sport into the 2014 season with more possibility than ever before.

Granted, not all possibility is ultimately good possibility and NASCAR Nation could very well find itself heading to the world center of speed one year from now celebrating Johnson’s tying of Petty and Earnhardt with seven championships, and about to embark on a journey to seek a solo spot atop the sport’s championship pinnacle.

The new Chase was not designed with the over-riding intention of dethroning Johnson, rather the Chase was in many ways designed to create more opportunity for Johnson to simply dethrone himself. For if Johnson is to win a record-tying seventh championship in 2014 it will come after dancing with the dynamite spread about the minefield that is the Chase grid.

No longer will the #48 team simply face implosion after 26 and 36 races but rather season-ending implosion looms after the 26th, 29th, 32nd, 35th, and 36th races. The genius that is NASCAR marketing has even devised battle-hardened names to accompany these possible championship-ending implosion points, names like Challenger, Contender, and Eliminator. These names were designed to invoke images of one needing to go all out to win, of needing to push it to the max each weekend to simply survive and advance, and rightly so.

If these names also happen to send a fan’s mind wandering to their own glorious victories on tracks of the same name at the various NASCAR Speedparks that have existed in tourist markets around the country, then so be it. And let’s face it, beating Uncle Roger or your Sister Sue on the high banks of Myrtle Beach or the Smoky Mountains must surely evoke a similar euphoria to that of which any anti-JJ fan will experience if the series reaches Homestead in November with the #48 aiming for a best-case scenario chase finish of 5th, or even worse.

If the redesigned Chase can evoke euphoric feelings such as those in the 95% of fans who do not consider themselves Johnson fans then the NCAA-inspired bracket has done more than create yet another workplace pool-style wagering opportunity.

If the redesigned Chase again finds the Jimmie Johnson show heading to Las Vegas and the head table then even the #48 haters will have to once again tip their hat to the driving mastery that befits a living legend.

Either way, NASCAR’s willingness to gamble and play loose and fast with the long-standing concept of consistency will undoubtedly breed many more march-madness moments than currently exist on the exhaustive 36-race trek across America. Thus, no matter how the Chase ultimately turns out under the new system, Mondays in the fall will find the potential for the #NASCAR hashtag to trend much more frequently.

This means that whether you love or hate the new Chase grid you must admit that an upward trending NASCAR is good for all who live, breathe, and love the sport. The sport has evolved and in the process made major strides in not only remaining relevant but projecting relevance on the ever-expanding sports landscape and that bodes well for a future that finds NASCAR firmly entrenched as America’s home for motorsports.

Ryan Newman Spoils Hendrick Motorsports Dominating Day To Take Win At Martinsville

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, Va – If you would have told Rick Hendrick before the start of today’s race that his cars would lead 443 of the scheduled 500 laps he most likely would have felt fairly confident that he would be leaving his native Virginia with yet another famed grandfather clock, as well as the organization’s 200th all-time win, in tow.

NASCAR racing is known for having a way of turning the script upside down, even while it is being written.

After seeing Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. up front all day, with Jeff Gordon leading 328 of the 443 laps led by Hendrick Motorsports, it was Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman who came home victorious.

The win would come on the 19th anniversary of the passing of 1992 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki, a driver Newman admired greatly while growing up as a fellow Midwesterner and Engineering student.

Hendrick Appeals Hearing Results in Points/Suspension Rescindments; Fine Upheld

Credit: HMS

CONCORD, N.C. (Release) —  On March 20, 2012, the Chief Appellate Officer heard and considered the appeal of the penalties resulting from the #48 Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.  This stemmed from an opening day inspection for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2012.

The penalties concern Section 12-1 of the NASCAR Rule Book “Actions detrimental to stock car racing;” Section 12-4(J): “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the Race Equipment used in the Event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the NASCAR Rule Book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the Event;”…

Hendrick Motorsports Statement Regarding NASCAR Appeals Board Decision

Credit: Hendrick Motorsports

CONCORD, N.C. — Hendrick Motorsports will request a hearing before the National Stock Car Racing chief appellate officer to continue its appeal of NASCAR sanctions related to the No. 48 Sprint Cup Series team.

“The panel was generous with its time today, and we appreciated the opportunity to talk through our concerns, said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. We feel strongly about this issue and will continue to pursue it at the next level.”

Adjustments to No. 48 team personnel are not planned while the appeal is ongoing.

NASCAR Hears Hendrick Motorsports Appeal of No. 48 Team Infractions

Credit: NASCAR

HICKORY, N.C. — On Tuesday, the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of the ruling regarding the #48 team and the infractions which occurred in February at Daytona International Speedway were heard at the NASCAR Research & Development facility in Concord, North Carolina.  The following is the statement issued by NASCAR shortly after the conclusion of the appeal being heard:

On March 13, 2012, the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel heard and considered the appeal of the #48 Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

The penalties concern Section 12-1 of the NASCAR Rule Book “Actions detrimental to stock car racing;” Section 12-4(J): “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the Race Equipment used in the Event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the NASCAR Rule Book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the Event;” and Section 20-2.1(E): “If in the judgment of NASCAR Officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance, will not be permitted: Unapproved car body modifications.”

Hendrick Motorsports Statement on Team #48 Penalty

Credit: Harold Hinson Photography

CONCORD, N.C. (Hendrick Motorsports Statement) — Hendrick Motorsports will appeal sanctions announced today by NASCAR related to the No. 48 Sprint Cup Series team.

Our organization respects NASCAR and the way the sanctioning body governs our sport, said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. In this case, though, the system broke down, and we will voice our concerns through the appeal process.

Adjustments to No. 48 team personnel are not planned while the appeal is ongoing.

No. 48 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Team Penalized For Infractions At Daytona International Speedway

Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.  (NASCAR Release) – NASCAR has issued penalties, suspensions and fines to the No. 48 team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as a result of rules infractions found on Feb. 17 during opening day inspection for the Daytona 500.

The No. 48 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications).

NASCAR’s Next ’79 Moment?

Credit: RacingOne Multimedia

HICKORY, N.C. —  Tonight’s running of the 54th annual Daytona 500 could very well be NASCAR’s next signature mainstream moment, or maybe not.

There are numerous intangibles as we head towards a scheduled green flag just after 7pm at Daytona International Speedway but the potential exists for what has thus far been a bit more than a headache to actually become a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, literally.

In 1979 the story was set up perfectly, script-worthy some would say.  The 1979 Daytona 500 was the very first NASCAR race to be broadcast to the nation and it happened on a long President’s Day weekend while much of the East Coast and Midwest was being held hostage by a major winter snow storm.

The metropolitan areas of the Northeast that drive much of our national broadcasting were slammed.  Viewers sitting around the television in their dens were bored.  They needed something to capture their attention.