AVONDALE, Ariz. – Not a fan of NASCAR’s Chase format? Remember the first time you heard that the sport would determine the Sprint Cup champion over the final 10 races and what your reaction was?
It might have been like Jeff Gordon’s. He recalls when he was told about the format change after the 2003 season. It was just before a fishing expedition organized by car owner Rick Hendrick that included both Brian France and Mike Helton from NASCAR.
Here’s how Gordon tells the story:
“The one thing I’ll never forget was the moment I was standing on a dock in Key West, Florida, on a NASCAR boat trip when Brian France and Mike Helton told me what they were planning on doing with the Chase format. I laughed in their faces because I thought that was the most hilarious thing I’d ever heard of because I thought it was a joke. Then I quickly realized that it was not a joke, and I was pulling the laughs back into my mouth. I’m like, ‘You’re serious?’
“When I heard that news, of course, I didn’t like that. I felt the points system was just fine for me.’’
Since the format change in 2004, many have gone back and figured up the points and noted that Gordon would have won additional titles. Gordon, though, doesn’t look at it that way.
“I don’t think you can go back and look at accumulating points under the old system with the new system,” Gordon said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. “Everybody races differently under each point system and what it takes. We can all sit here and speculate and talk about it and wonder what could have been if the old points system would have stayed the same. There’s no doubt in my mind that it suited my driving style. The reason why I was able to win at so many different tracks was because of the consistency my team had and I had at all the different tracks. That paid off when you’re trying to win a championship under a 36 or however many race schedule the season was.
“I didn’t want to see it come down to those final 10 because not all those final 10 were tracks that I think suited me. And yet they suited some others pretty well. I felt like it was not benefitting me, so, of course, I wish it hadn’t changed.
“When I look at the sport from 10,000 feet, I love it. I think it’s exciting. Even this new format, I think is even better. I’ve supported it and always have even though it maybe hasn’t always suited me. I try not to be so selfish and think what’s best for the sport. At the end of the day, what’s best for the sport, is best for me, best for our team, best for all the teams out there.’’