Chicagoland: Win, Lose or Draw

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Is it over yet?

This column normally looks at the winners and losers from the first week of NASCAR’s playoffs. Matt Kenseth won the race. Everyone else lost last week. Where to begin?

Lose: NASCAR Credibility

So what is worse? Changing the rules of who gets into the playoffs? Changing competition rules before the start of the playoffs? Allowing a race to continue after six hours of delays, totaling changing the scope of the race and creating a ratings disaster?

A sport is only as valuable as its credibility. That’s why David Stern went after Tim Donaghy. That’s why Pete Rose is banned from baseball. That’s why NASCAR is in so much trouble.

Drivers don’t know the rules. Teams are told to give 100 percent when 10 percent of the field starts and parks. Cautions are thrown around like a reset button in a video game.

The end result is one where this year’s champion will always have an asterisk in the minds of hardcore fans. Each race still matters, but races are novelties; championships tie everything together. When that title doesn’t matter, it makes missing a race that much easier for fans. It’s one of 36 novelties.

NASCAR finds itself heading down a dangerous road, one that threatens the sport as we know it. The good thing is there are three easy fixes.

Create a Real Playoff:

Why are people not in the Chase still racing? NASCAR is begging for controversy. The PGA Tour makes this work; why can’t racing?

Winners Make the Chase:

This creates less room and reason to cheat. Win. Get in. This is simple. It also rewards the little guy like David Ragan who sneaks out a win.

Fix the Points System:

Does anyone care who finishes worse than 20th? Why does it matter? It’s impossible for NASCAR to correctly police this positioning mess.

The current system also ruins Chase chances after one race. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are all essentially out of the Chase because of the Chicago mess. This isn’t how NASCAR creates excitement.

The best part of the Chicago race is that it’s over. Let’s hope the controversy of the 2013 season is over as well.