Where’s the beef?

Published 5:15 pm Friday, November 6, 2009

When the Chase system was developed and announced before the 2004 NASCAR season, the idea was to increase attention and excitement for the series.

A play off-type system would keep fans interested until the end of the season and compete with the popularity of NFL and college football. Or so thought the suits at NASCAR.

Somehow, I don’t think a 184-point lead with three races remaining is what NASCAR had in mind. And I don’t think the news of a possible move by a female Indy Car racer, Danica Patrick, to drive a handful of races in the Nationwide series overshadowing the Chase is what they had in mind. And I don’t think widespread criticism for a competitive decision made hours before the race at Talladega overshadowing the Chase is what they had in mind.

I don’t think the Chase, at least the 2009 version, is happening the way NASCAR had hoped.

I think Brian France, CEO of NASCAR, Mike Helton, president of NASCAR, and Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition, have some real tough decisions to make during the upcoming off season.

The decisions made shortly before the green flag dropped at Talladega had many scratching their collective heads. The mandate of no bump drafting in the corners at Talladega was nothing new, that has been the case for the last several races there. But to hear Helton say, “We don’t want to see two cars hook up and leave the field” was downright silly.

How do you think a driver wins at Talladega and Daytona? They get nose to tail, take advantage of the draft, and move to the front of the field. It’s been that way forever, especially since the introduction of the restrictor plated carburetor in the late 1980s.

Television ratings are dropping like a rock, sponsorship money is drying up, and despite furious attempts at parity, one guy is dominating the sport. I am not smart enough to know what the answers are, but the aforementioned trio of bigwigs better figure it out.

To me, the 2009 season is complete, Jimmie Johnson will be a four-time champion, and Mark Martin will record is fifth runner-up finish. Oh, I will still watch the final three races, but the excitement is gone.

There will be stories to look for over the final three races, and most teams are already looking to 2010.

Brad Keselowski is replacing David Stremme in Penske’s No. 12 Dodge starting this week in Texas.

Richard Petty Motorsports’ drivers are experimenting with Fords, in anticipation of a full time move in 2010, over the final three races. Bobby Labonte and Jamie McMurray, last week’s winner, don’t have a ride lined up next season, and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops team at Earnhardt Ganassi doesn’t have a driver.

And the big story is where, when and how will Danica Patrick end up in NASCAR? It seems like a foregone conclusion that she will end up with JR Motorsports with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a boss. I guess that would be fitting, an over-rated NASCAR driver teaming with an over-rated Indy Car driver.