Drivers speak out against proposed changes to Chase format

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman are among those who oppose the dramatic changes NASCAR is making to its playoff format.

Although a self-described "old-school guy" Carl Edwards isn't diametrically opposed to the forthcoming changes NASCAR is making to the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

He does, however, have some concerns which he shared during the Roush Fenway Racing portion of NASCAR's annual media tour featuring the top drivers and teams of the sport.

"I don't think we can take everything the NFL or NBA is doing and say, ‘We need to do it like this because they're doing it like that and it's working.’ This is still stock-car racing. This is NASCAR."-Ryan Newman

"We have to decide, ‘What are we going to do?'" Edwards said. "Are we going to be the sport that we were for 50 years, or are we going to really have to change this thing and make it different? I think (NASCAR is) prepared to change it and make it different.

"The result of that could be really spectacular. We just have to make sure that we do it the right way."

Under the revised playoff format to be officially unveiled Thursday by NASCAR CEO Brian France, and first reported by The Charlotte Observer, the Chase field will expand from 12 to 16 drivers, with four drivers eliminated after every three races. This will set up a one-race battle among four drivers in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Edwards feels this proposed system could unfairly punish a driver who had a wildly successful year, but whose performance may have dipped in the closing weeks of the season. He pointed out that under the new format a driver could theoretically "win 35 races, have a blown tire in one race and not be the champion."

"It would be like if we played the Super Bowl this weekend and the 49ers were on the field (with the Broncos and Seahawks)," Edwards said. "If they obviously outperformed the other two teams, it would look kind of funny.

"That's the only thing you have to worry about in a system like this. The race is one thing, and the championship is another."

NASCAR is attempting to regularly create "Game 7 type moments" that will attract and capture fans' interest at a time when the NFL is dominating the sports landscape. The rationale being that drivers will be more motivated to win and therefore press harder, which in turn will create more excitement.

But if NASCAR is hoping to stimulate a product that some feel has grown stale, Edwards believes there is a better way to go about it. He says drivers are already giving 100 percent, and would prefer the utilization of softer tires, less down force and a solution to the aerodynamic issues that frequently plague drivers and make it difficult to pass.

"The problem is what NASCAR is trying to address: I can't get to the guy in front of me," Edwards said. "He's making a wake in the air and ruining my aerodynamic advantage. So even if my car is faster, I still can't get to him because I lose the ability to corner faster."

Although a majority of drivers throughout the week have spoke favorably about the revised Chase format including Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Edwards isn't alone in expressing his reservations.

Team owner Richard Petty called the modifications a "P.R. deal," while Ryan Newman questioned why NASCAR was trying to be more like basketball and football rather than differentiating itself.

"I don't think we can take everything the NFL or NBA is doing and say, ‘We need to do it like this because they're doing it like that and it's working,'" Newman said. "This is still stock-car racing. This is NASCAR. A certain percent of change is good, but we do not need to copy their (playoff systems)."

This will be the fourth major change NASCAR has enacted to its championship formula since 2004. And why Edwards wishes this latest proposal will be one the sanctioning body maintains long term.

"Whatever it is we do, I hope we stick with it for a long time, to give it inherent creditability as something that is not constantly changing," he said. "That's sports though. At the end of the day, no professional sports league seems to be set up to crown the best (team) over the whole year. It's an elimination process that culminates in a champion. There's probably a good reason for that."

More from SB Nation:

Drivers speak out against proposed changes

Winners and losers of NASCAR's revamped Chase

NASCAR overhauls Chase for the Sprint Cup format

The good times, hard life and shocking death of Dick Trickle

How to drive sideways: The Amateur goes to rally car school

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