Playoff era changing the way we judge drivers now, do we need to change it

Don’t hate the player hate the game. This NASCAR isn’t like your dads NASCAR anymore. It’s far from your grandpa’s too. That’s what Kevin Harvick was saying before the playoffs even started and that’s what he was saying again on Sunday after he was eliminated from championship contention at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway.

With that said, does NASCAR need to look into doing another change to the playoff format? After all, it’s not out of left field for a tweak to happen. They’ve done several changes already, what’s another?

2004 through 2013 was one era. Even then some changes were made. 2014 through now is another. Do we need more tweaks? No one said this was going to be perfect and set is concrete. No one said that we can’t adapt. But, is NASCAR wanting to adapt or did what transpired on Sunday in Martinsville prove their very point to making the format that we’re under now?

To each their own. Do the metrics say to leave it?

I mean, the driver that won the regular season championship, has nine wins and would have likely won the championship in any other era other than this one is not only out, he didn’t even have a shot to race for a title this Sunday in Phoenix. Harvick, was eliminated in the Round of 8.

But, to what degree do we change this? I’ve seen some throw out the idea of granting the regular season champion an automatic berth to the Championship 4, but I don’t like that reasoning. What other sport do you get to be the No. 1 seed but not get to play a single postseason game and are just automatically granted a berth to the championship? A championship shouldn’t be guaranteed to someone based off of a strong regular season. Why have a playoff format in the first place then?

NASCAR is trying to emulate stick and ball sports with this format, so I don’t like rewarding a regular season champion with a championship berth because of that.

In the pre 2004 era, a regular season wasn’t even mentioned. A championship was awarded for a cumulation of an entire season. The season opener meant the same as the season finale and everything in between. So, many years, the championship was already decided by the last race. That’s why changes were made.

In that era, Harvick would have won this year’s championship.

In the 2004-2013 era, Harvick would have fit the criteria to likely win that title too.

In this one, he’s out.

Which one is fair? It’s a divided fan base. Some want the traditional route of awarding a full seasons worth of points. I get that route too. Some want a hybrid. Some want it like it is. There’s really no perfect formula drawn yet and I’m not smart enough to figure out the best way to allow it.

I mean Harvick was +42 in the standings heading to Martinsville but lost out on advancing because Joey Logano and Chase Elliott won this round. To me, that’s fair the way it is now. Harvick, had the same opportunities that both had, but both are below him in points accumulated and advanced on because of their wins.

Harvick, led the most laps in Kansas (85) but lost the win because Logano beat him out of the pits under the final stop. The racing package though can be blamed because Harvick had a faster car than Logano but the dirty air didn’t allow him to pass. Is that Harvick’s fault? Hard to place blame on him for having a faster car but not being able to pass when the car in front did everything they could to keep him back. It’s a package deal but Harvick knows what he signed up for before he got into the car before the race.

In Texas, Harvick got into the wall because it was raining while he was leading and the traction compound gets like ice when it gets wet. He skated into the wall and finished 16th as a result.

Then, at Martinsville, Harvick is never good at. If Denny Hamlin didn’t have to pit for a second time to tighten his lug nuts and Brad Keselowski wasn’t speeding on pit road, then the end wouldn’t have been as interesting as it was.

All three combined situations keep the fastest driver with the fastest car out of the championship conversation now this week. Is that fair? According to this new format it is. If you go back to something else, is it fair to configure it to where if someone has a season like Harvick but luck to how Harvick had in the Round of 8 that they still get to race for a championship?

Also, how do we judge Harvick though? He can get a 10th win of the season on Sunday but not win the title. What if he has more seasons like this? He won eight times in 2018 and didn’t win a championship. He won four times a year ago and not title then either.

He could easily have 3-4 championships by this time next week but will be sitting at one. That’s why it’s hard to compare him to Petty and Earnhardt. He’s right in that sense.

This playoff format is what fans wanted and it’s why we’re even talking about the championship right now. If it was the old way, Harvick would have this thing wrapped up by now and we’re just getting by at this point of the year.

Is that fair too?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but a solution is what many are being sought. Is that fair?

One comment

  1. Is there any evidence that the fans actually wanted a playoff format ever at any point? It’s not like the existence of The Chase has ever led to substantial increases in viewership and instead the sport has been on a long decline.

    Reassessing who is good by determining that winning races overall isn’t important is a bizarre metric to use for motor racing. Seems like a bad idea to immediately throw out the most important core goal of auto sport. What do I know, though, aside from being able to notice that every other racing series on earth doesn’t operate in this fashion?


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