Thank you for a wildly entertaining 2014 season.
Strategic rule changes ratcheted-up the level of competition, allowing drivers to race side-by-side – two and three-wide – without falling victim to the dreaded “aero push.” That process will continue in 2015, with a reduction in horsepower, aerodynamic changes and other adjustments, all designed to put more “race” in the race cars.
An exciting crop of hungry young drivers burst onto the scene this season, with names like Larson, Elliott, Dillon, Blaney, Wallace and Buescher ensuring that the sport’s future is in secure and talented hands.
Your new, 2014 Chase format was an unqualified success, delivering a steady diet of drama and intrigue that began with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s popular victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 and carried all the way through Sunday’s mind-boggling finale at Homestead Miami Speedway. An increased emphasis on winning got drivers “up on the wheel” like never before and produced fireworks, both on and off the race track. It struck a fair and appropriate balance between winning and consistency, culminating in a late-race Homestead championship duel that pitted one of the biggest winners in the sport against a driver who had not won a race all season.
It brought out the best in your drivers and teams, encouraging hard driving, aggressive strategies and a willingness to roll the competitive dice. It virtually eliminated the term “good point day” from our vocabulary, and made every race worth winning once again.
It provided new challenges that many long-established stars were unable to overcome.
It allowed smaller teams like Richard Petty Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing to bask – albeit briefly -- in the championship spotlight, allowing us to root for the underdog in a sport that has traditionally been dominated by high-dollar super teams.
It allowed four hungry drivers to compete for the sport’s ultimate prize in an unprecedented, winner-take-all finale, ultimately crowning a deserving, first-time champion.
It out the passion and emotion back into our sport, prompting drivers and crew members to stand up and fight for what they believe in. We’re not looking for a weekly ration of post-race fisticuffs, but this 2014 season offered a much-needed reminder of how this glorious game – properly conducted – can stir our emotions and command our attention.
It brought fans back to the grandstands, with sold-out crowds at the season’s final two events and increased television ratings for the first time in recent memory. Yes, there were still empty seats at most events and viewership was down for the season as a whole, but an upward trend at season’s end is cause for encouragement, and something to build on.
Just one request, if I may.
Ignore the pleas of those who want to continue “tweaking” the Chase in 2015, especially those poor, misguided souls who would institute a separate points system for Chase contenders. No matter what they say, there is a significant difference between finishing 16th and 43rd. The championship points should continue to reflect that reality.
Please, NASCAR, resist the temptation to do “just one more thing” by micromanaging a system that succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in 2014. Bask in the success of the season just completed, and leave the Chase alone.