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NASCAR considers Chase tweaks
By BRANT JAMES
Published September 10, 2006
RICHMOND, Va. - With minimal plot lines in its race Saturday night at Richmond to set the field for the Chase for the Championship, NASCAR is considering tweaking its point system as early as next season.
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said adding value to a victory or expanding the field for the Chase are among many options but increasing the field to 12 from 10 is not. If the field were to expand, he said, it might be done by allowing any driver within 500 points into the 10-race playoffs. Now the top 10 and any within 400 points qualify. NASCAR has "run models" using potential tweaks to see if they would have improved the system, Poston said.
"There's still going to be drivers that don't make the Chase, and that's a good thing," he said. "In years past we've gotten to this race where there was a lot of speculation and excitement about who's going to get into the Chase. This year there is a lot of excitement and speculation about who might drop out of the Chase. All in all we like what we see."
But even those "tweaks" would do little this season and still presented a scenario where only one extra driver had a chance to race into the Chase. Kasey Kahne, who entered the race in 11th place, 489 points behind Matt Kenseth, would have automatically qualified, and Carl Edwards would have been eliminated at 685 points back. Debate about changing the system began when chairman Brian France floated the idea before the Pepsi 400 and continued with Kahne outside the Chase boundary despite leading the series with five wins.
BUDDIES: There is the understanding that teammates will do whatever they can - within reason - to help each other. While Hendrick Motorsports' three Chase-eligibles and Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Racing's two didn't form a flying wedge to negotiate themselves around cramped Richmond International Raceway and into the top 10, they were able to help each other in subtle ways in trying to keep Evernham Motorsports' Kahne out.
Elliott Sadler, though not in Chase contention, was able to help his new teammate by in essence serving as a test pilot since coming over from Robert Yates Racing. "What we've been doing is our team is trying different setups," Sadler said. "You only get two hours worth of practice, so we're going to try some different stuff that might help my car or his car. If it does that, then they can transfer it over."
All three Evernham Motorsports cars ran in the top five late in the race at California last weekend, and Sadler planned to be of use again Saturday and, he hopes, throughout the Chase.
"I want to keep up with him," he said. "Last week at California when I was leading, I asked the guys, I knew Kasey was catching me and I asked how close he was to leading the most laps. That's what Scott (Riggs) and I want to do. We want to see one of the Evernham cars in the Chase. I think that's important for our company, so we'll do what we can do to help him."
There has not always been strength in numbers. Roush Racing qualified all five drivers for the Chase last season, but none won. Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards did tie for second.
BARE FACTS: Team owner Richard Childress wasn't thinking Canadian pop band when told Barenaked Ladies would adorn the hood of Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet in its yearly sponsor tie-in with the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.
" 'Bare nekked ladies, that's a real cool idea,' I was thinking," he said. "I went down to look at the car, looking for some really cool ladies, and what do I find is a couple of you guys on it."