Hey, how about that race the other day?

NANAIMO – NASCAR Chase Grid format punctuates world news doom and gloom.

What with the Ebola virus outbreak, ISIS bludgeoning its way into establishing an Islamic state there’s plenty of doom and gloom to go around.

If hearing about about daily events gets you down, have a little pity on this poor columnist who must restrict his column content to commentary about something actually happening in the news.

Well, nobody ever specified what kind of news I had to comment on, so hey, how about that new NASCAR Chase Grid for the Sprint Cup format?

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing decided to broaden its fan base by moving away from its old system, where drivers accrued points through the racing season, to what looks to me like a playoff elimination system where teams are knocked out of competition in a race series, leaving the final top contenders vying for the cup. At least, that’s how I think it works.

A close friend of mine, who used to race sprint cars and is deeply steeped in the NASCAR racing culture, tried explaining the Chase Grid format to me the other night. I never understood the old system, never mind the new one. If you want to try to figure it out, visit the NASCAR website at www.nascar.com and search for Chase 101, a video that sort of explains it.

Truthfully I never gave a rat’s patootie about NASCAR – perhaps you don’t either – before I started watching races and programs about it with my friend, who over the course of several  years – combined with the countless vodka cocktails he provided to help lubricate my facility to comprehend the endless rules, nuances and subtleties of the sport – he’s led me to appreciate the athletic stamina and highly sophisticated engineering science that underlies what, to the uninitiated, looks like just a bunch of guys rippin’ around an oval track at 200 miles per hour for hours on end while jabbering over their radios in Hillbilly with their pit crews. Yes, even former Formula and Indy racer-turned-NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick, who was born in Wisconsin and started her racing career in England, has developed a pretty hefty Appalachian twang to her diction.

So, even with my newfound, but limited, comprehension of the sport, I couldn’t help notice that this newfangled Chase Grid format seems to be adding a lot of tension to the competition, when drivers got downright ornery with each other out on the track and followed up with a post-race dustup when Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski got even ornerier with each other out by the infield trailers at the recent Bank of America 500 in Concord, N.C. Even Danica grunted something Boomhauer-esque over her radio about it.

With all that on-camera drama, I can’t help thinking NASCAR’s attempt at attracting slightly higher-brow viewers (if you haven’t watched the Chase 101 video, now would be a good time and take note of the upper-middle-class family featured in the video), has just done a four-wheel drift onto reality TV’s infield turf.

Surprisingly, NASCAR marketing department heads rarely consult with me on such matters, but it looks like the Chase Grid format, intended to reach the crowd that normally passes up Speed Channel, actually landed the racing organization square in the laps of the Honey Boo Boo crowd.


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