NASCAR Wanted An Intense Playoff and It Got It!
Back in the golden age of NASCAR, which I consider the 80's and 90's, there wasn't a race that went by when someone wasn't taken out. As Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip used to say, "that's racing."
Back then, the races were sold out week after week and TV ratings rose steadily. These days, the tracks don't sell out and ratings have been floundering.
So, how does NASCAR turn the tide? How about create a tiered playoff system where it is do or die every week? Just like some of the best reality shows, drivers get eliminated at the end of each stage and only 4 drivers are left standing for the finale. Yeah. That works.
It is working. The ratings are going up and fans are paying attention. Of course, with this system comes intensity and aggression. This is a billion dollar sport with millions on the line for a Champion payday. No driver is going to politely watch that go by.
Yesterday, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon were trying to win the race yesterday. Jeff, for some reason, opted to restart for the green-white-checker race end (after a caution) on the outside lane. When Brad saw a hole open up he went for it. What happened next was pure racing, in my eyes, and according to NASCAR.com's quote from Robin Pemberton, NASCAR SVP of Competition and Development. Pemberton was quoted as saying: "I think it was hard racing, and this is a contact sport.”
What happened after the race was ridiculous. I respect Jeff Gordon, but when he sees the replay, he will feel like a whiner. But, the person who started the melee was Kevin Harvick. He actually can be seen pushing Brad from behind towards Jeff Gordon. I believe that forward movement caused all hell to break loose and the brawl to begin. If that is what NASCAR believes, don't be surprised to see Harvick receive a very stiff penalty.
In the end, NASCAR asked for this. The price for intensifying the drivers passion to win is fights and aggression. No brainer. You think the Texas fight was bad? Just wait until next week. Every single Chase for the Sprint Cup driver is in a do or die situation.
Here's the video. Watch, as Brad puts on his hat. Harvick pushes him directly at Gordon (58 seconds into the video).