Craig Murto: The Chase still needs excitement

The final race of the year was barely finished before the whining started on social media.

Fans are never happy, it seems. Many hate the Chase format, though it really was the only reason to watch the Homestead race. Without the Chase, Kevin Harvick won the championship by 22 points over Joey Logano and Kyle Busch finished 20th.

Kyle Busch is a great comeback story. It was improbable that he would even make the Chase, even with the waiver of the requirement to run every race. But the 30-year-old came back from injury and finally won a championship, something he was expected to do many years ago.

And thanks to a debris caution with 10 laps to go, Kyle Busch was able to win the race. Twitter lit up with 15 laps to go as fans predicted the caution. And when NBC tried to found the debris, they found something outside of the racing groove.

It was worth watching Jeff Gordon drive to sixth in his 797th and final Cup race. Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton on his pit box demonstrated just how important Gordon has become to the sport.

If anybody has a reason to whine about Sunday’s race it’s Kyle Larson, who was catching leader Brad Keselowski and was probably going to win his first Cup race. Larson winning his first race in Jeff Gordon’s final race would have been a great story, but the predictable debris caution ended any chance of that.

I always contend that there’s no such thing as a bad race. But somehow it seems that all of the championship races lacked something. It just wasn’t the best racing. And given all the hype for championship weekend, shouldn’t the racing keep the fans on the edge of their seats?

The answer is to change the schedule. Move the Talladega Chase race to July 4 weekend. Move Homestead to replace the Talladega Chase race. Then end the season at Daytona.

Why not? Because Daytona always brings so much uncertainty? Isn’t the Chase a crapshoot to begin with, a roll of the dice in each round?

The season should begin and end in Daytona. Daytona is the home of NASCAR; it’s where the final race belongs and where a champion should be crowned.

But most importantly, even a “bad” race at Daytona keeps fans on the edge of their seats. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in a restrictor plate race. It has the built-in excitement worthy of the championship hype.

And NASCAR needs to go back to allowing three chances for a green-white-checker finish at the superspeedways. Fans deserve every chance to see competitors race to the checkered flag.

If we’re going to have this Chase format and all the uncertainty and stress it brings to the race teams, we might as well finish the season with something worth talking about, and that is any race at Daytona.

Instead people are talking about a perceived bogus debris caution. That’s sad. We should be talking about how great all three series ended their seasons. We should be left breathless and counting the days until we get back to Daytona to start the next season.

Fans are whining on social media that they’ll never watch NASCAR again. And I can’t argue with the fans who found the racing boring. The truck race was OK, but mostly because it was shorter than the rest. The Xfinity race almost lulled me to sleep until the very end, when Kyle Larson had to charge back to the front. And but for the four title contenders, the Cup race was fair at best. Unfortunately the most interesting part of the Cup race – Larson again charging to the front — was stopped by a questionable late-race caution. And NASCAR wonders why WWE comparisons are made?

Let them finish the season at Daytona and NASCAR won’t have to attempt to artificially stir up some excitement and drama. Finish the season at Daytona and fans will watch. Fans will be thrilled. There will be drama without a manufactured caution to line them back up.

I’m sure fans will still find reasons to whine and claim they’ll never watch again. But the Chase needs a little something extra, and ending the season at Daytona just may fit the bill.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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