Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick discuss Chase changes
January 30, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Full coverage of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format change
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Only a few hours after NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France unveiled the new 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship format, two of the sport’s greatest champions were in the NASCAR Hall of Fame unveiling their latest ride and offering a review on the big news.
After unveiling a new, yet decidedly retro paint scheme for his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick shared their thoughts on NASCAR’s elimination Chase format that makes winning races essential and a winner-take-all event to decide the ultimate championship.
"I love it, I really do," the four-time Cup champ Gordon said. "I think we have to go through a season and it’s going to work better for some and not for others. I think it’s still truly going to benefit the best team and the best team will win the championship or at least be in position to win the championship.
"Sometimes it comes down to one race and that track might favor a certain driver or favor a certain team. So that’s going to have its challenges. It will force the team that’s been the best all year to step up their game."
Hendrick, a 11-time Cup championship owner, said this change will take a little getting used to. But then again, he conceded he wasn’t completely in favor of the Chase format when it was introduced in 2004. Six championships for his driver Jimmie Johnson in the last eight seasons, however, has helped win him over.
Hendrick said he agrees with France that the risk for the sport is not being open to change, not willing to evolve and be open-minded.
"It’s the fear of the unknown," Hendrick said recalling an article he read recently about why businesses fail.
"Another one of the reasons was people feel like 'well, it’s worked this way for all these years, why change it?' …
"But I think Jeff’s excited about it, and Jimmie’s like, 'OK, yeah.' I think that’s the way all of our guys have been. As soon as we digest it, we start figuring out what we’ve got to do."
Both Gordon and Hendrick raised the topic of having so much on the line in the season finale. After three rounds of eliminations, four drivers will vie for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the top finisher among them that day hoisting the Sprint Cup.
"I think the nervous part I have is just that last race, you’re in that top four and you’ve had a heck of a season," Hendrick explained, acknowledging that last race finish could trump the season’s summary.
"But to get to the top four, you have to have had a great season. The more I’m thinking through it and looking at it, the more comfortable I’m getting.
"There have been times when the Chase played to my favor; the way I look at it, if it’s better for the sport, if the fans like it, then I’m all for it. Because that’s what we need to do to make our sport grow."
Gordon agreed and really seemed to embrace the challenge this new format presents.
"You're not going to hear, 'well, I just got a good points day out of it, I finished 12th, or I’m not going to take this extra chance on restart,'" Gordon said. "We're always pushing hard to win but never are you going to see us push this hard as we will this year.
"I think the fans have a lot to think about now, but at the end of the season they’re going to go, 'wow, this was amazing.'"