Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Chase format for Pulling?

Over the last twenty years of my life, I have grown to call myself a motorhead.  If it is a motorsport of some sort, I enjoy kicking back and watching it.  NASCAR has always been a sport that I would kick back and watch with my father, but everything changed in February of 2001, when Dale Earnhardt was tragically killed at the Daytona 500.  Since that moment, the sport that I loved to watch and spent hours on Sundays watching with my father, was different.  In 2004, the executives of NASCAR made a bold decision to change the point system, when they developed the Chase for the Cup.  The Chase gave the sport a new approach by dividing the season into two sections for those in the top 10 and gave each competitor a fresh start at title.  A few years later they extended the chase field to twelve lucky individuals. Additionally they also provided an incentive for the person outside the chase that finished in the 13th spot.  Since NASCAR saw great success with their Chase format, the NHRA has followed suit by dividing their season in to two sections as well.  The 6 race format for the NHRA Chase has provided great parody in seeing the 10th qualifier come from the back of the pack to win the points.

In 2011, NASCAR made another big announcement to try and spice up their quickly becoming stale chase.  The executives this time decided to revamp the system, by providing 2 Wild Cards into the Chase for the Cup.  These 12 competitors would have their points reset to 2000, with points for wins being given to each chase competitor in the 26 prior races.

Tonight, November 20th, the 2011 Chase came to a gigantic conclusion in a two competitor Battle Royal for the history books.  Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards took their sponsors, teams, and fans on a journey that only could have been settled with the competitors finishing first and second in the race and sharing the exact same points total for the season.  The tie breaker went to the Office Depot team of "Smoke" Tony Stewart as he had the most wins on the season between the two.  The NASCAR executives must have felt like a bunch of geniuses as their vision came to fruition in the form of a classic battle.  This truly captivated my attention, such to the point that I sat in my living room and watched the ESPN Coverage from start to finish including rain delays.

All this change and excitement in NASCAR got me wondering if the sport of pulling could use a facelift in their points systems?  Could a simple change in the points format give fans of each sanctioning body a more enticing reason to arrive at the final events of the season?  Or is our current format of points the perfect approach for insuring exciting points championships?

The 2011 season featured some of the tightest points battles that I can think of in my time in the sport,with the NTPA having nine of their twelve classes being settled in the final event and the Pro Pulling League seeing six of their classes with tight battles at the conclusion of the season. After looking at the seasons final point totals, one could ask the question how could the sanctioning body change the format for the better?  I can't truthfully say that a change could be made to make the battles closer but a chase format for pulling would give pullers a fighting chance at a come back after having a rough event.  Most of the points battles with the current format are so tight that if a vehicle suffers some breakage or a competitor misses a setup they have unfortunately witnessed their season falling from their grasps.  A new Chase format gives pullers an incentive to continue to attend as they have to qualify for the points race but it also doesn't take away the hope of winning in the early season. 

I have also would love to see the sport offering more incentive for sweeps.  The Outlaws has in previous years awarded competitors an additional prize bonus for winning their Western and State Fair Sweeps within their season.  The NTPA introduced the Pennzoil/Shell Cups for their Big Daddy pulls in Tomah, Chapel Hill and Bowling Green.  The sweeps provide a competitor that cannot commit to run a full circuit or that suffers breakage, a chance to invest themselves into small points race. Maybe these sweeps are the answer to adding an additional incentive in place of a Chase at the final portion of the schedule.

Example ideas for new SweepsI am 100% certain that there are several other scenarios such as the one I have suggested that could create new exciting opportunities for the sanctioning bodies.  I also believe that these sweeps give a sanctioning body a new opportunity to solicit additional sponsorships from a variety of corporations that cannot commit to the demands of a full seasons support. 

Pro Pulling League's Illinois Sweep (Henry, Freeport, Fairfield) 
America's Pull in Henry, Illinois is a great show on an annual basis!  Competitors flock to the Marshall Putnam County Fairgrounds to compete for a chance at the World Cup.  The Pro Stock Tractor's/Modified Tractors run four events in an 8 day period in Illinois, in leaving Henry to compete in the middle of the week at Freeport before traveling to Fairfield.  In developing a new sweep non Champions Tour competitors may be encouraged to come run all four events in two of the premier classes for the Champions Tour!  

The ITPA continually impresses me with their events and the efficiency at which they are conducted.  I would love to see the ITPA develop a sweep for their classes such as the Two Wheel Drives that run five times in six days in these cities; Jacksonville, Peoria, Brownstown, Arthur, and Taylorville.  With it being through the week many competitors from out of state may be enticed to come to the Land of Lincoln to run for an additional purse for the sweep.  I view this as a great way of increasing numbers and potentially membership!

Do you have thoughts on whether or not a Chase format could truly enhance our sport?  I would love to hear your feedback on the Miles Beyond 300 Facebook Page or the message boards.  Thanks for reading!

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