Somewhere, Carl Peterson is smiling.
Over the past couple years, the Kansas City Chiefs GM has famously lobbied for expanding the NFL playoffs. "Only 37.5 percent of football teams make the postseason" … blah blah blah … "First-round byes give too great an advantage"… blah blah blah … "We can make more money and increase the playoff tension in more cities" … blah blah blah … Fortunately, in NFL circles, such pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and still "only" 12 teams make football's second season. But in NASCAR circles? Whole different story.
Apparently chagrined that Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart have each missed a Chase for the Championship over the past two years, NASCAR announced this January that it will expand the Chase from 10 drivers to 12, which means after this year's fall Richmond race, the top 12 men in the Nextel Cup points standings will advance to the playoffs. Now, I think this is hogwash, but then again, Brian France didn't ask me. I think keeping a little scarcity in the proceedings and causing solid teams to stress out over potentially missing the top 10 was a good thing. For every extra slot you add to the Chase, you decrease the regular season's importance, and you bring more mediocrity into contention. But I can imagine some orange-clad home-improvement moguls wearing No. 20 insignias banging at France's door this November, asking for their money back. And that's to say nothing of the red-clad beer barons from Missouri still smarting about a disappointing 2005 for their No. 8. NASCAR's response? Same as Carl Peterson's.