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Happy Hour: Could a non-Chase format be closer than the Chase this year?

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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Was that really the most thrilling Pocono we've seen in a while, or is it buoyed by the Dale Earnhardt Jr. effect? I think saying the race was great isn't an overstatement at all. You had Keselowski's save on lap one, early drama, then late drama. However, guess what the common theme of all the drama and action was? Yup, restarts.

Congratulations go out to Martin Truex Jr., who Costa Rica'd Kyle Busch and won the 2014 NASCAR World Cup. Of course, given Busch's engine issue, it's not like Truex had to do much. But a win's a win, right?

It's time to get right to it.

Right now, Jeff Gordon is 17 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. As we know, points don't mean a thing. OK, kidding, but, really, these two guys have wins. They're in the Chase. It doesn't matter.

But it's fun to think about the what if, right? Last year, Jimmie Johnson was 77 points ahead of Clint Bowyer at this time, though 2012 could have been an epic non-Chase run. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was ahead of Johnson by eight points. And Johnson was in fourth.

Of course, Junior's concussion at Talladega sidelined the "What-if?" questions for the most part in 2012, but they're going to remain this year, especially if there continues to be a vocal segment of the NASCAR fanbase that still hates the Chase.

But since it's a format that's now in its 11th season, I'm not sure it'll have to be exceptional because of the points battle now. It has to be exceptional because of the new format. And NASCAR is trying to guarantee an exceptional moment at Homestead with the reset before the last race.

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Here is a “What if” for you.  We get to Homestead, the last race of the year to decide the championship.  It looks like one driver is out in front of all others going to win the championship.  One of the other drivers (or one of their teammates) wrecks him to get the championship win.  I know that this is highly unlikely, but if it did happen, do you think NASCAR would deny the championship to that team assuming they could prove coercion?  Similar to what happened to MWR at Richmond?   Tony Stewart said a few years back that he would “wreck his grandmother to get a championship”.
Side Question.  With Junior’s 3rd win, is he a legitimate contender for a championship this year? - Brian

After a 13th car was added to the Chase, can we predict what's going to happen when it comes to championship officiating any longer? I ask that half in jest, but given the events of last year, who knows.

The team that does something like this would likely have a plan executed that is much less ham-handed than the plan Michael Waltrip Racing had at Richmond last year. Had MWR not been so transparent and obvious, they're probably not caught, right?

But I don't think it happens, simply because there's a difference between the manipulation that MWR did and crashing someone. Sure, you're hurting the fortunes of others for your benefit in the former scenario, but in the latter scenario you're providing direct harm which will likely be fodder for retribution in the future.

We also haven't seen Chase crashing in the past. With a sample of 100 races, there haven't been any notable instances of crashing a driver on purpose to ruin his Chase chances. It's doubtful that it'd happen now.

Yes, I do think the tires would work in a perfect world, but it'd just incite another "NASCAR is using gimmicks!" backlash and that's probably not worth it, is it? And, let's be frank. Goodyear can't find the consistent balance right now of what's a good tire with both durability and tire wear right now, so throwing another tire type in the equation would have the potential to damage the racing even more.

And as far as the picture goes, well, I'm in one, so that's the scariest right? Though Joey never made me fear for my life, and I actually was able to pick up some good soccer instruction while listening. Milka Duno on the left is certainly a roving chicane possibility after she announced she'd run a limited schedule in the Nationwide Series this week. But here's the thing... she never said what races she was going to run. It was an announcement for the sake of making an announcement. It'd make sense if she was in a car on Saturday at Watkins Glen, but she's not, so who knows if she'll ever be in a Nationwide field this season.

So that leaves the bowling pin, which is the thing of nightmares. If you're being stalked by a giant bowling pin, chances are it's being hunted by a giant bowling ball. And that bowling ball is going to come rolling at the pin at some point. If you're in the vicinity of the bowling pin, you could get clobbered by the ball itself or the pin after it gets hit by the ball. That seems really, really dangerous.

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Nascar could save Millions of dollars if they would shorten the race year and cut back from 36 races a year...say maybe to 28-30 races a year. Also cut the length of the races back by 100 miles per race. These two actions would save teams and sponsors millions of dollars a year. I do not believe it would lesson the excitement of the race at all. I for one love to watch the race on Sunday but can not give up 3 1/2 to 4 hours of my time every Sunday. Cutting the length of the race back would allow myself more time on Sunday to get other things done and still get to see a exciting race. That being said, 36 races (weeks) a year is a very long season. gives the race car drivers a little more time to be with their families also. - Bill

Sure, NASCAR teams would save money by running fewer races, but for every action there's an opposite reaction. With less races, that's less sponsorship opportunities. Less television money. Less purse money. While expenses would go down, so would total revenue.

Is there a sweet spot between revenue and trimming the schedule? Possibly. But I don't think NASCAR is going to be cutting the number of Sprint Cup races anytime soon. If anything, you could see a condensing of the schedule through mid-week races, though that doesn't seem imminent either.

And is cutting the distance of races really the best solution? Pocono made sense to cut, and maybe a few 500 milers make sense, but otherwise, most races are at 400 miles or less. Plus, do races like Daytona, Darlington, Talladega and the Coca-Cola 600 need to be cut?

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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