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RJ Scott knew introducing a playoff format to the Champion Racing Association might be met with some degree of resistance, but the series managing partner believes it was a necessary risk after recognizing the changing landscape of short track racing.

It’s not a popular opinion amongst a handful of stock car diehards but the days of traditional points racing has nearly phased itself out. In fact, it probably makes more sense for a Super Late Model tour to adopt the Chase for the Championship than it does at the highest levels of NASCAR.
Racing is expensive and grass-root teams often have more pressing obligations to manage during the summer. It’s difficult for drivers to make all 14 races but a system that requires only participating in 75 percent of the regular season provides a degree of flexibility.

And Scott hopes it encourages teams to stay with the CRA should they have to miss a race or two.

“Basically, we were trying to get ahead of what has become a bit of a stagnant environment in Super Late Model racing,” Scott told Short Track Scene on Wednesday. “We felt like there were teams that wanted to race for our championship but just couldn’t make every race. We saw some fall off in our other divisions too.

“With this new format, if you can win a race early, it takes the pressure off, it allows room to miss a race or two and still make the Chase. It’s going to add a lot of excitement too.”

Essentially, the CRA has adopted NASCAR’s elimination version of the Chase for the Championship. There are 14 scheduled races and 10 of them are tentatively meant to represent the regular season, weather permitting.

The final four races serve as the playoffs. Eight drivers will make the Chase based either on wins or championship points assuming they’ve started 75 percent of the regular season races. The next three races will whittle the field down from eight to four and those drivers will race for a championship in the already prestigious Winchester 400 in October.

It’s a bold step for a short track league to take but Scott said the idea was met with widespread optimism before it was publicly announced.

“We didn’t share it with a lot of people, but not a single one had anything negative to say,” Scott said. “I think everyone saw the benefits from a short track perspective. In fact, we got some praise from the other tour promoters that we were doing it first because they wanted to try it as well.”

So essentially Scott and series director Glenn Luckett will serve as guinea pigs for what could change the game at the Super Late Model level.

“I don’t want to discount the old-fashioned way of points racing because some fans will swear by it to their dying breaths,” Scott said. “But when I was racing, we had other things going on. All it took was missing one race for a funeral or birthday and you were out of the championship.

“And then once, that happens, you sometimes decided to miss a couple of other races too. We’re trying to get ahead of that and create some excitement along the way.”

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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