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Random thoughts about the NASCAR Chase and wondering why television ratings keep dipping. Surely, pro football telecasts aren't that much better and don't have nearly the suspense.

* So what are we to expect at Martinsville this Sunday? The paper-clip has produced its fair share of moments that are long remembered in the past, including payback, but will anyone take that chance this weekend?

It's rather doubtful as not only will be stock car racing world be watching, but so will the sanctioning body. In light of last week's turn of events at Talladega, it's reasonable to assume there could be some serious payback on the half-mile track, but that makes it so easy to spot. The high speed at Texas and the importance at Phoenix also has to be taken in consideration for those in the Chase to return the favor.

Or will the drivers, some of whom still fuming after days since they were last in Alabama, just put off any type of revenge until next year? Easy to say, but hard to do after an off-season to think about possible repercussions. Have to remember that while drivers may soon forget the seriousness of such action, the sanctioning body never forgets.

NASCAR's Chase is unlike any other form of professional sports championships. Teams that are eliminated are sent packing, not to be heard from again until the new season. Although drivers have been eliminated from the big prize, they are still in the field and very much a factor (just consider Trevor Bayne last week at Talladega).

Sure, it's the same case in golf, but the non-title participants don't actually get the opportunity to mix it up despite their feelings toward those who are vying for millions of dollars.

* Will the new five-year agreements with tracks for Sprint Cup event help? Yes, in terms of planning and promotions.
But here's a key question asked by many not involved in the NASCAR loop, other than just being fans: Why aren't the second dates at most tracks sold out? It's a comment prompted by empty seats the past few weeks at Chase venues such as Chicago, New Hampshire, Dover, Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega.

Tracks will now get the opportunity to actively and aggressively promote their races well in advance, which will help fans in setting up rooms and travel plans. There's always a chance some dates may change – case in point is next year's Olympics – but this new approach will certainly aid those coming in from out-of-the-area.

* Have to agree with Jeff Gordon about whether racing has changed this season in the Chase. He voiced his view earlier in the week during a media opportunity in Charlotte involving all those remaining in the title hunt.

“I don't think anything's changed,” Gordon responded when asked if he though racing was out of control. “I think the format's changed, and that's changed things slightly in the urgency of things.
“But, I mean, if you took five drivers and said, 'All right, you have two or three more races to go to win the championship, you guys are all within a few points of one another,' you would see the same thing. It's just the opportunity that presents itself that's there in front of you.

“I don't think that would be any different 20 years ago versus today.”

That speaks of the drivers' intensity in chasing a championship, regardless of the format. Some things never change.

* According to various media reports, the Chase is being viewed by less television watchers than in previous years. The surprising aspect about the news is that the networks didn't see it coming.

It's on cable, not the regular channel for a network such as NBC, which has the last half of the Sprint Cup season and the Chase. What do these TV execs really think? Don't they realize the average viewer isn't going to go deep into the channel numbers to see NASCAR racing on Sunday, especially with football on the air?

According to Sports Media Watch, the 18 NASCAR races on cable this season thus far “have either hit a record-low in ratings and viewership or the lowest marks in at least ten years.” That isn't surprising, especially at a time the price for cable keeps climbing. There are many households across the country that have dropped cable in an effort to balance a budget.
As important as Talladega was to the Chase, the race was the lowest rated fall Talladega event since at least 2000 and the least-watched since at least 2001