How about a NASCAR tourney?

March, 19, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- March Madness is under way and we're all glued to the television set or radio for arguably the best tournament in all of sports.

Maybe NASCAR should take a close look at this. Instead of a 10-race Chase, take the top 12 drivers and create a four-race playoff. Instead of 400- and 500-mile snorefests, we could have exciting heat races.

Let's take last year's Chase drivers and set the pairings for the first round at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where we would all like to spend another race weekend:

No. 1 seed Kyle Busch vs. No. 12 Clint Bowyer

No. 2 Carl Edwards vs. No. 11 Matt Kenseth

No. 3 Jimmie Johnson vs. No. 10 Jeff Gordon (a marquee matchup of Hendrick Motorsports powers, by the way)

No. 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. vs. No. 9 Denny Hamlin

No. 5 Jeff Burton vs. No. 8 Greg Biffle

No. 6 Tony Stewart vs. No. 7 Kevin Harvick

We'll run six 50-lap heats, which would be 300 laps, more than enough to keep the track promoter and fans that camped out all weekend happy. The winners advance to Phoenix, or wherever you want to go next. After Vegas I'm not so picky, but I do want Darlington in one round.

I'm going to go with Busch, Edwards, Gordon (gotta have an upset or two), Earnhardt, Biffle and Stewart. Any arguments?

Second-round pairings for 75-lap heat races would be No. 1 Busch vs. No. 10 Gordon, No. 2 Edwards vs. No. 8 Biffle, and No. 4 Earnhardt vs. No. 6 Stewart. The top seed always plays the lowest seed available, if you're questioning the pairings.

My winners: Gordon, Edwards and Earnhardt.

Edwards gets a bye because he's the highest seed remaining, and because we started with 12 teams it doesn't work out to have two semifinals. In a year, we'll expand the field to make it work better.

So it's No. 4 Earnhardt vs. No. 10 Gordon. Three 50-lap heat races with a best-of-three format.

Gordon wins the first. Earnhardt takes the next two to advance.

Championship matchup: No. 2 Edwards vs. No. 4 Earnhardt.

They meet at Daytona International Speedway for the title because I believe the final ought to be at NASCAR's Super Bowl of racing. We'll schedule five 50-lap heats with a best-of-five format.

Edwards takes the first. Earnhardt the second and third. Edwards cruises in the fourth.

And the winner is … Earnhardt, who slingshots past Edwards on the final turn and takes the checkered.

That's for all of you Earnhardt fans who think I don't like your driver.

It's also the only way Earnhardt will win a title.

I'd actually like to create a field of 64 for next season, seeding past and current drivers into four brackets: short tracks, superspeedways, intermediate tracks and road courses. We'd have four No. 1 seeds, perhaps Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.

We would have you pick the winners to advance each week until we have two to decide the best driver of all time.

Anybody on board?

Or are you all watching basketball as I am?

David Newton covers NASCAR for He can be reached at

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter



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