Jeff Gordon battles Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte for the win in the 1997 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
NASCAR Hall of Famers think new format has been great, added excitement RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace each won championships at NASCAR's highest level under a season-long cumulative points system, years before the advent of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. This year's format is a drastic change from the system of their heyday, with eliminations, rewards for winning and consistency all part of the equation. Even though the current complexion of the Chase represents a dramatic shift, both retired drivers said they'd have welcomed a shot at the title under this year's revised rules. "I would've loved to have been a part of it," Jarrett said. "I think all your champions will tell you the reason they're champions is because of how they thrive and handle pressure-packed situations, and I think we're seeing exactly that. I get ramped up doing the telecasts so I can't imagine what it would've been like driving." The two NASCAR Hall of Famers swapped stories and offered their thoughts about the state of the sport in a rollicking half-hour news conference Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN). Both former drivers will share in calling the championship finale in their roles as TV analysts. Wallace and Jarrett each won one title in NASCAR's premier series a decade apart, with Wallace reigning in 1989 and Jarrett's crowning moment coming in 1999. For selfish reasons, Wallace said he would have preferred if the idea had been hatched for the new-look Chase during his racing career. "For me, they told me if we'd had this format while I was driving, I'd have won three championships with the amount of wins I've had," Wallace said. "So yeah, I like this a lot. I think it's an exciting series with what they're doing now." Wallace said several fellow members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame would have adapted well to the new format, reeling off the names of Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as drivers who relied on a healthy mix of winning plus consistency. Jarrett added the name of NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Terry Labonte to the list, but went back even further to marvel at what Hall of Famers Fireball Roberts or Junior Johnson could have accomplished under Chase rules. "I think that it would've fit all different eras if we had this type of format in those times," Jarrett said. Both agreed that the new format has increased the intensity of the racing this season, some of which has spilled over to post-race confrontations. Jarrett said that some of those same issues cropped up during his driving days, but that the spotlight's glare wasn't as wide as today's, with social media and traditional media expanding the number of eyes focused on the sport. Wallace pointed to Ryan Newman brushing aside rookie Kyle Larson last weekend as an instance of the hard-edged racing that the new Chase format has created. While some of the extracurriculars go over the line and result in punishment, Wallace said there's still a balance in what qualifies as acceptable and what isn't. "It has changed a little bit, but I think the drivers being able to get out there and have a lot of contact and not being penalized for it is a good thing nowadays," Wallace said. "The fighting, the beating each other up -- I'm not a big fan of that. I do like controversy and I do like excitement, and I think that was OK to tolerate. Everybody's going to have a different approach." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Although Rusty Wallace is most known for driving the No. 2 " Blue Deuce" for Penske Racing, his 1989 championship came with Blue Max Racing. He had 55 wins over his 25-year career and continues in the sport as a car owner and ESPN broadcaster.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Rusty Wallace
Rusty Wallace gets his 55th and final career victory at Martinsville Speedway on April 18, 2004 in the Advance Auto Parts 500.
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Rusty Wallace talks about the opportunity to climb back in the familiar No. 2 car during 2014 testing at Daytona this week.
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