The Frontstretch: Behind the Wall: The Nextel Cup Schedule by Brandon Daun -- Tuesday August 16, 2005

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Behind the Wall: The Nextel Cup Schedule

Brandon Daun · Tuesday August 16, 2005


It only seems right that everyone with a remote interest in NASCAR racing is primarily concerned with the Chase for the Championship.  And why not?  Aside from an incredibly tight points battle for a place in the Chase, popular names such as Gordon, Earnhardt, and Kenseth are currently fighting to make their way inside the Top 10.  If not focused on the championship, much of the media is covering the contract issues with Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, and several other teams and drivers in the Nextel Cup garage.  It would only be repetitive to cover either of these issues, so this week the 36 race schedule shall be going "Behind the Wall."

From February until November drivers are at different race tracks every weekend, all while fulfilling duties for their teams and sponsors during the week.  NASCAR visits tracks two, sometimes even three times in a single season.  In fact, the majority of venues on the Nextel Cup schedule are racetracks that have multiple race dates.  Is it really necessary to have a month of testing at Daytona and have three races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, all while new races and new tracks get added to the schedule?  It has gotten to a point where nearly every retirement in the NASCAR garage is partly a result of the schedule.  Mark Martin has announced plans to run the Craftsman Truck series after his Nextel Cup retirement, as their schedule is much shorter than that of the Nextel Cup series.  Drivers need to be able to spend quality time with their families and friends, and a 36 race schedule that also requires exhibition races and test sessions is simply too much.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the schedule itself is that of repetition.  As stated, many of the races occur at tracks with multiple Nextel Cup race dates.  Newer tracks need to be added to the schedule to make the schedule more diverse and give the drivers a new track to learn.  Perhaps a new road course such as Leguna Seca or Road America can be added to the schedule to replace a track with too many race dates.  Between Daytona and Talladega, there are four super speedway races on the schedule.  Does NASCAR really need four races that require a restrictor plate to determine who makes the Chase and who wins the championship?  NASCAR really needs to reevaluate which tracks are worthy of a Nextel Cup race date, and then determine which track is especially worthy of a second race date.

There are several solutions that can be made to better the schedule.  First and foremost, shorten the schedule.  Are 26 races necessary when the points become irrelevant at race 27?  NASCAR is all about the best competition, and competition will be no greater than when drivers have a shorter span to make the Chase.  If a 36 race schedule is really necessary, than newer tracks need to be added to the schedule.  Each race should only have one race date so that more race tracks can receive Nextel Cup dates.  Also, wouldn’t fans be more interested to come to a race when they would just have one opportunity to see a Cup race at the track each year?  

NASCAR has already claimed that no major changes would occur in the 2006 schedule, so it appears that a 36 race schedule with the same venues will be the future of the sport.  However, a shorter schedule with different racetracks would be in NASCAR’s best interest; it would please both the drivers and the fans.  A shorter season would allow the drivers more time to spend at a home environment, and would offer them a tighter race to the Chase.  Fans would greatly appreciate a tight race to the Chase, and more people could become NASCAR fans if such a situation existed.  The 2007 schedule needs to be altered so that both drivers and fans are happier with the sport.  After all, shouldn’t pleasing drivers and fans be NASCAR’s priority? 

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