The Frontstretch: Dream Scenario: The Perfect 36-Race Schedule by Garrett Horton -- Thursday March 17, 2011

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Dream Scenario: The Perfect 36-Race Schedule

Going Green · Garrett Horton · Thursday March 17, 2011

 

As I was watching the Truck Series race this past weekend, something unusual happened. I was daydreaming, completely oblivious to Kasey Kahne opening a can of whoop on the field. Instead of feeling guilty about it though, I was pretty happy with my ADD episode. Even though I couldn’t have told you who was running second through last, my mind was still on NASCAR. More specifically, my thoughts were on The Lady In Black, and how great it is that it has two race weekends during the season again. The track of old, where tire durability was a part of the race, looked to be slowly coming back. Wouldn’t it be great if the Southern 500 came back?

Like most fans, I am a bit nostalgic and miss certain aspects of the sport that are no longer around. I am also a realist who understands tracks such as Darlington and Atlanta are more likely to lose another race before they would gain one back.

Of course, it would all be different if yours truly was in charge of the schedule. With that said, the best possible schedule would like this:

Races 1 through 10 – Similar to the early 2000’s
(Note: No changes are made to the race length unless noted)

Daytona
Homestead
Kansas
Atlanta
Darlington
Bristol
Texas
Martinsville
Talladega
Michigan

The three big differences from this portion of the schedule compared to ten years ago would be Homestead, Kansas and Michigan. Homestead, which has held the season finale for seven years now, needs to move out of that slot and would make for an ideal follow up to the Daytona 500. It’s progressive banking leads to some exciting racing and race teams could bring their Homestead cars to Daytona so the transporters wouldn’t have to drive all the way back up to Charlotte. It certainly beats the current drive out west.

I am not a huge fan of Kansas Speedway. If I was really selfish, I wouldn’t have it on the schedule at all. However, there are fans out in the Midwest who deserve to have a race close by. Kansas has seen minimal decline in attendance when other tracks have suffered, which is part of the reason why they got a second date (along with a new casino being built). It has earned a spot on the schedule, but one race is plenty.

Michigan would have just one race, and it would replace where Fontana was years back. For some reason, this style of racing seems to be the most enjoyable when it follows a restrictor plate race. Maybe it has something to do with having top speed racing for two consecutive weeks.

Easter usually falls in this part of the season and it would remain an off week, but the one we currently have after three races is gone and won’t be seen until the summer.

As Garrett Horton outlines in his dream schedule, Nashville has provided good enough racing in the Nationwide and Truck Series to earn a Cup date.

Races 11 through 20 – Back-to-back road courses? You bet!

Richmond
All Star Race – Rockingham (trial event for the track)
Charlotte
Dover
Pocono
Nashville (400 miles)
Sonoma
Road America (62 laps, about 250 miles)
Daytona
New Hampshire
Indy

A few jaw droppers here. Lets start with the All Star Race at the Rock. The track doesn’t have lights, so it would need to run during the day. Depending on how attendance and ratings are, Rockingham could get a permanent date on the schedule the following season. Keep in mind that poor turnout and a weak market cost this track both of its races despite the phenomenal on-track action. A successful try out for this exhibition event would dictate Rockingham’s future. If it doesn’t work, then the All Star race would alternate venues each year, starting at Richmond.

Nashville is a nice little race track that would make for a great Saturday night race during the summer. I love the races they host right now with the Nationwide and Truck series, and a Cup race would be icing on the cake.

Sonoma, followed by the addition of Road America is the most interesting part of this stretch. Not only is a new road course added, but it makes for two consecutive road course events. How many times do we see tempers flair at these tracks only to be followed by a dangerous high speed venue? Give the drivers a chance at redemption by putting in back to back road races where speeds are low and the rage is high.

Races 21 though 26 – Return of the Southern 500

Kentucky
Watkins Glen
Iowa (400 miles)
Richmond
Darlington
Las Vegas

It would be silly to take Kentucky off the calendar before the Cup Series has even raced there. Plus, it has waited patiently ten years now for a date. Lets give it some time. Then there is the addition of Iowa Speedway. In reality, it will likely be on the schedule before too long as the attendance has been just as impressive as the racing. At the expense, Iowa is one of the recently acquired races from Kansas. The Kansas folks lose one race, but the track that replaces it isn’t too far down the road.

Regardless of what you think the schedule looks like so far, everyone can agree Darlington needs to go back to Labor Day. It is a tradition that desperately needs to come back and would instantly restore some credibility in NASCAR. While Atlanta Motor Speedway is a decent alternative, it needs to back to later in the year.

Las Vegas stays on the schedule, but it has the most meaningless race of the year. It works in couple of ways. One, the media likes to hype the last race to before the Chase. Vegas and hype mix well. For the fans though, the last race before the Chase is pointless with most drivers already locked in. In this case, you might as well put a useless track in the slot.

Races 27 through 36 – The Chase

Talladega
Montreal (111 laps, about 300 miles)
New Hampshire
Dover
Charlotte
Martinsville
Atlanta
Phoenix
Texas
Bristol

This is where things really shake up. Honestly, if the schedule had this look, the Chase wouldn’t be as hated. That’s because there is more variety. Short tracks, restrictor plate tracks, road courses, intermediates and cookie cutters are all represented. By having the Chase start at Talladega, drivers wouldn’t be as concerned about avoiding the Big One. Even if they were caught up in a wreck, they would still have nine races to make up for it, not four as they do now.

The Chase doesn’t feel right without a road course. Enter Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Having a race in Montreal would provide for an interesting twist (no pun intended) in the playoffs. Races 29-35 remain similar to what it is now, with Atlanta returning to its date prior to hosting Labor Day. The night race at Bristol would host the season finale. This seems to be a no-brainer. Why not have the most popular race (besides the Daytona 500) be the final stop on the circuit?

Even for the people burned out because of the Chase would still be excited to see some good old fashioned short track night racing (and don’t complain about the “new” Bristol. If you don’t like side by side racing like we are seeing now, you weren’t a fan to being with).

To review, tracks that lose a date would be Pocono, Phoenix, Kansas, Michigan, Chicago and Fontana. It was an accident Pocono was left off of the list; I have nothing against it, but the 36-race schedule is long enough as it is. Chicago and Fontana, which had just one event to begin with, would be off the calendar all together. Tracks gaining a race include Nashville, Road America, Iowa and Montreal. It would certainly hurt the West Coast crowd, but they would still have more now than they did in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

There would be four off weeks: Easter, the week after the Daytona July race, right before the first Chase race, and another one sprinkled in during the summer. Having one right after Daytona during the Fourth of July weekend makes sense because it is a heavy travel week. Might as well have the Cup guys take the week off as well. A bye week before the Chase allows (this could be more bad than good) the media more time to analyze and hype the post season.

More importantly, it gives the drivers one last break before the final ten-race stretch.

Contact Garrett Horton

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Doug in Washington (State)
03/17/2011 11:28 AM
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Funny. Just yesterday I wrote my own alternate 36-race schedule. However, I didn’t remove any tracks from the schedule altogether, I simply changed a few. Both retained the majority of the schedule intact but here’s how it went:

Daytona 500
Phoenix
Las Vegas
Bristol
Fontana
Martinsville
Texas
Talladega

(off-Easter)

Richmond
Darlington
Dover

All-Star (Sat)
Charlotte-600

Chicago
Pocono
Michigan
Infineon
Daytona
Kentucky
New Hampshire
Nashville
Indianapolis
Pocono2
Watkins Glen
Atlanta
Bristol2
Darlington2 (Labor Day)
Richmond2
Iowa
Dover2
Kansas
Charlotte2
Talladega2
Martinsville2
Road Atlanta
Rockingham
Homestead

The above has 12 races on track 2 miles or longer and road courses, 12 races on “intermediates”, and 12 races on Mile and shorter tracks. Michigan, Texas, Kansas, Phoenix, and New Hampshire all lose one date, and Darlington adds one, and Road Atlanta, Nashville, Rockingham, and Iowa get one date. It also rearranged things a bit. An alternative here would be to pull Pocono’s second date and give it to the Texas World Speedway, though major renovations would be needed there.

The second plan had a little more alteration:

Daytona 500
Phoenix
Las Vegas
Bristol
Fontana
Martinsville
“Lucas Oil Raceway Park” (former ORP)
Talladega

(off-Easter)

Richmond
Darlington
Dover

All-Star (Sat)
Charlotte-600

Chicago
Pikes Peak
Michigan
Infineon
Daytona2
Kentucky
New Hampshire
Nashville
Indianapolis
Pocono
Watkins Glen
Atlanta
Bristol2
Darlington2 (Labor Day)

Richmond2
Iowa
Dover2
Kansas
North Wilkesboro
Talladega2
Martinsville2
Texas
Rockingham
Homestead

This one, I had to drop the 3rd Road race because to get my spread of 9 2.5 mile+road, 9 1.5-2.0, 9 1.0-1.49, and 9 Short Tracks, I would have to drop an existing Intermediate because there are 8 1.5s and 2 2-mile tracks, making 10. It was easier to balance when Kentucky had no date since I simply didn’t add it.

The changes there are:

Pocono, Michigan, Charlotte, Texas, Kansas, Phoenix, and New Hampshire all lost 1 date.

Darlington adds a second date, and Rockingham, Nashville, Pikes Peak, Iowa, Indianapolis Raceway park (IRP), and North Wilksboro all add a date. Of course, this would hinge on a couple tracks getting SAFER barriers in place.

I know, some folks say Fontana should go altogether, and heck I’d rather have a race at Irwindale than Fontana, but I intentionally did not totally drop any tracks. I did put Darlington (Southern 500) back on Labor Day where it belongs, and Rockingham with the penultimate race in both.

Kevin in SoCal
03/17/2011 12:27 PM
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Thank you Doug for including Fontana. Its my belief that every NASCAR-worthy track in the country should get at least one race a year. Every NASCAR fan deserves to see a race in their backyard. Only the best tracks should get two dates a year, and everyone else only one.

The Bear
03/17/2011 01:43 PM
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You better go back to your dreamstate and try again Garrett.Just a quik look I saw two glaring flaws.Kansas in March?? Its still winter in Kansas in March!And race 26 in Vegas….yea, that will fill the seats.Vegas is usually well over 100 degrees that time of year!!

Steve
03/17/2011 04:06 PM
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Don’t forget Bristol in November. If its snowing in March up there, I’m guessing it won’t be too warm in November. Correct me if I’m wrong

Phil Allaway
03/17/2011 07:25 PM
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I have to agree with The Bear. Kansas on what would be the first or second weekend of March would likely be brutally cold (Perhaps we should ask Summer Dreyer what its like up there that time of year since she lives fairly close to there). It likely would be similar to the first Richmond race used to be like before it was moved to June in 1998 (Winter coats in the stands, hot chocolate in thermoses, etc). Maybe worse. It just wouldn’t work very well.

Las Vegas in slot 26 is far from ideal. You’d have the same problems there as you had when Fontana had the Labor Day date. Too got-darn hot, and putting it as a full night race is impossible due to the time difference.

In addition, some of your new races are too long. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I like vegging out in front of the tube, but a 300 mile race in Montreal won’t work. The 200 mile Nationwide race has never been completed in less than 3 hours and 8 minutes. Granted, you would have a more skilled roster on-track, but a 300 mile race would be 4 hours, minimum. NASCAR hasn’t held road races of that length since the 1970’s. Also, the 400 mile Iowa race might be too long as well (it would either be 455 or 456 laps). Maybe 375 or 400 laps would be ok. The 250 mile Road America race would be pretty cool, but it should be noted that Road America is not the slowest road course on earth. Of course, there are some slow bits.

DoninAjax
03/17/2011 07:42 PM
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Get rid of four of the coma-inducing mile-and-a-halfs(except Atlanta and Charlotte) and give them to North Wilksboro and Rockingham.

Andy D
03/18/2011 11:50 AM
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Any of those plans will be fine, just do SOMETHING!

I’d love to see Road America and Montreal, and the Southern 500 has the same right to its traditional date as the Firecracker 400.

Cut out ALL duplicate tracks except Daytona and use those dates to fulfill dates where you need racing but have little support. Whatever is left, make it a short track.

RamblinWreck
03/18/2011 01:25 PM
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Road America is far too long a course. Three caution laps take ten minutes!

Garrett Horton
03/18/2011 03:25 PM
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Phil

There is nothing wrong with long races.

Phil Allaway
03/18/2011 04:24 PM
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I’ll be the first to agree that there’s nothing wrong with long races. However, not everyone agrees with that sentiment. Of course, this is coming from the same person that agrees with Jack Roush’s idea of a 350 mile race at Watkins Glen instead of the current 220.5.

A 300 mile, or 500 kilometer Montreal race (your 111 lap suggested length is just about 500k) might require brake pad changes mid-race like the V8 Supercar enduro events. Keep in mind that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the toughest courses brake-wise on the entire planet.

That sounds halfway satisfying, actually. However, NASCAR would need a different philosophy on flagging road races to make it work (meaning, don’t throw a full course yellow for everything).

Tom Dalfonzo
03/18/2011 10:00 PM
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Garrett, I agree with you 100% on the Southern 500 returning to Labor Day Weekend and Bristol hosting the season finale. I can tell you why in just five words: SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST!!

One thing I think should happen during the year if that all the current tracks should host only one race. Think of all the doors you just opened, on new tracks and new media markets.