The Frontstretch: Nationwide Tracks NASCAR Should Have Awarded A Cup Date Over Kentucky by Garrett Horton -- Thursday July 14, 2011

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Nationwide Tracks NASCAR Should Have Awarded A Cup Date Over Kentucky

Going Green · Garrett Horton · Thursday July 14, 2011


When it was announced that the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway was sold out, it was obviously a very encouraging sign. Despite the fact that yet another cookie cutter was added to the Sprint Cup schedule, strong attendance is the most important thing, and Kentucky’s long awaited date appeared to be well deserved. That is, until the day of the race. Unless the only NASCAR related articles are mine, then you know by now the opening event at Kentucky was a complete failure.

It’s not the first time a facility has had problems with traffic; however, everyone involved in preparing for this race had plenty of time to get ready and deliver a warm welcome to the hard working NASCAR fans. The fact that some of these fans, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles and many hours to attend, got turned away due to lack of parking makes me sick (at the same time I now feel so much better for not making the seven hour drive to go).

Obviously, Kentucky will keep their race for next year, and many years to follow. In fact, don’t be surprised to see them steal Atlanta’s second date in the near future. If I had it my way, though, they would lose their one race and go back to the end of the line of tracks hoping for a Cup date. The facility has been hosting Nationwide events for over ten years now, but there are some other stand alone tracks in NASCAR’s second tier league that would be a much better replacement.

Iowa Speedway

It is very possible Iowa will be the next track added to the Sprint Cup tour. It’s not located in a major market, but what makes this place so great is it has its own personality. The 7/8th’s mile speedway is similar in size to the short track Richmond International Raceway, but it’s progressive banking, which has produced exciting racing, makes it feel similar to Homestead. Most importantly, attendance has been strong for every race out there. If they are already getting the seats full, imagine what the turnout would be like for a Cup race.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

While this would make for a great slot on the schedule, the odds of it happening are starting to dwindle. Recently it was announced that the Quebec government would not put up a good chunk of change to help fund the race track, leaving it in NASCAR’s hands to support it. In other words, unless someone ponies up one million dollars or so, you can forget about a Cup race north of the border because it won’t even have a Nationwide race anymore.

That’s too bad, because it would really be a great visit for the Cup series. In the four races the Nationwide Series has run there, not one was uneventful. Whether it was three different drivers doing burnouts at the opening event in ’08, racing in the rain in ’09, or thrilling last lap passes the last two seasons, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has quickly proven it would make for an excellent visit on Sundays. Even the Formula 1 race they hosted earlier in the year was good!

Road America

Yes, another road course. What can I say? They are different, and that is definitely a good thing when it comes to NASCAR racing. As far as road courses go, Road America certainly has its own, unique characteristics. For starters, how many four mile racetracks have you heard of? It also provides a high number of straightaways for a road course with three, along with plenty of passing zones. The biggest problem with Road America is the caution laps – if you have caught any of the Nationwide races there, you know they are brutal. If only NASCAR could learn the meaning of local yellows, it would minimize the agonizingly long pace laps we have had to endure.

Though the sun may well be setting on Nashville’s time on NASCAR schedules, there’s an argument to be made that it could put on a decent Cup race.

Nashville Speedway

Some may label this 1.3 mile speedway as just another cookie cutter, but I have always enjoyed the racing there. More than the racing itself, Nashville’s two dates on the calendar have been enjoyable. As the Nationwide series goes there when the Cup guys are off for Easter, it is a pleasant event to watch to get your racing fix. I’m not saying that’s the week Nashville should race if they are ever included in the Cup schedule, but I would not be opposed to a Cup race there the day before Easter, or maybe even make it a Friday night race so the teams could still enjoy their holiday weekend.

Some of you may be asking why no Indianapolis Raceway Park (ORP, Lucas Oil Raceway, whatever you want to call it). Considering they just lost their lone Nationwide race to its prestigious neighbor, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s obvious a move up isn’t going to happen. IRP is a fine track, and if not for the history at IMS, I would say put that on the schedule instead. Either way, two tracks within 15 miles of each both hosting a Cup race doesn’t seem fair to fans across the country.

I look forward to when the Nationwide series visits these venues, which is why they made the list. After thinking about what other tracks they visit along with the Camping World Truck Series, I did some quick research. In an odd coincidence, it turns out that all the tracks mentioned above are the ONLY ones that these series visit that don’t have a Cup race. That is a different topic for a different day, but that is quite an alarming trend, considering how they raced at many different places just a few years ago. Don’t expect any new tracks to pop up for them in the near future, but be ready for the stand alone tracks to be no more in the future. That means I will either get my wish – they will be added to the Cup schedule – or these sites will no longer have a spot anywhere. With the exception of Iowa, the latter seems most likely.

Contact Garrett Horton

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07/15/2011 03:22 AM

I live less than two miles from the “Nashville Speedway”—located in Lebanon—30 miles from Nashville.

When I first heard they were going to build a racetrack here I was SO excited…..until I found out it was another cookie cutter. Yet I still went to the races the first two years.

While it would be nice to have a cup race here, the track itself doesn’t lend itself for great racing.

They should have made it like Richmond.

Sue Rarick
07/15/2011 08:16 AM

I have to mirror what Mike said. I also live in Nashville and this year, after all the work to save the Fairgrounds, I am spending my money going to the races there. Because when you get down to it, isn’t it all about the racing rather than the personalities?

07/15/2011 09:57 AM

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Iowa to get a cup race. Until ISC or SMI buys it you can forget it.

07/15/2011 11:58 AM

I agree with Sue R. The problem with NASCAR seems to be that it’s not about racing, and cars. Jerks like the Waltrips want to make it about the so called personalities in the sport.

07/15/2011 12:14 PM

I think only Montreal deserved a Cup date over Kentucky. Iowa & Road America still need time to grow. Nashville needs to return to the earth and transfer the date to the fairgrounds. There used to be other Nationwide tracks that deserved a Cup date, but politics with ISC & NASCAR ran them out of the series. Politics and the bottom line seem to be more important than the actual events lately. As long as they can fit x people in the stands, it’s a date.

07/15/2011 12:30 PM

Actually Memphis would be a better venue than KY. 3/4 mile concrete track, southern town, everythign around it is easy to buy and move for traffic or parking.

07/15/2011 06:03 PM

If they lose Montreal they should go to the Mosport road course. We’ll find out who the brave drivers are.