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)_
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.
*Races 11 through 20 – Back-to-back road courses? You bet!*
All Star Race – Rockingham (trial event for the track)
Nashville (400 miles)
Road America (62 laps, about 250 miles)
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*
Iowa (400 miles)
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*
Montreal (111 laps, about 300 miles)
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.
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