Race Weekend Central

Shakedown Session: September 14th, 2011

“Solving The 2012 Schedule Status Quo”

It’s no secret that no sport has taken quite as hard of a hit at the box office in recent years than NASCAR. Sponsorship dollars no longer flow quite as freely as before, attendance has dwindled, especially for the Nationwide and Truck Series, and fan interest has waned over the years. Nowhere is this more evident than looking at all the open dates currently left unfilled by the departure of the Nashville Superspeedway from NASCAR, Darlington and Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for the Truck Series, along with the uncertain future of the Nationwide Series road course event in Montreal. Not forgotten in the list is the move of the Nationwide Series from the popular Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has to grate on short track racing fans the same way Harvard politics irritate a Vanderbilt graduate.

So, this begs the question as to “Why are there so many open dates now on the NASCAR calendar?” In the case of the Nashville Superspeedway, piss-poor track promotion, the facility not delivering on the grandiose promises initially made, and the track not being in the Nashville metropolitan area all sealed the fate of the Superspeedway. Had the track been in downtown Nashville (or somewhere near it), perhaps things may have turned out differently, but now the Music City’s marriage with NASCAR remains uncertain with the departure of the track in Lebanon and the suspension of operations of Baker-Curb Racing. Sure, the GoCanada Racing team is headquartered in Nashville, but seriously, are xenophobic Southern fans going to embrace an essentially Canadian team in the Southeastern United States?

As for Montreal, popularity has never been an issue for the event as Canadian fans have come out en masse to the event. The problem, however, has been behind-the-scenes as money has not been raised as of yet to ensure that NASCAR will stay in Canada. Toronto has lobbied to take NASCAR’s lone Canadian date among the main touring series, but it remains to be seen if Montreal can procure the money to keep its date, or if Toronto can get the date, or if the date leaves Canada entirely.

On the matter of the Nationwide Series having the sole Lucas Oil Raceway date shifted to “The Brickyard”, to quote P. Diddy, it was “all about the Benjamins.” Nevermind that the date at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis was among the most popular events of the year for the Nationwide and Truck Series… all that mattered to IMS executives was boosting their own sorry ticket sales, tradition be damned. At least when Tony George was running IMS, he never tried to poach the date from Lucas Oil Raceway.

One of the four open dates in the Truck Series has been filled by the return of “The Rock” to NASCAR, which is equally as popular of a move by NASCAR fans NOT on the Fan Advisory Board as the move to get rid of the Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis date was loathed and villified by dyed-in-the-wool hardcore NASCAR fans. With both Nashville dates and Darlington off the schedule as well, one has to wonder what other three tracks would scoop up these dates? Could short tracks such as Myrtle Beach, Hickory, The Fairgrounds at Nashville, or even “The Madhouse” at Bowman Gray Stadium get these dates? Unfortunately, in the imperfect world of NASCAR, this will likely mean we’ll get two California dates and two Homestead dates? Is that what fans WANT to see? Heavens, no! But, it’s what Brian France sees because he worships the almighty dollar. Hack away at the sport’s regional roots to go to tracks that are all alike? Problem?

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