NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle – Beating the dead schedule horse

Rusty Wallace commented this past week that he feels like the supply of NASCAR races is higher than the demand and that he personally thinks the Sprint Cup schedule should be reduced to 31 or 32 dates. He feels the sport was at its best in the late 90s when they ran a 32 date schedule and he worries that NASCAR is being watered down by too much supply. There’s some validity to the fact that the supply may be watering down the sport slightly, but that’s because too many races are being run too often in the same locations. My proposal would be to still run 36 races, and possibly more, but to divvy up the dates so that no track runs more than one race except for Charlotte and Daytona getting the bonus of their non-points races.

There are many race tracks where losing a second date is not going to cost the vast majority of fans. Phoenix, Pocono, Kansas, Loudon, and Michigan would be ones that would seem to be obvious, at least for fans outside of those cities, where a reduction to one race would not be a traumatic experience. For the folks who feel like there are too many Intermediate tracks, dropping a race from Charlotte and Texas probably will be a welcome sight. There are plenty of people who would rather see restrictor plate races disappear so losing a date at Daytona and Talladega won’t bother that many people, although there is quite a bit of history to the July 4th race. That leaves the tracks that people will probably least like to see drop a date just because they are unique and offer up a change of pace on the schedule, although there will be much more variety with the replacement tracks. The “unique” tracks losing a date would be Dover, Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond. That is the list of the 13 race tracks currently on the Cup Series schedule that have two points races during the season; now, let’s see if we can replace them.

First, we only have two road courses on the schedule each year. Let’s bump that up to at least four. Add in Mid-Ohio and Miller Motorsports Park. Another option would be adding on the new road course that is being constructed in Austin, Texas for the new Formula 1 race in America. Incorporating that course makes it five road courses and accounts for three of the dates that were removed from the schedule. The second element that should be added to the single track date schedule is a return to dirt, as this sport was born on dirt and there should still be at least four dirt races on the schedule. Either Springfield or DuQuoin should be offered a date thanks to their longstanding presence on the ARCA schedule. Eldora would obviously be another choice out of appreciation to their hosting of the annual Prelude to the Dream. One of the most famous dirt tracks in the country, Knoxville Raceway, knows how to handle a big crowd and would be a great place to run the Cup cars on dirt. Finally Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri is probably the finest dirt track racing facility in the country. While that makes the dirt-track element a little Midwest oriented, dirt is biggest in the Midwest and the races would draw massive crowds. Adding four dirt tracks to the three road courses leaves six race tracks to add to the schedule to get back to the 36 number that we have now.

There are a couple of obvious choices. Iowa Speedway has hosted Nationwide races for some time and deserves a shot at hosting a Cup race. Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida hosts some of the biggest Super Late Model races of the year and would be a great location for an early-season race. Gresham Motorsports Park is also a great facility that would be a very nice location for a Cup race. Toledo Speedway or Mansfield Motorsports Park would be another great addition for the people of Northern Ohio and Southern Michigan, and both have hosted national touring series races before. Hickory Motor Speedway or South Boston would be great tracks that are still active and reflect the history of the sport. Finally, North Wilkesboro Speedway would be the last track to add to the schedule because it was on the first schedule and should still be on the schedule now.

Rockingham Speedway would be another excellent choice and could be added in place of Hickory or South Boston, but let’s wait and see how things progress over the next few years of hosting Trucks and possibly a Nationwide race. The bottom line is, the sport has an enormous fan base, even though it has shrunk in the past decade. That legion of fans deserves to see more variety to the racing than double dipping on 13 race tracks. Any of the proposed replacement tracks could upgrade their infrastructure in a year if they knew a race was coming to their facility and some of them already have it in place because they’re handled crowds the size of a Cup crowd.

The schedule isn’t watered down and, in fact, I suggested earlier this year that the schedule could have some additional races on some Wednesday nights without too much effort. The supply of NASCAR just needs to be showcased in more than 23 store fronts during the year. Get it back on dirt, add a couple of road course races, and put it back on more short tracks and the schedule will be more balanced and the champion will be a true champion with a well rounded set of racing skills. As with the Wednesday night races, it will probably never happen, but anyone can dream.

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