There are multiple factors that dictate what tracks receive a date on the NASCAR calendar, in particular a standalone event in the sport’s Xfinity or Camping World Truck Series. The surface has to be in good condition, the stands need enough seats to fit a respectable crowd and safety, in the form of SAFER barriers must meet certain standards. There are multiple other factors in play that are up to NASCAR’s discretion to judge.
There’s only one judgment we can make for certain: one standalone event needs tweaking. After NXS cars ran at Chicagoland Speedway, where you could probably count the number of people in the grandstands, there was plenty of discussion on social media about tracks that deserve to have an event. Besides the bad crowd, the abysmal amount of approximately 377,000 people watching the broadcast on FOX Sports 2, according to Sports Media Watch, did not make the situation any better.
The worst part about this problem is,the Xfinity Series put on a great show at Chicagoland last weekend. The division’s young, rising stars were fantastic, competing side-by-side throughout the 300-mile race that was moved from Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon due to rain.
But no matter how good the race, a bad crowd means a bleak future for a racetrack that continues to struggle despite being one hour outside a major market. So if the 1.5-mile oval disappears off the schedule for 2016, who should be taking their place? Let’s take a look at five tracks that deserve to have standalone Xfinity Series races:
Lucas Oil Raceway: I don’t care if you call it IRP, ORP or LOR, it’s a freaking awesome track for racing. From 1982 until 2011, this 0.686-mile track was one of the bright spots on the schedule. It is a mere 14-minute drive from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, situated as a somewhat standalone event during the weekend of the Brickyard 400. It’s not like Indianapolis has put on anywhere close to a decent show, by comparison since the Xfinity Series started racing at the 2.5-mile speedway in 2012.
Gateway Motorsports Park: Back on the Camping World Truck Series schedule the past two seasons, Gateway has put on great shows for the series. Add an Xfinity Series race on the same weekend and the stands might fill up a lot more. This year, when the Truck Series was racing at Gateway, the Xfinity Series was at Michigan. That wasn’t a bad race, held in conjunction with Cup but there are plenty of other spots on the schedule to move the Truck Series race and combine it with NXS.
Road Atlanta: This 2.54-mile road course is perfect for the Xfinity Series. Cup Series teams test at Road Atlanta every now and then in preparation for the two road-course events, and it has all of the assets necessary for this division. It has long straightaways, along with 12 wild turns, creating a great mix for drivers that have never been on a road course before. Placing this stop early in the season instead of one of the cookie-cutter tracks would be excellent considering the three road courses on the current schedule are all in August. The track wouldn’t be totally new to NASCAR, either as the Xfinity Series held two races at Road Atlanta in 1986 and ’87.
Eldora Speedway: It’s going to happen sooner or later. It has to. Track owner and three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has done a great job promoting Eldora to become an amazing event for the Truck Series, and it has been great at drawing amazing crowds. So why not add in an Xfinity Series night race, held in the middle of the week at a dirt track? I fully believe ratings will skyrocket and the stands will be packed.
Thompson Speedway: This short track is flat out amazing. Putting out unbelievable shows in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, it was given a fourth race this season. That’s right; four races at a single track. How often do you see that? Located in Connecticut, this track would enable the Xfinity Series to go back to the northeast, say on the same weekend the Cup Series races at Loudon or Pocono. The K&N Pro Series East raced at Thompson until 2009, and it put on a great show for fans.
Honorable mentions: South Boston Speedway, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Virginia International Raceway, Myrtle Beach Speedway, Evergreen Speedway, Kern County Raceway Park, Milwaukee Mile, Salem Speedway and Toledo Speedway.