NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Schedule Tweaks NASCAR Needs

Welcome to the Frontstretch Five! Each week, Amy Henderson takes a look at the racing, the drivers and the storylines that drive NASCAR and produces a list of five people, places, things and ideas that define the current state of our sport. This week, Amy is looking at some scheduling changes that would benefit NASCAR and its fans.

1. A road course in the Chase

NASCAR says this is an option they are finally considering, and it’s about time. After all, road racing is a special skill and one that should be tested in crowning a champion. Plus, it adds a wild-card element to the Chase without being the total crapshoot that Talladega generally is. My choice would be Watkins Glen, a track that has hosted some pretty spectacular shows in recent years. That part of New York is stunningly beautiful in the fall, and the race could become a real destination race for fans.

With talk of International Speedway Corporation possibly taking over operations at Laguna Seca, it’s the perfect time to revisit the right turns on the schedule – I’d like to see four road courses and so would many teams. Many teams bring specialized cars for road courses, though the newer-generation cars are more versatile than they used to be. Building cars to be used just twice a year is a big expense. There are options, such as Road America and Mid-Ohio, which host the Xfinity Series anyway, as well as Laguna Seca. With the current cars, road racing provides some of the best racing fans will see, so having more just makes sense all around.

2. But not Talladega

If you watched the carnage at Daytona this past Sunday night (or Monday morning), you saw exactly why restrictor-plate racing, despite requiring a specific skill set from drivers, has no place in the current Chase format. More than 20 cars were involved in crashes to some degree, the vast majority of which were not involved in the contact that caused the crashes in the first place. In a championship format where one bad race can end a contender’s season, there should not be a race that’s little more than cars spinning on a giant roulette wheel, waiting to see whether the ball will land on their space that day.

On the other hand, the perfect spot for the race just might be the final race before the Chase, in the spot Richmond currently occupies. Fans have voiced the opinion that drivers are avoiding racing at Talladega, especially in the Chase, because the risk of crashing is just too great. But in that critical last spot before the Chase, there would be nothing but incentive to race their pants off. The drivers with wins will be, by that time, locked into the top 30 in points, so a crash won’t change their seeding much. The ones without a win will be hell-bent to get one, and because anyone can win a plate race on any given day, fans could be treated to a last-minute underdog. It could create a great championship set-up without the chance to unfairly ruin someone’s title hopes. That’s a win-win if ever there was one.

3. Daytona and Darlington by day

There’s a reason the summer race at Daytona used to be run in the morning: that’s when it’s least likely to rain in Florida in the summer. It was also before the real heat of the day for drivers and fans. After Sunday night’s ridiculous rain delay, there’s one reason to go back to racing the track in the morning and getting everyone back to the beach for the afternoon.

Darlington, too, should be raced during the day, in this case for the racing, though improved racing would be a side-effect at Daytona as well. Night racing on tracks longer than Richmond rarely produces great racing; the cool, fast track makes clean air and track position even more important, emphasizing aero push while racing on a hot, slick, loose racetrack puts a little more of the racing in the drivers’ hands. The stifling heat of a Southern summer adds to the level of difficulty for the drivers, and if fans are smart and hydrate properly, they won’t melt. Night racing being more exciting is a myth, not reality in most cases, and the series needs more races by day, not the other way around.

4. One and done on the cookie-cutters

For the most part, the 1.5-2-mile tracks are the ones that produce the worst racing, and it’s from these tracks where NASCAR needs to find the dates to add road courses and maybe another short track or two, such as Iowa Speedway for example. With the exception of Charlotte – because it’s the teams’ home track – and maybe Pocono because it’s unique and forces teams to strategize differently, there’s no need for any track in this range currently hosting two races to have both dates. Another exception would be Darlington; a second race there would be a welcome addition to the schedule. But Kansas, Michigan and Texas? Second dates for those tracks should be redistributed to tracks where the racing is better, and it would only benefit the sport in the long run.

5. Back to their roots

The original concept of the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series was for them to run more smaller venues, mainly short tracks, and it’s time for them to get back to that. Yes, standalone events have smaller crowds sometimes, but a lot of that could be remedied by having these races at tracks that don’t host national touring series races currently – tracks like South Boston, Myrtle Beach and Pikes Peak, for example. Those tracks are more likely to attract a good local crowd than the bigger ones do when they host standalone events. And even if they don’t, these aren’t Cup races and NASCAR should not expect Cup-sized crowds. TV is equally important for audience these days, and it would certainly be interesting to see if races at great venues would attract a larger audience than the current predictable companion events do. If indeed it really is about the product on the track as fans claim, a move like this one would only increase the fanbase for those series.

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14 Comments
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Duane

You can make all the suggestions you want about moving races and where the xfinty and trucks should race. But you are forgetting one very major point, Nascar is a run by the France family and it does not take a genius to see most races in a divisions are at there tracks so they get most of the pieces of the pie. If they don’t own it or run it then it won’t get any races.

GinaV24

Duane, I don’t think anyone would disagree with your point because the France family pretty much holds all the cards.

This is just a theoretical conversation and what we’d LIKE to see as opposed to any real thought that NASCAR would follow thru on it.

Jay S

Ok so yeah, I like all of them,especially #1 and #2, Talledega being the last race before the chase would be VERY entertaining I think…. I hope you CC’d NASCAR mgmt. on this article as I agree with every aspect(I live in MI. and agree, too many double dates at 1.5-2 mile tracks) I realize North Wilkesboro is a loss but would LOVE to see a new race… somewhere… Road America, Mid Ohio, Myrtle Beach… theres a lot of tracks beggin for a date…. who could/would improve infrastructure if they had a solid date for a few years, very sad that 2 companies basically dictate where they race. Bruton has sued them into this current schedule so I don’t think any change could occur to be honest and I doubt ISC will give up any of their dates… 5 years ago I would have said to lose both Pocono races but since the repave, that tracks racing is much improved… Idk… if major changes don’t come, the bland schedule is sure to keep bleeding off fans until there is nothing left… in my mind, the road courses,short tracks and plate tracks provide the best racing and should be left alone but anything in the 1.5-2 mile range should be fair game for change… Rotate dates to other tracks perhaps so one year MI. loses a race and the next year Kansas or Kentucky or Vegas so they only lose a race every other year,if you did that with 2 tracks a year we would at least get 2 new or different tracks a year…. Something needs to change… I only DVR mile and a halfs now, I have reclaimed my Sundays for me… I used to be planted for every race every week but the cookie cutters just don’t make me passionate enough to burn an entire Sunday anymore…. and that’s kinda sad, isn’t it?

DoninAjax

Don’t expect Brian to do anything that makes sense unless it makes cents. It’s hard to get him out of the vault counting his money.

When people DVR or PVR the race so they can skip the commercials, do they register in the viewing numbers? It might aggravate the sponsors. It seems to me a lot of people do, like me.

DoninAjax

And stop blasting Michigan. The racing wasn’t bad when Dale Jarrett beat Davey Allison by a coat of paint on the front bumper. Maybe it’s the cars and drivers that need to be changed to improve the “racing.”

GinaV24

Agree with you about taking restrictor plate races out of the chase. the topic of “ending at Daytona” always made me wonder what people were thinking. considering the new chase is already a crapshoot, adding a demolition derby into the mix just seemed really stupid to me.

I’d like to see Darlington run in the daytime, too. We were there for the “last” Southern 500 and yes, it was a really hot day — Labor Day in SC, but so what. Yes, we were hot, but we had a great time and saw a great race. We’ve been to the night race version too after NASCAR moved Darlington’s race date. I haven’t found the racing to be all that bad but I think it would be great to restore the whole tradition and race in the heat.

Matt33Fl

Good article, Amy! I certainly agree on issues #1, #3 and #5. Aside from making the cars less aero-dependent, a drastic remodeling of the current schedule is perhaps NASCAR’s most pressing issue on the agenda. If I was in a position of influence, I would propose this for 2016:

Sprint Cup
—————-
Feb 21—Daytona
Feb 28—Homestead
Mar 06—Phoenix
Mar 13—Sonoma
Mar 20—Fontana
Apr 02—Texas
Apr 10—Bristol
Apr 17—Martinsville
Apr 24—Talladega
May 01–Kansas
May 07–Richmond
May 15–Atlanta
May 29–Charlotte
Jun 05—Dover
Jun 12—Pocono
Jun 19—Road America
Jul 02—Daytona
Jul 10—Chicagoland
Jul 16—Kentucky
Jul 24—Loudon
Jul 30—Iowa
Aug 07–Indianapolis
Aug 14–Pocono
Aug 21–Michigan
Aug 27–Bristol
Sep 04—Darlington
Sep 17—Richmond
Sep 25—Watkins Glen
Oct 02—Loudon
Oct 09—Kansas
Oct 16—Martinsville
Oct 22—Charlotte
Oct 30—Talladega
Nov 06–Texas
Nov 13–Phoenix
Nov 20–Las Vegas

Matt33Fl

XFinity
————–

Feb 20—Daytona
Feb 27—Homestead
Mar 05—Phoenix
Mar 19—Fontana
Apr 01—Texas
Apr 09—Bristol
Apr 23—Talladega
May 06–Richmond
May 14–Atlanta
May 22–Iowa
May 28–Charlotte
Jun 04—Dover
Jun 11—Mid-Ohio
Jun 18—Road America
Jul 01—Daytona
Jul 09—Chicagoland
Jul 15—Kentucky
Jul 23—Loudon
Jul 29—Iowa
Aug 06–Indianapolis
Aug 20–Michigan
Aug 26–Bristol
Sep 03—Darlington
Sep 10–Gateway
Sep 16—Richmond
Sep 24—Watkins Glen
Oct 01—Kentucky
Oct 08—Kansas
Oct 21—Charlotte
Nov 05–Texas
Nov 12–Phoenix
Nov 19–Las Vegas

Matt33Fl

Trucks
————-

Feb 20—Daytona
Mar 12—Bakersfield
Mar 26—Darlington
Apr 16—Martinsville
Apr 30—Gateway
May 21–Iowa
Jun 03—Dover
Jun 25—Mosport
Jul 14—Eldora
Jul 23—Milwaukee
Aug 05–IRP
Aug 25–Bristol
Sep 10—Road Atlanta
Oct 01—Loudon
Oct 15—Martinsville
Oct 29—Talladega
Nov 11–Phoenix
Nov 18–Las Vegas

Steve

Matt, your dreaming if you think Nascar will ever give the final race of the season to anything but one of their own tracks (ISC). And the only way either ISC or SMI lose a race is if they replace it with another track they currently own. That’s why I think Amy is spot on when she said that if ISC purchases Laguna Seca, they will be added to the schedule. The question is, which ISC track will lose a date. It won’t be Kansas, because they just added a 2nd race a few years ago. Chicago or Michigan maybe?

Matt33Fl

As far as me being a dreamer, I was merely laying out what I would like to see happen. After all, isn’t that the purpose of this forum, for people to voice their opinions? I’m well aware that politics is the primary determining factor when it comes to how the schedule is constructed. having said that I’d be very surprised if Laguna Seca is added to the schedule, not only because of its proximity to Sonoma, but also I’m not certain the layout of the course is conducive to stock cars racing.

JohnQ

Does it really matter? Where they run is the absolute least of all NASCAR’s myriad problems Talking about schedules is akin to worrying about polish smudges on a car with a flat tire.

Matt33Fl

That’s a good analogy!

Steve

You are all dreaming if you think the Nascar will move their start times to 10 or 11am. TV will never allow that and based on what happened this weekend, it appears they have some pull when it comes to start times. People need to remember that Nascar is no longer the giant it used to be. Whether you like it or not, the reality of it is, it’s back to niche status and start times are going to reflect that.

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