Coming off the final off weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, we had the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series to whet our racing appetite (at least in the stock car world). Because of the off week, almost no Cup drivers appeared in either event, giving the series regulars and developmental drivers a deserved place in the spotlight.
While neither event may have had fans’ hearts pumping in quite the same way the last few road-course races have, there was certainly some good racing in both. Sure there were issues with cautions at Road America and several yellow flags at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, but both races provided some decent racing to enjoy in lieu of Cup racing.
So, as we head into the final leg of the Sprint Cup Series season — and with the Chase sitting only a couple of weeks away — I have two requests from NASCAR:
More road courses and more standalone events for the lower level series.
First off, I never used to be a huge road-racing fan. When I first started watching NASCAR, I was glad there were only two road course races on the schedule and preferred the circle tracks any day. I didn’t like the events as — the way I saw it —they didn’t provide the same quality of racing as the ovals did.
However, as time has passed and the aero packages on the cars have changed, road courses have become some of the quality events on the schedule. Sure the “air” aspect of the racing is still important but there is more in the drivers’ hands at road courses, with multiple braking points and slower speeds. Oh, and: It’s exciting!
I know I had some complaints in the Xfinity Breakdown this week about the lengthy cautions, but that is an easily fixable issue. Yes, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard dominated their own portions of the race, but it’s not realistic to think that there will always be a constant battle for the lead. At least the drivers could pass and move around for the lead, something that is sometimes a challenge in all three of the national series (though especially in the Cup Series).
The NXS schedule hosts three road-course events. The Truck Series has a single road-course event in Canada. The Cup Series races just twice on road courses.
I’ve decided that’s not enough. I would love to see NASCAR put more road courses on all three of the series. I think three is a good number for the NXS but wouldn’t have a problem with a fourth. There should be at least one more on the Truck Series schedule, if not two. As far as the Cup Series, there has been a constant debate that the Chase should feature a road course if the Chase is truly to be the test of the champion, and that’s a sentiment I agree with. Whether that means moving one of the two events into the Chase (unlikely) or adding a new track (also unlikely), it doesn’t matter. NASCAR seems to have warmed more up to the idea of doing so, but the challenge of rearranging the schedule seems to be the main thing that keeps them from doing so.
Whatever it takes, I hope that this is an option NASCAR is looking into. Yes, I know, the sport was built on the short, oval tracks and continued to grow into the giant intermediates that take up a majority of the schedule, but having a handful of road courses would throw a monkey wrench into what sometimes feels like a monotonous schedule and create excitement where there otherwise wouldn’t be. I hope to see more right hand turns on NASCAR’s calendar — in any series — in the near future.
On a different note, I was reminded this week of how genuinely fun it is to see a different crop of drivers competing for a victory without a Sprint Cup Series driver there to stink up the show. Yes, of course I am aware that Menard is a Cup Series driver (the only Cup Series regular in either the NXS or Truck Series race this weekend) and was still able to pull away with the win, but he hardly stunk up the show and actually faced quite a challenge from the series regulars. Ryan Blaney and Elliott were certainly capable of outrunning him, but Elliott had a problem and Blaney wasn’t willing to move Menard out of the way (a move I personally respect).
Though I’m not one who advocates that NASCAR limit the number of races Cup Series drivers can compete in for the lower series, I think creating more standalone races would create a limitation. Sure you might see a few Cup Series drivers make their way to another location to race on the same weekend, but you usually don’t see that happening when the NXS and Truck Series have their own weekends elsewhere.
When I first started watching racing, the very singular reason I started watching the NXS and Truck Series was because some of my favorite drivers were competing in them. I wouldn’t have watched otherwise and I feel like that’s how it happened with many others. Not universally, of course, but having big names in those series helps generate a buzz for them that they wouldn’t otherwise have. However, after watching the sport for many years now, I have of course developed an understanding and thoroughly enjoy watching those drivers compete in their own series, independent of the drivers who usually race on Sunday. Creating more standalone races would allow for that to happen more often with there still being enough of a buzz on the remaining events on the schedule for some fans to gain interest or be exposed to the series.
The bottom line is that I really enjoyed this weekend and wish we had more like them, both in terms of the layout of the racetrack and the fact that both the NXS and Truck Series had their own independent weekends. I hope that we continue to see more of an increase in these types of events sometime in the near future.