(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

More Short Tracks, Please

These past few weeks at short tracks sure have been fun, haven’t they? It’s a shame we won’t see another one until August.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series put on another thrilling race – and finally another scheduled day race – at Richmond International Raceway with Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.

The 400-mile thriller was the culmination of a month’s worth of great short-track racing, dating back to the  STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3. NASCAR’s premier series raced on each of the three sub-mile tracks during the month of April, with Bristol Motor Speedway holding its spring day race in one of the two weeks between Martinsville and Richmond (the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway offered the lone intermediate race on the month).

With three great short-track races held in such a small period of time, fans and media were left clamoring for more.

And who can blame them? In a time where many yearn for the NASCAR of old, short tracks like Martinsville and Richmond offer the closest thing to it.

For a sport that made a name for itself with a post-race fight, modern day NASCAR is surprisingly tame. Literal stock cars driven by blue-collar workers and moonshine runners have been replaced by sponsor-laden athletes driving million-dollar machines. Cars often come home with little damage, and the drivers that get out of them rarely offer more than a line of quotes and a thank you to the sponsors before rushing to the airport to fly home.

So much has changed in NASCAR over the last 30 years. However, when the series heads to the smallest tracks on the circuit, there’s a taste of the days of old.

For the past month, there’s been beatin’ and bangin’ back in the field. There’s been less reliance on equipment, and more focus on driver skill, allowing underdogs like Matt DiBenedetto and Landon Cassill a rare chance to shine.

Courtesy of Carl Edwards, Richmond offered a move that was largely thought to be extinct, a bump-and-run to a teammate for a race win. It’s no surprise that Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch was less than thrilled with the move, dodging questions about it after the race. A move like that would be nearly inexcusable at the larger tracks on the circuit, especially when done to a teammate.

Regardless of rules package, body style or field size, the short tracks on the schedule always seem to offer six races for fans new and old to look forward to.

Sadly, NASCAR won’t see another short track until the Aug. 20 Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol.

Beginning with the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 1, the Sprint Cup Series will run seven races on super speedways, six events on intermediate tracks and two road-course contests. The closest thing to a short-track fans can look forward to over the summer months are races at Dover International Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. While both circuits are perfectly fine on their own right, the series could serve itself well by adding another small circuit to the schedule.

The series formerly held events at Rockingham Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway – two great short tracks in their own right – before a lack of seating led them to each be removed from the schedule.

The odds of getting either of those tracks back are slim at best, but another short-track would still add some much needed heat to the summer stretch.

The most realistic choice for an additional short-track Cup Series race is at Iowa Speedway. The XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series both hold races at the track over the summer months. Adding a Cup date to the track wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility.

If they aren’t going to add another short track, moving one of the April races to later in the year could alleviate the big-track boredom, too.

One way or another, NASCAR could serve itself well by adding a short-track race to the summer months. A little door slammin’ and fender rubbin’ could offer a nice reprieve to traditional snoozers at tracks like Pocono and Indianapolis.

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A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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