NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Schedulenomics

It’s no secret that what some NASCAR fans think the best type of schedule is one that differs greatly from what is currently offered by NASCAR. However, the biggest obstacle is how far apart the two are.

Want more short tracks and road courses? Well, it’s nice to want, but let’s face the facts.

There are probably less than 10 short tracks in the country that have both the infrastructure nearby to support a Cup Series race and the seats needed to be able to recoup the sanctioning fee.

Look, the way a race weekend happens is the track puts up a large sum of money up front to NASCAR. That money is for NASCAR to bring all of its people and equipment to the venue. It then becomes the responsibility of the speedway and its leadership to promote the event to sell enough tickets to recoup their investment and cover the costs associated with putting on the show.

Example: say a track holds 40,000 spectators. If this track were to pay a (hypothetical amount) $2 million fee, it would need to sell every single seat (unlikely) at a minimum of $50 simply to break even on the fee. Not to mention they need to pay workers, prep the facility and more. This requires even more money and means ticket prices go up, which lowers the likelihood of selling every seat. It’s a never-ending catch-22 of futility.

Another hurdle is the near-stranglehold that track conglomerates International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) have on the schedule, which leaves little room for any new hands to reach into the cookie jar.

And who can blame them for not wanting to give up a date? Most tracks have somewhere around a dozen major events per year between racing events across various series, car shows, concerts, holiday events and other assorted activities. Now we expect them to fork over a date that generates over 10 percent of their annual revenue because it’s in the best interest of the sport?

Not going to happen. After all, would you be thrilled to take a 10 percent pay cut at your job, only to see that money given to a new employee? But it’s going to make the company stronger overall, you’re told.

Chances are, you probably won’t be in favor of such a move. Track ownership organizations are businesses, not charities. Their primary obligations are to increase the profitability of the tracks they operate. So sending their crowd somewhere else for the weekend is as backward of an idea as one can fathom.

We must look for more realistic options. There are three boxes that need to be checked off when it comes to making schedule changes and making them sooner rather than later.

First, no track conglomerate loses a date. Whether you like that idea or not, understand that NASCAR taking a date from either SMI or ISC and awarding it to an outside ownership group is very unlikely. Second, it can’t require a lot of work. Don’t anticipate anyone taking a bulldozer to Kentucky Speedway just because you think it’s boring. Lastly, it had better not cost much. It’s hard enough to turn a profit in racing. Make it harder and no one is going to be receptive to your ideas.

However, in the event that a proposed change meets those criterion, it could be considered as a short-term option for improvement.

For example, if you’re on the more-road-courses-and-short-tracks side, you should be applauding everyone at Charlotte Motor Speedway and SMI. They didn’t have to do anything to Charlotte’s fall race. But in an effort to appease the vocal group of fans, they will re-purpose CMS and run the race utilizing the infield road course. No, it wasn’t designed with stock cars in mind, but neither was Watkins Glen International, and yet that doesn’t seem to be an issue there. The important thing is that they recognized the demand and responded to it without having to give up a date, take a lot of time or spend much money.

Hopefully, this will illuminate a few of the dark areas of how the schedule comes together. Some things to consider the next time someone starts referring to ways that NASCAR can improve its on-track product.

It’s better than blurting out, “More short tracks!” at every opportunity.

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Biff Baynehouse

Yeah, there will be no overhaul of the Nascar schedule anytime soon. Due to the desirability of locking in contracts for media & venders, (as some of us are aware of) they lock down the schedule as soon as possible, many venues are booked 5 – 10 years in advance.
Another thing that most folks don’t realize is that permanent garages are a prerequisite for the Cup series. So places like Road American, Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio (has that garage with the balcony, but last I checked there was NOT 40 stalls) & a few others I frequently see suggested are NOT happening. The only road course that I know of in the USA & CA are feasible, are Tona (infield), Indy (infield), Laguna Seca (possibly closing due to an ownership / operators feud), COTA & Mosport.
And I’m not sure why it was glossed over, but ISC basically is Nascar. International Speedway Corporation was founded by Big Bill, & now Jim France is current Chairman & Lesa (France) Kennedy is current CEO, so this is, in essence, owned by Nascar. ISC tracks currently on the Cup schedule are:
– Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA
– Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, IL
– Darlington Raceway, Darlington, SC
– Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL
– Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, FL
– Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, KS
– Martinsville Speedway, Ridgeway, VA
– Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI
– Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, AZ
– Richmond Raceway, Richmond, VA
– Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, AL
– Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. was founded by Bruton Smith in the ’50’s & didn’t incorporate until ’94. He’s historically been the CEO & GM, & is still acting CEO, but due to health concerns, his son, Marcus Smith, is current President & COO. SMI tracks currently on the Cup schedule are:
– Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, GA
– Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN
– Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC
– Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, KY
– Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV
– New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH
– North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Wilkesboro, NC
– Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA
– Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX
Off-the-top-of-my-head, the only tracks I know of these two don’t own are Pocono & Dover. So, yeah, fitting a new venue into this would be like untangling a wad of fishing string just for the fun of it, bc as well pointed out, there is minimal, if any, profit to be made.
I think the schedule is as good as it’s ever been. I love the Charlotte in-field idea. I was surprised & a little bummed, only because I think WGI deserves a “chase” date. But I have not given up hope on that yet. It seems to me, since they are both ISC tracks, they could still swap Dega’s “chase” date with WGI. In my opinion Dega is just a terrible “crapshoot” for the playoffs, where-as WGI is the ultimate test of driver’s skill, hence much more fitting for “chase”. Then, due to fall setting in early in Upstate NY, reshuffle the deck a little to put WGI right after Chicago. That’s my only schedule suggestion as of now.

Aaron

Pocono, Dover Motorsports, and Indianapolis are the three Non-SMI/ISC tracks.

Tony

“…good as it’s ever been.” You can’t have been a fan for more than a few years.

Biff Baynehouse

Yeah true, & fair enough, but I meant …*since the cookie cutter era. We have the West swing & the North East swing, plus a new roadie. I’m all good & think the have much more pressing concerns to take on (ditch the “chase” & “staged” pee breaks).
Sorry the eclipse totality made me do it! I was in the dark for a bit :-) That qualifier should make you a happy camper I’m sure, lol. Fan since the first live televised race btw …Go Geoff Bodine!

kb

MEOW FRANKIE!!!!!!! Interesting you researched where no man dare too. Hat’s off to ya…

Bill B

Don’t the tracks receive a portion of the TV money?

Aaron

Tracks receive 65% of the TV money. NASCAR 10%, and teams 25%.

Bill B

So that kind of blows Frank’s math up. Nowhere in his calculation is TV money accounted for. Which makes the entire article somewhat fiction. I don’t doubt that the profit margin is razor thin but the TV money would really change the numbers.

Oh well, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

russ

Which is the real joke in the whole equation. Since the tracks are owned by SMI and ISC, the vast majority of the money goes to Daytona beach.

And if they want to increase revenue, just have each track schedule another concert or two. Problem solved without the expense of modifying a track.

Upstate24fan

Unfortunately, major scheduling changes aren’t coming anytime soon. I think the best that could be done is ISC and SMI looking at their current 1.5 mile tracks and making changes to the tracks themselves. SMI did this with Kentucky and Texas, reshaping on set of corners. I think ISC should do the same with Chicago when it’s time to repave, and go a step further and shorten the distance of the track from 1.5 to 1 mile. That would put a 1 mile highbanked asphalt oval back on the schedule. Radical reconfigurations of tracks have been done before, Richmond and Atlanta a prime examples.

RH

Currently attendance & TV ratings are decreasing. The amount that sponsors are willing to pay NASCAR, race teams, and presumably the tracks is decreasing. I don’t think they will renew the TV contracts (whenever they are up for renewal) for the same amount of money. Profits are going to decrease regardless if money is spent on new facilities or not. If NASCAR can’t generate the will to address its problems, and the tracks at which it chooses to race are part of the problem, it is doomed. NASCAR/ISC must look past there short term interests to improve the long term health of the companies.

PattyKay Lilley

And then, one can always think outside the box. Ever seen the “Legends” track at Charlotte? I believe Atlanta has one also. Just a small track that utilizes a part of the bigger track. Short tracks could happen for not a whole lot of $$ at most all of our “cookie-cutter tracks. We’re already going to see the inverse of that, with Charlotte’s fall race running on the road course instead of the oval.
I’ve learned over my many years to never say never, and to think things through all the way. Nothing is impossible. Excuses are OK, but they’re not really reasons.

DoninAjax

Pocono had a 3/4 mile track on the front stretch that I watched the Modifieds run on for their Race Of Champions. If they can still use it why not cut the field to say 32 cars and run say twin 150s? Run the Modifieds or Super Late Models in a 100 lapper between the 150s. Then the fans could see what a race with real race cars looks like.

PattyKay Lilley

Forgot all about that one, and it was for years my home track. I miss seeing the modifieds on TV. Always loved those races, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. “TV Partners” I guess aren’t fans. ALL of the big tracks could be shortened in that way though, and it would answer the cookie-cutter boredom and go a long way toward killing aero-push as well. It certainly an idea worth considering.

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