Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Playoff Changes That Could Spice Up the Racing

1. Watkins Glen in, Charlotte Roval out

While it’s great to finally see NASCAR recognize that a true champion needs to prove himself on a road course in the playoffs, a pseudo-road course isn’t really a great choice. How about the Glen as the first-round elimination race?  The weather is still beautiful in upstate New York, we know from experience how good the racing is there, and the summer date could be moved to another road course like Mid-Ohio or Road America. It would be a winning move all around.

2. Charlotte still in, Kansas out

That’s not to say the home track shouldn’t get a playoff date because it absolutely should. While the 1.5-mile tracks don’t produce the best racing, they’re so prevalent on the schedule that it would be as inappropriate to include a couple as it has been to exclude road races. Charlotte proved much racier in the light of day, so let’s ditch Kansas, a track that’s even less exciting, and make the second round end in the teams’ backyard in front of their friends and families.

3. Richmond in, Talladega out

I know, I know, I just said that the playoffs should include all types of tracks, and superspeedway racing is certainly a skill that not all drivers have. However, these races are just too big of a crapshoot. Thanks to this year’s crapshoot / wreckfest where just 14 cars made it to the end, at least one deserving driver could well be out of the mix long before Homestead.

So how about this one: a straight-up date swap between big, bad Talladega and little, mean Richmond? That adds a tough short track to the playoffs, and here’s the beauty of Talladega as the last regular season race: it could mean an unexpected, last-minute playoff contender as it puts more teams in the running based on driver skill.

Yes, that means someone who had a decent (or just mediocre) season might not make it in, but if they were any more of a contender than a last-ditch winner, they’d have tied down a spot before the last race anyway. As it stands now, the playoff field is so close to set at Richmond that the race can be a bit anticlimactic. Even if it comes down to a few drivers fighting for a spot, the chances of someone completely unexpected swooping in and stealing the spot out from under them is extremely unlikely. Put the race at Talladega, and that changes.

4. Atlanta in, Homestead out

Atlanta has put on some great shows in recent years, and swapping it out with the more boring HMS would give a nod to tradition, as the season ended in Atlanta for several years when the racing was at its best. It’s cold in Atlanta in March or November, so it’s not like the weather would be a deciding factor.

5. Loudon in, Las Vegas out

Like the Charlotte Roval, this one won’t even happen until next year, but who thought replacing a one-mile track with another cookie cutter was a great move?  I’m all for NASCAR allowing owners to move dates among their own tracks, but they should be limited to similar tracks; i.e. a 1.5-mile track can only take a date from another 1.5-mile or larger track and not from a shorter track that’s more likely to produce a better race.

What about the other way around?  Sure, let them move all the races they want to short tracks from the 1.5s and up, but don’t keep adding more intermediates to a schedule already chock full of them.

About the author

Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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