What will the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule look like in a few years?
In the past couple of weeks, a major topic on Cup fans’ minds has been the schedule. NASCAR is expected to announce the 2019 schedule in the coming weeks, and it’s one of the biggest problems the sanctioning body is facing right now. The mile-and-a-half-mile cookie cutter tracks, most being built in the late ’90s when track designers thought good racing meant high speeds, have become more and more unpopular as time has gone on.
The biggest problem with the schedule (the season is too long and needs to be cut to 30 races) cannot conceivably be solved, nor can actual track swaps. If Iowa Speedway or Canadian Tire Motorsport Park are added on to the Cup schedule, what gets cut? International Speedway Corporation, operated by the France family, isn’t going to cut a race and make its investors angry. On the other hand, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and Bruton Smith would file a lawsuit the second NASCAR takes away any of their dates.
So that leaves three of the most unique tracks on the calendar. Dover International Speedway is a great track in a good location, but its facilities have fallen behind, and I don’t have faith in Dover Motorsports-operated tracks after it killed Nashville Superspeedway years ago. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an institution, but something has got to give there between the boring racing and the terrible attendance. Finally, there’s Pocono Raceway, a strange racetrack that fluctuates in race quality but by all accounts has some of the best facilities and location on the schedule. If any race gets cut after the contracts run out in 2020, it would be one of these three tracks.
There are options at these racetracks to just run a roval or somehow make a short track in the infield, but these are short-term solutions for a long-term problem. It just feels like desperation on the part of tracks not to lose their dates.
Who will stop laying eggs after Easter?
With the Easter break upon us, it’s time for some of these NASCAR teams to take a step back and figure out what to do.
After months of hype and buildup, the new Chevrolet Camaro body has been a dud to begin the season. Chevrolet started off strong with Austin Dillon winning the Daytona 500, but it just hasn’t shown much speed since, with Kyle Larson the lone Chevrolet driver in the top 10 in points.
Hendrick Motorsports has been particularly embarrassing. There’s been a lot of talk about Jimmie Johnson‘s struggles this season, but William Byron and Chase Elliott aren’t any better, sitting 19th and 20th in points, respectively. Alex Bowman finds himself the second-highest Chevrolet driver in points in 12th. Somehow.
Stewart Haas Racing has been particularly phenomenal, with four wins in the first six races and all four cars in the top 11 in points. But the most consistent drivers in the field also finished the season 1-2 last year. Kyle Busch currently holds a slim two-point lead over Martin Truex Jr., who hasn’t finished outside of the top five since Daytona International Speedway but has somehow lost points to Busch over the past five weeks.
Although Team Penske hasn’t won yet this season, it looks to correct that in the very near future. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney are third, fourth and fifth in points, respectively. It’s a big rebound for Logano, who struggled for the vast majority of 2017 after his spring win at Richmond Raceway was encumbered. SHR has stolen all of the headlines so far this season, but these three might end up being the real stars of the 2018 season when all is said and done.
Why does the Camping World Truck Series schedule suck so much?
The Truck Series starts off its season with three races in three weekends but then has just one race between the start of March and the start of May. It’s hard for the series to get any momentum as it is, but one race in two months doesn’t help matters.
When the Truck Series began in 1995, it was totally unique from the other two national series. The vast majority of racetracks on the calendar were short tracks or road courses. Today, 19 of the 23 races are companion events, and not particularly great ones. Why is there a race at Chicagoland Speedway, a race at Kentucky Speedway and two races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when Richmond has none and Iowa Speedway has just one?
Of the 23 races on the schedule, only five are short tracks (four without counting Eldora Speedway). This makes no sense whatsoever. The trucks put on a much better show at short tracks than they do at tracks bigger than a mile, where often they barely even need to lift in the turns. There are also much bigger fields showing up to these short track races than at places like Texas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Why is there just one dirt race when there are plenty of other options around this country? Why is there just one road course event when there’s plenty of other options around this country? It doesn’t make sense when both Eldora and Mosport are usually the best two events on the entire calendar.
There’s been much ado about the Cup schedule, but the Truck schedule is in much worse shape.
Who will be the other four inductees in the 2019 Hall of Fame class?
On Tuesday, NASCAR officially opened up fan voting for the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. Unlike most sport halls of fame, NASCAR gives one ballot to the top five nominees for which fans vote.
Looking at the nominee list, there are still a lot of credible choices on the ballot. This is the 10th class, and with five going in every year, eventually the Hall will have trouble finding credible candidates under the current system. But, for now, the race to get in is still (mostly) wide open.
That “mostly” is mainly due to the presence of Jeff Gordon on the ballot. Gordon has by far the best resume of any candidate to go in since the initial 25 in 2010, and the only question is not if he makes it in, but rather how much of the vote will he commend.
Outside of Gordon, though, the other four inductees will be harder to pinpoint. The four I endorse represent a wide variety of drivers and mechanics from both national and local series.
Ricky Rudd was an ironman who had a remarkable career considering he constantly jumped from team to team and only spent two seasons in championship-caliber equipment. Joe Gibbs has better stats than any of the other nominated owners, and he hasn’t really had a bad year since 2004. Mike Stefanik was arguably just as good as 2012 inductee Richie Evans in the modified series. Finally, Alan Kulwicki was the last of the owner-drivers and also the only truly successful one in the last 30 years. Tony Stewart had plenty of success, but he didn’t build his own engines or his own cars with a tenth of the resources like Kulwicki did.