This past week, the teams competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series enjoyed their first off weekend of the 2018 season. The Easter holiday gave teams the opportunity to take a breather and enjoy time with family while celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The schedule has been a popular discussion lately in the NASCAR world and we wanted to join in and give our two cents worth. Whether it be additions to tracks or reductions of races at select tracks, there are ways to make the schedule the best it can be with a traditional, yet new touch.
1.) Add Iowa Speedway in June
Iowa Speedway has hosted NASCAR events since 2007. Whether it be the XFINITY, Truck, or K&N Pro Series, the track has been a staple on those schedules for over a decade. The Verizon IndyCar Series also joined the party the same year and has returned every year since.
It’s been almost 11 years since Iowa Speedway made its debut and it’s time to make the June race weekend a triple-header.
The capital of the state, Des Moines, is just over 30 minutes away from the track and is a hub of the Midwest with I-35 and I-80 running through the city. Those highways bring traffic from cities like Omaha, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, and many other minor cities which surely have NASCAR fans who want more racing. To add to the draw, there are only two NASCAR Cup races in the Mid-West (Kansas Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway).
Fans have been requesting more short tracks on the MENCS schedule and Iowa Speedway would begin to fill that need. Add in the K&N Pro Series combination race to the June weekend with the three top series, and the result would be increased exposure for all!
2.) More Road Course Races
No, we don’t mean running those old fantasy road course races you’d race on old NASCAR video games like the Daytona or Talladega Infield. The series needs to visit a few more road courses during the season and not built-in ones like the Charlotte Roval. Tracks like Road America, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, come to mind, just to name a few.
Fans have been asking for a road course to be added to the playoffs ever since its inception, but something more along the lines of “real” road course tracks like Watkins Glen or Sonoma. The three road courses in the previous paragraph are visited by at least one of NASCAR’s three national series, so there is no reason the Cup series couldn’t head to one of those as well.
There are countless other road courses in the world that could draw positive attention to NASCAR, including Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Québec, Canada, a track where the NASCAR XFINITY Series used to race. Road Atlanta, Barber Motorsports Park, The Raceway on Belle Isle, and many others would be perfect for NASCAR and could ultimately draw new fans to the sport.
3.) Talladega Three Times on the Schedule
Before you automatically disagree with this, hear me out!
Look at the grandstands the last five years at Talladega Superspeedway and you will notice that the track has successfully filled them twice a year. Why not race there a third time in a season? If NASCAR can sell out a race and continuously keep fans on the edge of their seat, why not do so a third time during the year?
For obvious reasons, Talladega will probably never get lights, which is really disappointing. However, Talladega is a track that doesn’t need lights to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The one downside that hurts Talladega is out of their control, and that is the high prices of hotels around the track — hotels that are quite a drive from the track in Birmingham or Anniston.
4.) Bid on the Championship Race
NASCAR is not a stick-and-ball sport, but they may certainly benefit from borrowing some elements from other sports.
Homestead, as the championship race, has produced some of the greatest moments in NASCAR history including Jimmie Johnson‘s seventh championship victory, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart’s tie in 2011, and a number of other moments.
Atlanta also provided some legendary moments in the form of championship victories.
The Superbowl, College Football Playoff, The World Cup and Wrestlemania are just a few of the huge events that have the bidding system to determine where the event happens. Imagine all of the NASCAR tracks putting their name in the hat to host the championship race and the events leading up to it. Tracks like Bristol, Charlotte, Richmond, California, Texas and others could push to host the season finale and it would give NASCAR the chance to crown a champion in different markets.
5.) Fan Vote for All-Star Race Location
It’s a different approach than most, but after all, the All-Star race is supposed to be for the fans. Start the vote late in the season of the previous year and let the fans decide where they want the All-Star race to be. Without fans, NASCAR is nothing, and allowing them to set the location of this event would put them deservedly in the driver’s seat for one weekend.
Set five locations in front of fans and have them vote on it via the NASCAR app, NASCAR.com, and a number of other methods that could serve as a call to action. Then announce the location sometime during the playoffs to give fans a good amount of time to purchase tickets and set up accommodations to attend the race.
6.) Return to Roots in Nashville
Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville used to host the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY, and Truck Series races, but the three top series haven’t visited the track since 2000. The only stock car series that currently races in Nashville is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. ARCA returned to Nashville in 2015 and has returned every year ever since. A packed house last season witnessed Chad Finley and Kyle Weatherman battle one another, with Finley ultimately coming out on top to earn his first career victory.
It’s noticeable that the national series hasn’t raced at Nashville since 2000. The SAFER barrier technology hadn’t yet been developed, and if the Cup series ever returns, that will surely be the first thing that will need to be done. Other than that, why not?
7.) Primetime Midweek Racing
It’s time to try midweek racing in the ranks of NASCAR. It could be an absolute flop … but then again it could be a very successful move. No, not every race would be run during the week, but what if maybe a max of 10 of 36 races ran in primetime during the workweek?
Summertime would be a great part of the year to roll this out, being as there isn’t as much on television during the week at that time. What’s more American than racing, cracking open a cold one, and celebrating America’s independence?
Well, you’ll have to put that on hold for a few years, being as July 4th is on Wednesday this year.
Daytona is just one of the races where this concept could work for families. Throw in other destinations that have attractions around the track including Daytona and Homestead, which are on or near the beach. Make it to where families can build a vacation around the event while the kids are out of school!
8.) Shorten the Season
NASCAR has the longest season out of any professional sport, branching from mid-February to the end of November. While they could continue to start the season in mid-February, it may be better to end the season in October rather than November. Fewer races during the year would increase the urgency earlier in the season, reducing some of the midseason doldrums that sometimes creep up.
September and October always result in some of the best racing. Imagine having a championship crowned during the same month baseball crowns the World Series champions and some epic October sports moments could be had!
9.) Combine More Races
The West Coast Swing is one of the more successful things NASCAR has implemented in the last five years and it makes me wonder why something like this can’t be done more often. A lot of tracks are close to one another geographically, yet the series continues to move back and forth across the country. NASCAR shouldn’t travel from Martinsville to Texas then back to Bristol; instead, the order should be Texas, Martinsville, and Bristol.
Not only would this make more sense logistically, but it could also result in fans possibly attending multiple races that are closer together.
10.) Shuffle the Playoff Races Every Year
I’m sure there are regular season tracks whose fans would love to see host a playoff race. Bristol, Michigan and Auto Club are a few examples.
For some reason, the playoff tracks are always the same. True, this season the playoffs got a little bit of a facelift in the form of the addition of Las Vegas and Richmond, but maybe every year should feature different races.
Imagine Bristol or Iowa in the playoffs — or even throw in Daytona. The atmosphere at a playoff races is always different than regular season races and some fans can only go to one or two tracks. Give them the chance to see a playoff race in person!