The COVID-19 pandemic has created a very trying time for everyone. The aftermath of it will present major problems for a lot of people, including NASCAR, which was recently dealt another big blow due to the pandemic.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently issued a stay-at-home order that will run through June 10. The order is the largest we’ve seen in any state and has put NASCAR in a tough boat for two of its short track races. The race at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia, had already been postponed, but the May 9 race at Martinsville Speedway was scheduled to be NASCAR’s return to action.
Gov. Northam’s stay-at-home order won’t only force NASCAR to postpone the Martinsville race. It also means the make-up races wouldn’t come until July 1 at the earliest. With so many races being postponed and expected to be postponed, it brings up an interesting question.
Once the season starts back up, does it make sense for NASCAR to run all 36 races this season? The stress placed on the teams, drivers and NASCAR will be unbelievable, and it may make more sense to cut some races from the schedule to ease the burden. Our writers Clayton Caldwell and Mark Kristl debate.
For the Best Interest of NASCAR, All 36 Should Be Held
Recently, Virginia’s governor ordered a stay-at-home clause that will run through June 10, which would put the Richmond and Martinsville races scheduled for April later in the season.
According to NASCAR, neither race will be eligible for doubleheader weekends because their second dates are playoff races, events which the sanctioning body would rather stand on their own. This means that both races will have to be scheduled in July or August, making it very difficult for them to run, especially since there are going to be several races that will need to be rescheduled.
I believe it is in NASCAR’s best interest to run as many races as possible this season. I know NASCAR and the teams will have a lot of work ahead of them once the season gets restarted, but most of the teams and NASCAR are fully capable of handling the workload.
Sure, it will be a tough turnaround for teams if we run several midweek races and doubleheader weekends, but the tracks, sponsors and NASCAR need a 36-race schedule.
A good portion of the money earned by NASCAR these days comes from the luxurious television deal struck with Fox and NBC. If they are not even able to make up even one race, that could mean a significant pay cut for everyone involved, including the race teams who also rely on the television money through both their charters and their season-ending points payout.
I think NASCAR should work with the teams as best as they can to make the field as full as possible. I know the rules say that teams with a charter must run all 36 races in order to keep it, but for the 2020 season, that rule should be voided. Let these smaller teams pick and choose the races they want to enter. Make the limit 30 races instead of 36. I believe this is the best way to keep the sport healthy and competitive down the stretch. There also could be several other things NASCAR could do to help the smaller teams make the majority of the races.
That rule would only affect a handful of teams. Other teams are competitive enough to make the playoffs with a win at Talladega or Daytona. However, for the best interest of the sport, a phrase a lot of folks need to remember in this trying time, NASCAR and the teams need to work together to run all 36 races.
Plus, think about the fans who bought tickets to the races that have been postponed. What if they are Jimmie Johnson fans who have been waiting all year to see their driver race one more time? They bought tickets to the Martinsville race because they wanted to see him before he says goodbye. Should those fans get shafted because some smaller race teams may not be able to make it to that event? I don’t think that would be in the best interest of the sport.
Plus, if we run 34 races, fans and media members alike will put an asterisk next to the 2020 season because we didn’t run the full slate. Is that fair to that driver and team? Keep in mind, this would be all because a handful of smaller teams couldn’t make it to the racetrack every race.
Also, what about the race sponsors that signed a contract to be a part of NASCAR’s 2020 race schedule? Sponsors like QuikTrip, Dixie Vodka, Food City, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Geico? What are they supposed to do? Is NASCAR supposed to look at those companies and tell them that they can’t run those races because a handful of teams may not be able to make it to the track? I just find that absurd.
I also think about the new tiered sponsorship in place for the sport. Remember Geico, Coca-Cola, Xfinity and Busch Beer signed on to be top-tier sponsors in NASCAR new model for the Cup Series. The way the model has been said to work is that some sponsors may have more exposure at some tracks than others. So what we are saying is that because a handful of teams cannot make it to the track, we should tell these sponsors that even though they paid a similar amount, some may have more premier races than others. To me that is not in the best interest of the sport.
In the end, I believe most teams have the capability and desire to run all 36 races no matter when or how they are run. It would be in the best interest of NASCAR to run all the races this season. There’s no doubt NASCAR and the Race Team Alliance (RTA) will have to work together to come up with a solution for the five or six teams that may not be able to make it to the track with the races being so frequent. However, I wouldn’t let those handful of teams dictate the schedule. – Clayton Caldwell
NASCAR Needs to Cut its Losses
COVID-19 has forced the world into uncharted times. Nonessential businesses have been closed in numerous states, including North Carolina. Team employees cannot work in their respective race shops. NASCAR remains insistent on running all 36 races of the Cup Series schedule. But whenever the series can resume, the timetable will be too tight. NASCAR should not attempt to run all 36 races.
NASCAR has postponed races for all its sanctioned series. Teams are left in limbo. When will the races be run? There are a few rumors and proposals, but nothing concrete has been established. Without an end in sight for this pandemic, NASCAR cannot reschedule any dates yet – it does not want to have to alter any rescheduled races.
Reportedly, NASCAR wanted to have a revised schedule for this season as early as two weeks ago. However, that never came to fruition.
Under the best-case scenario, NASCAR racing will resume beginning on May 9 at Martinsville Speedway. With the stay-at-home order from Gov. Northam, that is in jeopardy. NASCAR is contemplating running the race without fans.
.@NASCAR has been considering the option of potentially running with no fans in the stands when the sport returns to racing May 9th at Martinsville, if necessary, per people familiar.
➖ Some teams/drivers say they would be open to that if that's what it takes to get re-started. pic.twitter.com/JazeuPQh9b
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) March 28, 2020
But what does the postponement of seven races mean for the schedule? To begin with, NASCAR wants to run all its races, but not change the playoffs.
.@NASCAR doesn't want to hold doubleheaders at tracks that host a playoff race with revised 2020 schedule, and the only remaining candidates with two non-playoff points races left are Dover and Michigan.
➖ That's aside from Pocono, which is already scheduled for a doubleheader. pic.twitter.com/HDv1PmhjWe
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) March 27, 2020
Unless NASCAR is willing to either alter the playoff schedule or temporarily abolish the playoff format, this puts the sport into a tight situation. This further becomes complicated if rain forces the postponement of more races.
Logistically, if NASCAR opts to go with doubleheaders, midweek races and other ways to ensure all races are completed this year, it becomes more difficult for the race tracks, teams and fans.
If you have ever attended a race, you followed peoples’ orders on where to park your car. You went through security, bought some items and you used the restroom. All of those require people and resources. Two races in one week becomes a strain on those racetracks.
The added time and costs for the cleaning crews, the security, the vendors, etc., coupled with the additional items needed becomes a challenge for a racetrack. Where, for example, would a racetrack store the extra garbage bags?
Two races in one week becomes a strain on personnel at the racetrack. TV crews, photographers, etc., all would have to stay someplace much longer, spend extra money on food and bring more clothes, or spend money somewhere on laundry. Would they be compensated enough to make up for those added costs?
Midweek races also could annoy local residents. A Wednesday night race at a track would impact local traffic; fans would be going to the track whereas residents would be heading home from work.
All teams, especially lower-tier and open teams, are affected by a midweek race or weekend doubleheader. A midweek race means teams must secure lodging, food, etc., for its members for a longer period. If fans are allowed to attend those races, teams could be left scrounging for lodging.
Additionally, if a driver damages a race car, the team must either send it back to its race shop or repair it at the track. The well-funded teams should be able to deal with that, but underfunded teams could struggle to handle it.
The teams also have a smaller amount of time to transport everything to the race track. Consider this: The last three Cup Series races of this season are in three different time zones. Add in either a midweek race or a doubleheader and teams have even less time to transport equipment and personnel to race tracks. As a result, the racing itself may suffer – more drivers could struggle with the handling on their race car due to less preparation by their team.
Although NASCAR has not yet decided on the Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, if the race takes place, fans probably will not be allowed. Whenever fans are allowed to attend races, a midweek race or a doubleheader may not garner the same fans at both races.
Unless ticket prices are lowered, will fans spend money to attend two Cup Series races at a track in the same week? Like the teams, attending two races means more money spent on gas, food, etc., for fans. Will fans be willing to spend more when they could stay at home and watch the races on TV?
Furthermore, the coronavirus has financially impacted countless people. Fans often plan their vacations around going to a race weekend. If those fans moved their vacations to continue receiving a paycheck during this pandemic, they may not be able to attend races.
Midweek races, especially during the summertime, may not attain the same ratings as a race at the same track that weekend. Many people are not currently receiving a paycheck. When people can return to work, they may decide to work overtime to recoup some money. Working overtime may outweigh coming home early to watch a race.
If there are two races at the same racetrack in one week, would you tune in to watch both? Depending on when the rescheduled races take place, some fans may spend that time outside enjoying the summer weather. Large gatherings are banned right now. Would people want to watch a race during the week or spend time with their family and friends?
It is a crazy world in which we are currently living. If NASCAR cancels those races, Fox Sports will lose around $35 million in ad revenue. I understand why NASCAR wants to run all its races. But the strain and possibility those races could further harm the sport once racing resumes are too big of obstacles to overcome.
No, I do not have the answers to how to make up for the money lost by Fox Sports, the racetracks, NASCAR, etc., but I also do not see an outcome where NASCAR has 36 Cup Series races this season and all of them are successful. – Mark Kristl
About the author
Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.
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