Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway continues to campaign for a NASCAR weekend even though Nashville Superspeedway is back on the schedule and sits barely 30 minutes away. Does it matter if two venues are that geographically close?
Luken Glover: There are certain areas where this would not work, but Nashville is one of the biggest opportunities to pounce upon such a venture. Nashville has been one of the top television markets the past couple of years, despite not having a NASCAR Cup Series race before 2021. Then we saw NASCAR shift the awards banquet to Nashville, making for an exciting, traditional feel to the sport. Following that weekend, it seemed it was time to focus on Nashville more. Aside from North Caroline, the area is one of the best for race fans and a NASCAR complexion. It gives a sense of going back to NASCAR’s roots, and that would become even more notable if two tracks hosted Cup dates.
Josh Roller: I have no issues with two tracks being geographically close together and being on the same schedule. If both Nashville Superspeedway and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can produce good racing, get them both on the schedule. Any race fan in Nashville would hopefully feel the same way, because you wouldn’t just have two NASCAR weekends — they’d have two NASCAR weekends at completely different tracks. It’s very similar to how the Charlotte-area fans have it, with Charlotte Motor Speedway hosting a race on the oval and one on the ROVAL.
Jared Haas: If they were the same track layout, yes, but they’re two different tracks. The Nashville market would be one of the bigger markets for NASCAR. If the market is not too big or too far out like Chicago, it would not make sense to have at those tracks. Those markets like Nashville and North Carolina, which have big NASCAR fan bases, can have two races that are close in proximity to each other and not be too much racing.
Mark Kristl: It’s a large market without a pro baseball team, making it ideal for summer racing. As long as both events are scheduled apart by at least two months, it can be successful.
Ratings for the 2021 All-Star Race were substantially higher than last year and the best since 2017. Is this due to the venue, day of the week, car package or something else entirely?
Kristl: It’s the day of the week. It was a summer Sunday night race, a rarity in motorsports. Its only competition was baseball. Convoluted format or not, this may be something for NASCAR to use in the future for the All-Star Race.
Haas: There were a lot of changes in the right direction. The horsepower package helped the passing for the lead as cars could race side by side. NASCAR’s package of recent years has focused on the restart product of the first few laps then the laps after the restart. The leader of the race did not take off from the rest of the pack while the inverts kept the drivers honest. The biggest thing is that All-Star Races, especially last year, felt like a race R&D session than a race of the best drivers racing the track. The biggest reason why the All-Star Race has lost its lore is that it was the one gimmicky race of the year. For next year’s running of the All-Star Race, less confusion to the segments will help race fans follow along more, but keep the inverts of the field.
Roller: My gut says it is because it was on Sunday evening as opposed to Saturday night. Texas Motor Speedway hasn’t had memorable racing since its reconfiguration; I doubt that the track drew fans to the television. The package isn’t popular with fans, so that is likely a bust. The only other thing it could be is that the success of Hendrick Motorsports at this time, especially from Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, are drawing people in to watch. But I still believe it was the switch from Saturday to Sunday that increased the ratings, despite it being on FOX Sports 1 instead of FOX.
Glover: The day of the week could have something to do with it. NASCAR has stated before that Sunday ratings have been better than Saturday night ratings. It doesn’t change my opinion that we need more Saturday night showdowns, but that could have something to do with it. And you have to hand it to Eddie Gossage and Texas. They do a great job of promoting the race, and with the format and car package, they were able to reach out to fans whether they liked the idea or not.
A CBS Sports executive has said there is “no room at the inn” when asked if the network was looking to expand its motorsports coverage. Is there another that would be a good fit?
Haas: Barring any change of heart of NASCAR by ESPN, NASCAR is not likely to move to another channel. CBS would have been the most likely destination for another racing channel, and Outdoor Channel is not necessarily clamoring to broadcast a motorsports race anytime soon.
Roller: Realistically, ESPN is the only other option for NASCAR at this point. CBS does have several other commitments that would provide issues for Cup. The issue I have with ESPN is that I fear not enough races would be broadcast on ABC. Any negotiations need to involve having the bulk of the Cup races broadcast on network television, and it doesn’t matter who the network is.
Glover: One network that would be good to see the sport return to is Turner Broadcasting. I always enjoyed races on TNT and watching some thrilling calls on there. Turner Sports hosts NBA, MLB, golf and March Madness. The adrenaline and feel of NASCAR is unique enough to where I think it would benefit the network. Plus, Turner is headquartered in Atlanta, a similarity between the South and the roots of NASCAR. It would also be good to see the sport return to ESPN, but I’m not sure how likely that is. If we can get commentators like Alan Bestwick back, go for it.
Kristl: No. Frankly, the Camping World Truck Series on FS1 supplies consistency, which is a good thing. FOX and FS1 can handle the Cup and Xfinity series. With the upcoming closure of NBC Sports Network, the Xfinity Series can be on either USA Network, which has room for sports, or NBC. Because NBC handles the Cup playoffs, those should be on NBC. But two networks jointly hosting the national series, combined perhaps with NASCAR YouTube page for pre-race and post-race coverage, should be able to handle all those events.
John Hunter Nemechek revitalized his career in the Truck Series this season, winning four times in 11 races. Will his success will start a trend of moving down in the series hierarchy to a better ride, and if so, which Cup driver might hop on the bandwagon in 2022?
Roller: John Hunter Nemechek‘s decision to go to the Truck Series this season has become one of my favorites. Nemechek had it rough the past two seasons, and the decisions he made didn’t pan out like he or anyone expected. Will it start a trend, though? I doubt it, because there are only about 10 to 12 solid rides in the Truck Series, and most are filled with up-and-coming drivers or series lifers. After glancing at the Cup lineup, all the drivers fall into the categories of belonging in Cup or Trucks. That said, if Ryan Newman can’t find a suitable Cup ride for 2022, he’d mesh well in the Truck Series. He has outright struggled the past few seasons but hasn’t won since 2017 and only four times in the previous 10 seasons. Newman could have a similar final chapter of his career like Elliott Sadler did when the Cup rides were no longer available and he decided to make the Xfinity Series his home.
Glover: Absolutely. It’s pretty incredible that when he made the call, the fan base had mixed views on the matter. Now Nemechek has been tearing it up on track and has put himself in a good spot to earn a much better ride than what he had in 2020 at Front Row Motorsports. One driver that stands out to me that could take the same route was the recipient of the open seat Nemechek left, and that’s Anthony Alfredo. Alfredo had a combined 32 starts between the Xfinity and Truck series with 11 top-10 finishes. One of the big reasons he likely took this ride was it was one of the best options available. If he could go back to the Xfinity or even the Truck series in a competitive ride, Nemechek has shown it can go a long way. Would you rather be fighting for top-30 finishes every weekend or would you like to compete for wins on a weekly basis?
Kristl: Whether or not it will start a trend, it should. The two names which come to mind in addition to Alfredo are Ryan Preece and Quin Houff. Preece is a free agent repped by Kevin Harvick, Inc. If he wants stability and the opportunity to win races, dropping down could be beneficial for him. As for Houff, he has been woefully bad since he moved to the Cup Series. He absolutely should move down to prove he indeed is a capable NASCAR driver.
Haas: The trend of dropping back to the lower series was mainly done by aging veterans back in the day like Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson, and Ron Hornaday Jr. The older drivers are staying up in higher series rather than jumping down to lower series. Recently, veteran rookies who are in their mid-20s and raced several years in the upper series are making the jump down like Nemechek. Alfredo would benefit from a drop down to the lower series. Alfredo has had fewer full-time seasons in NASCAR and a worst average finish position in his Cup rookie season than Nemechek’s rookie season.