Streaming could play a larger role in the next NASCAR TV deal. Would the sport benefit from such a move?
Dalton Hopkins: Streaming live races could create a cause and effect that gets rid of NASCAR’s controversial stage racing format. It’s a steep slope, but hear me out. With streaming, there’s the benefit of having no commercial breaks. While it’s not definite, paying a fee for a streaming service would likely tone down the frequent and increasingly annoying commercial breaks during live race broadcasts, if not doing away with them all together. Imagine having the live uninterrupted race broadcasts that Formula 1 has for NASCAR. That’s worth $10 a month already. If commercial breaks become obsolete, NASCAR will have very little incentive to force stage breaks in the middle of its events and may even dispose of them. There’s also the fact that streaming services are becoming the popular form of consuming media content worldwide. Younger generations of fans are straying away from paying for cable and are relying more on streaming services to entertain themselves.
Stephen Stumpf: Streaming would be a great way to get in touch with a younger generation of fans. NASCAR desperately needs to attract a younger audience, and the rise of streaming has been spearheaded by millennials and Gen Z. It also has the added benefit of removing commercials in what has become a television product oversaturated with them. That said, abandoning cable all together would not be a smart move either. The majority of NASCAR’s viewership comes from people 50 years or older, and these generations have been less prone to the cord cutting seen among younger generations. Therefore, the next TV package should be a balance of the two and incorporate both. Streaming would give younger fans more exposure to races and it would also be beneficial for anyone that is looking for pure, interrupted racing. On the other hand, cable would still be there for audiences that are reluctant to switch to streaming services.
Josh Roller: It’s hard to tell if NASCAR would benefit from more streaming content because it still is rather new, in the sense that content will be streaming exclusive. Streaming will be included in the next media rights deal. There is no “could” about it. If you want to see a preview, follow what the NTT IndyCar Series is doing and see how it progresses through 2022 and 2023.
Should drivers have an expectation of privacy when holding a conversation in the infield/garage area?
Stumpf: Reporters and journalists alike will gravitate toward the post-race action, conflict and arguments because they want to do their job in providing information to the rest of the fanbase. The infield may be more secluded than pit road, but it is still an open-air space filled with hundreds of people. It is more private than arguing on pit road, but to expect absolute privacy in the garage area is foolish.
Roller: To put it short and sweet, if drivers (or crew members) want to have a private conversation, find somewhere private like a hauler. Otherwise, assume you’re being recorded or watched.
Hopkins: You know those people that talk on their cell phones with speaker mode in public? Have you ever realized how annoying that is? It’s a similar situation. In the case of Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott, they are having a shouting match not only in public but also on live television. To act like nobody is going to try to listen in is asinine. The garage area is not some safe haven for drivers and never has been. There are still reporters, camera crews and even fans walking around the garage area with them. If the conversation needs to be private, go to your hauler or camper. The garage area is a public space.
Eleven of the 12 remaining NASCAR Cup Series championship contenders are from just three teams. Which one do you think begins this round in the best shape: Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing?
Roller: Joe Gibbs Racing because it scored two victories in the first round and didn’t enter Bristol Motor Speedway with two drivers in true danger, unlike Hendrick Motorsports. Team Penske and Ford is lagging behind compared to JGR/Toyota and HMS/Chevrolet.
Hopkins: JGR looked great during the first round, but all three races used the 750-horsepower rules package, which seems to be the one with which the Gibbs cars can really compete and win. However, the next three races consist of a 550-horsepower track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. This round will be about capitalizing at Las Vegas and Charlotte, which Hendrick will have the best chance of doing. HMS has won four of the nine 550-horsepower package races so far in 2021, the most out of all teams. They’ll be strong at Vegas. Talladega will be a wild card race, which proves a risk for all teams. However, the ROVAL is the final road course race of the year, and HMS has won four of the six road courses this year with the combination of Elliott and Kyle Larson.
Stumpf: Hendrick. Talladega is the big wildcard that can be dominated by any team or manufacturer, but Vegas and the ROVAL play right into Hendrick’s hands. Vegas was dominated and won by Larson in March, and that race was one of many displays of Hendrick dominance on the intermediate tracks this season. Of the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in the 2021 season, Hendrick drivers have won three and led the most laps in five. The only serious competition that Hendrick will face at Vegas should be from JGR, as Denny Hamlin has been a top-five car in the two previous races at Vegas and Kyle Busch was one of the fastest cars at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July, the most recent race on a 1.5-mile track. For the ROVAL, Larson and Elliott have been the class of the field on road courses in 2021. Of the six road course races in 2021, Elliott and Larson have combined to win four of them, and they led the most laps in the two races that neither won. Elliott is the two-time defending winner at the ROVAL, while Larson has burst onto the scene as a road-course specialist this season. In addition, Larson had also led the most laps at the inaugural ROVAL race in 2018. Overall, the Round of 12 bodes well for Hendrick, with the only question mark coming at Talladega.
A rumor surfaced this week that the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series could add Portland International Raceway to the schedule. Would you be in favor of the addition, and what track should it replace?
Hopkins: There’s already seven road course races on the Xfinity schedule, which is the same amount as the Cup Series. We don’t want to oversaturate a schedule. One of NASCAR’s biggest strong suits as a motorsport is its schedule variety. It has ovals, really big ovals, really small ovals, road courses and even races on dirt, all of which are balanced well so as to not oversaturate a schedule with one or the other. That being said, the introduction of Portland would bring a race to the Northwest United States, which is a market that none of NASCAR’s three national series currently races at and could be very beneficial. Portland should replace a road course already on the schedule.
Stumpf: The Xfinity Series has seven road course races in 2021, six of which will presumably be on the 2022 schedule as the Daytona International Speedway road course was left off on the Cup side. In a 33-race season, I’d say that six or seven road course races is a good threshold, but any more would be oversaturating the schedule. That said, Portland would be a great addition and re-addition, respectively, to the Xfinity and Truck schedules. Road course races in the Cup Series have been selling tickets all season. The Pacific Northwest is also an untapped market for NASCAR, as the closest race to the region is the Cup race at Sonoma in the San Francisco area. As for the races that Portland should replace, how about none? The Truck Series only has 22 races in 2021, and there is certainly room for that series to expand. The Xfinity Series has 33 races in 2021, and while 34 is a big number, it would still give the series two additional off-weekends that the Cup Series doesn’t have.
Roller: I’d be in favor of any of NASCAR’s top divisions returning to the Pacific Northwest. Not a fan of the potential for non-competitive pitstops in the Xfinity, however. But Portland is the only real answer for NASCAR in that region of the country. I’d take Circuit of the Americas away from the Trucks; that track is too big for the series. For the Xfinity Series, take an event away from Phoenix Raceway.
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