Should the dirt race be moved from Bristol to Richmond?
While the NASCAR Cup Series’ Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race has been a ratings success, there is a sizeable crowd that wishes there was more than one pavement race at the World’s Fastest Half Mile. Short tracks are among the most popular races on the schedule, and there only five of them left on the calendar. A dirt race will likely remain on the schedule for the foreseeable future, but does it have to be at Bristol?
Not according to Kevin Harvick. Harvick became active on Twitter following the combustion of his car in the Southern 500, and he began responding to fans and tweeting his opinions on the account. One of the things he suggested was a dirt race at Richmond Raceway.
I’m always open for a challenge. And I think we should try a dirt race at Richmond. https://t.co/Cy2xS0NiMu
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) September 8, 2022
In his post-race press conference after winning at Bristol last Saturday, Chris Buescher also said a dirt race at Richmond would be preferrable to Bristol.
“The excitement I got walking through that tunnel yesterday and seeing clean concrete was really big,” Buescher said. “I don’t mind the dirt race, but this is my favorite racetrack on a paved surface. So when we lose that to dirt, it hurts a little bit more than it would if Richmond was covered in dirt.”
Would a Richmond dirt race be possible? Absolutely. The track isn’t much longer than Bristol, so importing the dirt, while a greater challenge, wouldn’t be an overwhelming one. In addition, Richmond has been criticized for lackluster racing in recent years, and the fan attendance has reflected this as well.
With two Richmond dates remaining on the calendar, putting one of them on dirt would certainly be worth a try. One pavement race and one dirt race would increase excitement for the track and give fans the opportunity to see two different styles of racing in one calendar year, similar to what we’ve seen at Bristol.
However, moving the dirt race from Bristol to Richmond ignores why the spring Bristol race moved to dirt in the first place. The night race in the summer has always had a good crowd on hand, but the spring race struggled to keep up in attendance. Thus, spring was moved to dirt to make it a bigger draw for fans.
It would be an intrigue to see the dirt race move to Richmond. But if the fans and drivers want two pavement races at Bristol once again, people will have to show up in the spring going forward.
With the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs beginning this Saturday, who are the favorites to make it to Phoenix Raceway?
At long last, the Xfinity Series playoffs are here. Seven races remain until a champion is crowned at Phoenix Raceway in November, and the Round of 12 begins at Texas Motor Speedway this Saturday, Sept. 24.
Of the six races before the finale, three of them will be on 1.5-mile tracks: Texas, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL join Texas in the Round of 12, while Martinsville Speedway follows Vegas and Homestead in the Round of 8 as the penultimate race of the season.
This year, the race to make the Championship 4 feels largely self-explanatory, as four drivers have established themselves as the class of the field this season: Noah Gragson, Jusin Allgaier, Ty Gibbs and AJ Allmendinger.
Just how dominant has the quartet been? It ranks first through fourth in wins, top fives, top 10s, average finish and laps led this season. In addition, all four drivers enter the postseason with at least 32 playoff points while no one else has more than 22.
With three of the final seven races on 1.5-mile tracks, Allgaier and Gragson will likely lead the JR Motorsports charge at the intermediates along with teammates Josh Berry and Sam Mayer. With wins at Vegas and Michigan International Speedway this season, Gibbs will likely be JRM’s closest challenger.
Allmendinger has been undefeated at the Charlotte ROVAL in three starts and will likely be the favorite to make it four-for-four in October. The finishing order at Talladega will be a lottery, but JRM, Kaulig and Austin Hill of Richard Childress Racing have unloaded with the fastest superspeedway cars all season. Martinsville will likely be a battle between Martinsville winners Berry and Gragson as well as Gibbs, who led 197 laps at the track in April.
Anything can happen, however, and it’s not a given that all four make it to Phoenix. Crashes and mechanical failures will always be a possibility, and just about everyone else in the playoff grid has a chance to play spoiler with a win or consistency. Berry and Hill have both won multiple races this season, and they have been right behind the top four in dominance. If the four drivers at Phoenix aren’t Gragson, Allgaier, Gibbs and Allmendinger, it will be Berry or Hill taking their spots.
The Cup race at Bristol was a flop for TV ratings. What should be done to maximize viewership when new TV deals begin in 2025?
NASCAR competing against football season will always be a rough time for ratings, but the ratings at Bristol were shockingly low, as viewership was estimated at 1.776 million. Saturday night races have struggled to bring in the same viewership as their Sunday afternoon counterparts, and that is partially why the Cup Series is down to two Saturday night races for 2023 with Bristol and Daytona International Speedway in August.
But for the playoffs and one of the most anticipated races of the year, the ratings were a flop.
Football, a Saturday night race and concerns about the Next Gen car on short tracks were all contributing factors to the low viewership. That said, the race was on USA Network. Races on cable always score lower than ones on network television, and NASCAR is reaching a point where every Cup race needs to be on network television.
Fortunately, the final race on USA is this Sunday’s (Sept. 25) race at Texas. The final six races will be on NBC.
Both FOX and NBC are locked in with their contracts until 2024, so having the bulk of the schedule on cable with a handful on network television will be the status quo for the next two seasons. But similar to how NASCAR experimented with the 2021 schedule after the five-year contract for racetracks ended in 2020, NASCAR needs to look beyond its current situation for 2025.
In a perfect world, NASCAR would be available on network television. At the very least, the biggest races of the year need to be prioritized moving forward, as the Southern 500 and Bristol’s night race were put on USA in 2022. In addition, NASCAR also needs to pursue contracts with major streaming services. People are continuing to cut the cord on cable and live television, so making NASCAR available via streaming would give a new audience access to NASCAR that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
However, NASCAR should not choose between television or streaming — it needs to combine them. Enough people watch network television and cable to where they wouldn’t give it up for streaming. Choosing one or the other would greatly remove access to the side that wasn’t selected.
Of course, all of that is in a perfect world. Money will always be a factor, and NASCAR will likely accept the deal that offers it the greatest reward. But in thinking toward the future, NASCAR needs to look beyond the current status quo.
With the Cup Series’ first trip to Texas for a points-paying race in the Next Gen car, what can be expected?
The Next Gen car has been praised for its racing on intermediate tracks, but the All-Star Race at Texas in May proved to be an exception. That race was criticized for a lack of passing and action, let alone the premature caution as Ryan Blaney was about to take the checkered flag.
Similar to races with the Gen 6 car at this configuration at Texas, Sunday’s race will likely be a battle for track position, nailing pit stops, not pitting for extra tires, great restarts and staying out front. NASCAR is also putting resin in the turns of the track for this weekend’s events. The traction compound has been used at tracks like Nashville Superspeedway and Pocono Raceway to great success. The resin may help drivers with passing opportunities throughout the weekend, but that will be an unknown until the Xfinity Series takes the green flag.
Also unique about Texas is that it is the sixth race of the season to be at least 500 miles in length. Given how many teams dropped from the running order with mechanical failures in the Southern 500, there is potential for this weekend to turn into an endurance race as well.
In terms of the favorites heading into Sunday’s race, Blaney will certainly be one of the biggest threats. He dominated the All-Star Race in May, and he has led 403 laps at Texas in 13 starts. If Blaney were to win, he would also be the coveted 20th winner of 2022 and break the record for most winners in a season in the modern era.
Beyond Blaney, the favorites aren’t as clear. The last points-paying race at Texas was last fall with the Gen 6 car, when Kyle Larson won after leading 256 laps. It’s been a down year for Larson despite two wins, and it would be difficult to imagine him replicating that performance on Sunday. And given the short distance and small field in the All-Star Race, it isn’t a great gauge for this weekend beyond Blaney cruising out front for the majority of the night.
After the field hits the track for practice and qualifying, the garage area will have a better clue about which teams will be the ones to beat.
About the author
Stephen Stumpf joined Frontstretch in September 2021. He is a staff writer and the Friday news writer. Stephen also pens the weekly “4 Burning Questions” column and contributes to “Friday Faceoff” and “2-Headed Monster.” A Texas native, Stephen started following NASCAR at age 9.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.