Fixing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ScheduleBy Nick DeGroot
I may only be 19 but I’m sure a lot of you older fans out there remember the “golden age” of NASCAR. Remember when Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt spun at North Wilkesboro on the final lap battling for the win in 1989? How about when Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth crossed the line in nearly a dead heat at Rockingham back in 2004? Then there are the infamous Bristol battles between Earnhardt and Terry Labonte during the 90′s boom.
NASCAR was built on tracks like those and some of the best races in history took place at tracks 1 mile in length or shorter. Okay, I know that 1 mile tracks aren’t technically considered short tracks but they race just like them.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the big tracks. I love watching four wide battles at speeds exceeding 200mph when we visit Atlanta, Texas, Charlotte and Kansas but the problem is that we’ve diluted the schedule with these types of venues. Check out this statistic regarding the amount of short tracks that have been on the schedule at the start of every decade:
1950-13/19 races, 68.4%
1960-30/44 races, 68.2%
1970-28/48 races, 58.3%
1980-10/31 races, 32.3%
1990-7/29 races, 24.1%
2000-6/34 races, 17.6%
2010-6/36 races, 16.6%
You’ve fixed the cars, improved safety and bumped up ratings NASCAR and now it’s time to fill these tracks back up with 100,000+ screaming fans! That Richmond race left me begging for more and now I’ve got short track fever. The track promoters say the bigger tracks are where it’s at because you can hold more people. I’m no businessman but if you ask me, a jammed pack half mile is a lot better than a half full cookie cutter track. A stand-alone truck race at Eldora was sold out 6 months before the race and if that doesn’t give NASCAR and these track owners a wake-up call, I don’t know what will.
More road courses would also be awesome; I don’t think I have to remind anyone about the last two races at Watkins Glen. They are big like Michigan and Cali but they race like Bristol and Marty and every road course is unique in its own right. Short tracks, dirt tracks, 1 milers and road courses is direction NASCAR needs to head if they want to bring back disgruntled old fans and attract curious new ones. With that being said, here is my ideal 36 race schedule without changing too much of what is already there.
1.) Daytona 500
12.) Coke 600
14.) Road America
18.) Daytona Road Course
20.) Indy Road Course
22.) Watkins Glen
24.) Bowman Gray Stadium
28.) Road Atlanta
30.) Auto Club
35.) Circuit of the Americas
36.) Las Vegas
When making this list, I tried to keep a balance between the tracks already on the schedule and tracks I’d like to see on the schedule while still maintaining the 36 race season. If you broke my schedule down, it goes like this:
1 Mile Or Less Paved Oval-15/36, 41.7%
1.5 Mile or Larger Oval-12/36, 33.3%
Road Courses-7/36, 19.4%
Dirt Tracks-2/36, 5.6%
Now I’d like to take a closer look at a few of the adjustments/additions that I listed above…
Daytona, Talladega & Indianapolis
The Daytona 500 is without a doubt one of the biggest races on the planet and I think when we return to Daytona in July, it shouldn’t be on the high banks. Even with the long history of the 4th of July event, I don’t think there should be another race like the 500 and that’s why I said NASCAR should run the road course like Grand-Am does every January. I put Talladega as the first chase race for one reason and that is the track’s unpredictability. When we go there, it’s all about survival, not who has the best car and that’s why I want it early in the chase so that the true title contenders have time to recover. The Indy 500 is another sacred event and the oval wasn’t made for NASCAR’s. When stock cars show up there, it is almost always a snooze fest and with little on track action. That’s why we should shake it up and run the road course to add a little excitement to this usually lackluster event. Continue the tradition of kissing the bricks but instead of 160 laps of follow the leader, let’s have some intense road course action tearing through the infield of this historic facility.
The reason I put Las Vegas as the season finale is simply and that’s because the banquet is in Vegas so why not have the last race of the year be there too? Homestead is an okay track but I think we can live without it.
The Road Courses
I firmly believe that NASCAR needs to put at least one road course in the chase. Road courses are the ultimate test of a driver’s skill, physical fitness and mental acuity. With 20 unique turns and long, fast straightaways where the draft comes into play, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) would be the perfect penultimate event. Formula 1, MotoGP and even V8 Supercars go there and it’s about time NASCAR does too. I had a tough time deciding between what road course I should select for Race #28 on my schedule. I was going back and forth between Mid-Ohio, VIR and Road Atlanta and even though I went with the latter, any of those three would be great additions. As for Road America, I have no clue why that isn’t on the Cup schedule yet but it certainly should be. I considered Montreal but with its recent debacle where the track promoter basically demanded a Cup date, I decided to leave it out.
There are so many worthy dirt tracks out there but in the end, I went with two well-known venues that already feature stock car racing and attract a lot of fans. Duquoin and Eldora are awesome facilities and I’m sure the truck race at the Tony Stewart owned track later this year will be one of the greatest ever. ARCA races are held at Duquoin and their evens always seem to be wild and action packed proving the venue can handle 30 or 40 stock cars very well.
In the end, I don’t see most of that schedule ever coming to fruition but its okay to dream, right? A few possibilities that could happen in the future would be the addition of the COTA’s, Eldora, Rockingham and some kind of road course in the chase. NASCAR fixed something that wasn’t broken but it seems like they are finally taking action with the return of Rockingham and the first dirt race in 40 years coming up in a few months. It’s a work in process and it will be tough to manipulate the schedule while keeping everybody involved happy but it’s doable. The manufacturers and NASCAR have done an awesome job with this new car and it seems to put on a hell of a show almost everywhere we take it but you can’t deny that there’s nothing that can put on a better race than a Saturday night short track event.