Fixing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Schedule

By Nick DeGroot On Sun, Apr. 28, 2013

Photo Credit: Zach Gibson
Photo Credit: Zach Gibson

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

2.) Rockingham

3.) Phoenix

4.) Bristol

5.) Kansas

6.) Martinsville

7.) Texas

8.) Salem

9.) Talladega

10.) Richmond

11.) Darlington

12.) Coke 600

13.) Dover

14.) Road America

15.) Sonoma

16.) Irwindale

17.) Duquoin

18.) Daytona Road Course

19.) Michigan

20.) Indy Road Course

21.) Pocono

22.) Watkins Glen

23.) Iowa

24.) Bowman Gray Stadium

25.) Atlanta

26.) Bristol

27.) Talladega

28.) Road Atlanta

29.) Loudon

30.) Auto Club

31.) Dover

32.) Charlotte

33.) Martinsville

34.) Eldora

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.

Las Vegas

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.

Dirt Tracks

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.

Nick DeGroot (88 Posts)

Nick has left Speedway Media and joined Motorsport.com as a manager, content editor, and reporter. His passion for motorsports dates all the way back to his childhood. He's a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association, & before joining Motorsport.com, he worked with National Speed Sport News, Pole Position Magazine, and of course, Speedway Media. You can also hear him on "That Dang 'Ol Racing Show" every Monday night. Nick was born & raised in Syracuse, NY before recently moving to Miami. His entire life revolves around racing and it should, because it's in his blood. His father is a former tire changer/mechanic at the Sprint Cup level and his older brother spent a short tenure with RCR. Another interesting fact about Nick is that although he was raised in Yankee territory, his cousin is the former catcher/captain and current special assistant to the general manager of the Boston Red Sox....Jason Varitek.


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Displaying 6 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. jj says:

    You wouldn’t expect NA$CAR to give up their dates. That means that some of the younger France family won’t become billionaires until at least 2020.

  2. Jake says:

    How about the July race at Daytona including the dog leg at the end of the back straight instead of the road course. It’s possible it might slow the cars down enough that they could get rid of the plates. At least they could test it during one of the tire tests.

  3. Steve says:

    Rockingham lost its date as the 2nd race of the season primarily because it was too cold in Februrary. Move it closer to spring like temps and I’m with you on that.

    Las Vegas will never host the finally because the track is not owned by Nascar, so you can forget about that ever happening….unless Bruton sweetens the deal.

    As much as I love the short tracks, these tracks have to hold more than 10,000 people. NASCAR is a business after all.

    I don’t see the Cup series going to dirt either. I doubt teams want the extra expense of having to build a dirt specific car.

    My opinion is, each track on the schedule gets one race. This opens up opportunities for other tracks to host races and maximizes interest in the fan base at those tracks. Not many people are going to 2 Cup races a season anymore given this economy anyway.

    All in all, I like your thought process on this, even if it probably will never come to be. At least someone is thinking outside the box. Yoo hoo!! Nascar!!! Are you listening????

  4. JimB says:

    Dream on Nick. While I would like to see a couple of more short tracks and a road course track added to the schedule, most of these tracks can’t support a race with 43 cars, much less provide the infrastructure for a Cup race. I think the new track in Austin is the best road course choice for another NASCAR race and with the weather in Austin, late fall during the Chase would be perfect. As far as short tracks goes, I would like to see a 7/8 mile track cut from the same mold as Richmond, allowing just enough room for all the pits to be on the front stretch before and after turns 1 and 4. The banking could be about the same but maybe graduated from about 12 to 15 degrees from low to high groove. Two more short track races would be ideal, but you are already talking about eliminating 3 existing races, a tall order for sure.

  5. Chris says:

    The problem with some of these tracks, like salem, bowman gray stadium, or duquoin, is there is just no way the infrastructure there would allow a cup race. You would need to pour a TON of money into these places to hold a cup event.Even Eldora only has a seating capacity 1/3 of Martinsville. To base any decision on that race would be a bit pre-mature. Just look at Indy. The first race held there sold like CRAZY because it was novel and new.

    • Nick DeGroot says:

      Yes, there would have to be a lot of work done on the tracks to make them suitable for Cup cars but I based my list more on the tracks I favored the most and didn’t factor in the reality of what could really happen.

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