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Dear #NASCAR- Please Don’t Love Us Then Leave Us

Posted by Amy in General | NASCAR

One of the hot topics right now in the NASCAR world is the Sprint Cup season race schedule and how it could be improved. Best I can tell it started with Brad Keselowski coming up with what would be a dream schedulefor him.  Then others got in on the opinion making- the most recent of them being Darrell Waltrip during the pre-race show.  One thing that both Darrell Waltrip and Brad Keselowski’s schedules have in common is coming to the west coast right out of Daytona, and staying there; lumping Vegas, Sonoma, Auto Club and Phoenix all together in the schedule. It’s almost as if they are just getting us out of the way- and then leaving us NASCAR fans in the west high and dry the rest of the season.

Sunset over the grandstands at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Sunset over the grandstands at Las Vegas Motor Speedway- March 2014 (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

As a BIG NASCAR fan in that geographic area who has been to all four of those tracks and who has actually even been to all four of those tracks in one year- I can tell you that a schedule like this would be HUGE mistake.  I am a regular working girl (and no- this blog is not work- I have a M-F 8-5 job).  Lumping the “west coast” dates into one leg of a schedule is a huge mistake because as a working girl like myself can’t afford to take a month off of work to go from track to track- and I dare say most other fans can NOT either.  Several fans in this demographic try to travel to multiple races in their area (for instance Vegas AND Auto Club or Vegas AND Phoenix or Auto Club AND Sonoma).

As I said- I have been to all four tracks and I have been to all four tracks in one year but only because the races at those tracks were spaced far enough apart that it allowed me to take time off from my job here and there to go. Move them all to one and I am going to have to pick- likely just one race- maybe two. This year is going to likely be a light year for me when it comes to race attendance and I have already hit the Vegas race this past March. I plan to hit Sonoma in June and Phoenix in November.  I use to hit the Auto Club Race but they moved it too close to Vegas and Spring Phoenix so I have to choose one of the three this year- and the winner is Vegas for the very reason that I can hit the Phoenix race in the fall.  So no Auto Club because of the four tracks mentioned Auto Club (while I have attended more than once) is the least favorite track of the four. I make no bones about- Phoenix is my favorite track for the racing action of the ones in the “West” and Vegas is my favorite for the fan experience.  Sonoma is just a different vibe and I love that.  So Auto Club falls short.

The fans in the stand at the start of the 2012 Kobalt Tools 400

The fans in the stand at the start of the 2012 Kobalt Tools 400 in Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

I know it is likely more cost effective for the teams to not have to travel back and forth back and forth, but I really do think that going from geographic area to geographic area instead of doing some light criss-crossing is a HUGE mistake attendance wise. While these tracks are all in what you call “The West”- they are all far from each other and significant travel between tracks is required- whether you drive or fly that is still a huge investment both in terms of time AND finances. I realize that “getting these dates out of your system” might be more cost effective for teams but by doing this you are effectively alienating race attending fans in an already faltering demographic.  I do, however, have to take a moment to question whether this is really a cost effective option for teams at I wonder how many of the smaller teams have the resources to bring that many cars out to the West at one time? You are talking about three different types of cars- your short flat track car (Phoenix), your banked mile-and-a-half car (Auto Club and Vegas) and your road course car (Sonoma).  I mean I suppose it could be cost effective- I really have no idea. It just doesn’t seem like it would be to me. Sure I realize that there are so many other things to take into consideration but as a sport that is supposedly having issues with track attendance the last thing I would want to do is limit fans in one geographic area to having to choose between races when they use to attend multiple ones.

That said- I am sure that there are changes that could be made to the series schedule that would make more sense and excitement, while maintaining some sort of sense for logistically for teams.  If I had more time- I would do like Brad did and sit down with the current schedule, a map and my brain and see what I could come up with.  I do have some ideas however on how the schedule could be improved:

1. If you are hellbent on lump races together- instead of geographically why not consider doing it by track type? Have a section of the schedule be “short track madness”, and another section of the season be delegated to the mile-and-a-half tracks, then road-courses and then the swift super speedway races.  This would work up until the chase of course.  I have thoughts about the chase schedule too (see number two)!

Pit Road before practice on Friday

Getting ready to practice at Sonoma Raceway on Friday 2013 (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

2. Change the chase races to be reflective of the races throughout the season. Make sure that you not only represent super speedways and mile-and-a-half tracks but make sure that there are at least two short tracks and one road course. Yes I have said it before, I know, but I am a huge proponent of adding a road course to the chase.  I am all for adding more road courses to the series in general but definitely adding one to the chase. The chase is the playoffs so why make it represent the series challenges which include two road courses. By failing to include road courses in the chase NASCAR is missing the mark.  Doing this essentially makes road courses “throw away” races during the season. I don’t know if this means adding a second date at either Sonoma or Watkins or adding a third road course to the series Road Atlanta? Laguna Seca (hey I have to throw in the track that is practically in my backyard)? A roving race that is kind of something like a Long Beach Grand Prix that is a true road course raced on actual roads? Whatever works but there needs to be a road course in the Chase.

3. Move the last race of the season to Las Vegas as a second race there perhaps even make it a night race. Then after the race Vegas, the series could move right into Champions week festivities for the cup drivers and fans.

4. Change the All-Star race so that it’s a roving race.  I have long mentioned that they need to move this race out of Charlotte.  Having so many races in Charlotte in May is boring.  I have also in the past mentioned moving it to dirt like the trucks at Eldora.  Afterall- the All Star race doesn’t pay points- just glory and cash- so why not make it something unusual and different.  Less of these weird vote to reverse the field kind of fan incentives and more make them work for the glory by switching up the tracks.  Or switch it up from year to year- a road course one year, dirt the next, an endurance race the next. Or even better- ditch the fact that the all star race is one race. Have a three race exhibition of different track types (road, short track, dirt) located in the same general vicinity and crown an ultimate All-Star.

5. Add some new tracks to the schedule and rotate some out – especially some that hold multiple NASCAR races.

These are but a handful of the ideas that come to me just sitting here thinking about ways to change the schedule WITHOUT loving then leaving the dates in the west.  However- really truly? I think NASCAR needs to stop monkeying with things and let it ride for awhile so that the teams can catch their breath from all the recent changes in packages and rules. Don’t even get me started about the proposed engine changes for next season.

Tony Stewart's media availability Las Vegas Motor Speedway 2013

Tony Stewart’s media availability Las Vegas Motor Speedway 2013 (Photo Credit: Amy K Marbach)

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