Opinion: New Venues, New Excitement

NASCAR

The first trip north of the border for the Truck Series was the latest accomplishment in the sanctioning body’s attempt to bring NASCAR racing to new and different venues. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s safe to say Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series debut at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park was a smashing success (insert your own Max Papis or Chase Elliott joke here if you must.)

The first trip north of the border for the Truck Series was the latest accomplishment in the sanctioning body’s attempt to bring NASCAR racing to new and different venues. After the trucks received overwhelmingly positive reviews at Eldora Speedway in June, the Nationwide Series hit a homerun last month with a tremendous event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The truck run in Canada completed the triple play.

The trio of events proved NASCAR is still viewed as a hot commodity and fans will support something new and different. Dirt tracks and road courses provide something completely unique from the oval track norm and all three events provided their share of exciting competition.

Attendance was solid across the board as well, albeit at three tracks with much smaller capacities than some of the mammoth stadiums that currently dot the schedules. The crowds ranged somewhere from 20,000 at Eldora to maybe 55-60k in Mid-Ohio and CTMP, more than respectable turnouts for each track’s size and layout.

But most importantly the trio of races brought back electricity, anticipation and a buzz to the sport that has been lacking for some time.

While the Sprint Cup Series is certainly NASCAR’s headline division, it’s sometimes a challenge to generate sustained enthusiasm week in and week out over the course of the grueling 36-race season. It would be great to bottle up the atmosphere that filled the air at Eldora, Mid-Ohio and CTMP and sprinkle it over some of the other races on the schedules.

There’s little doubt NASCAR will return to all three new additions again in 2014 and whether or not the first year novelty wears off remains to be seen. Rockingham is a cautionary tale of how fans embraced a NASCAR return in the form of a truck race only to have attendance decline the following season. There is speculation whether or not “The Rock” will return for a third try next season

While there won’t be any additions to the Sprint Cup schedule next year (in fact you can pretty much just cut and paste this season’s slate over next year’s calendar dates), there is room on the Nationwide and truck slates. It’s doubtful a new race will be added to the Nationwide Series either with most organizations already struggling to field sponsored entries for the entire year. But at least a pair of fresh truck stops are rumored to be on the way.

Bringing the series back to its short track roots is a must and NASCAR needs to find a way to make it financially feasible for these smaller venues. Places like Myrtle Beach, Greenville-Pickens and Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield, California would no doubt create excellent racing, but the overhead of bringing a national series in may just be too cost prohibitive.

A return to Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis would be a public relations bonanza. Teaming up the trucks with the Nationwide Series at Road America also has promise.

Let’s hope the business of the sport can work out to bring a couple new locales to 2014. It’s been fun to witness this season and is definitely something to build on for the future.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

Race Center

UNOH 175

@ New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Radio Start:
MRN, 12:30 p.m. (ET)
TV Start:
FOX Sports 1, 12:30 p.m. (ET)

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