Name Change a Time for More Changes?

NASCAR

As the speed of change envelops NASCAR's No. 2 series, Xfinity's title sponsorship could spur series officials to make more alterations. (Photo: Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A new points system, a new way to watch the sport, maybe even a new series as you know it. 

The possibilities seemed endless Wednesday with all the talk about innovation after NASCAR announced Xfinity would become the title sponsor of the Nationwide Series beginning Jan. 1 through 2024.

Just what fans will see in the coming years is uncertain. NASCAR and Xfinity officials were short on details.

NASCAR President Mike Helton, noting the rapid growth in technology, said almost with a gleam in his eye: “Just imagine what the next 10 years are going to be like.’’

So, let’s imagine what the Nationwide Series, which will be known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series starting Jan. 1 through at least 2024, could be like. Just remember that Chase Elliott won’t even be 30 years old yet when the contract ends.

Could there be a new points system? Or maybe the question is should there be?

“They're going to have some fresh thinking on what this series can become,’’ NASCAR Chairman Brian France said about Xfinity and the series format. “We're going to listen to that. At the same time we're going to balance, as we always do, our institutional knowledge about what works and doesn't work.’’

This marks the 11th year for the Chase in all its incarnations in the Sprint Cup Series, while the Nationwide title continues to be based on points accumulated all season. The past two years, the Nationwide points lead was six points or less with two races to go. 

Is that a system that needs changing?

Maybe so, depending on how NASCAR wants to showcase the Xfinity Series. For now, series officials tout the sport’s younger drivers with Elliott, Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Dylan Kwasniewski, Darrell Wallace Jr., Chris Buescher, Ryan Reed and other youngsters competing next year.

With the focus on youth, could that mean limiting Sprint Cup drivers in the Xfinity Series?

“I'm sure there will be format ideas that come over time that we'll be interested in looking at because the net of it is, Xfinity and NASCAR want to make this series ... bigger and better,’’ France said.

What fans will see on the track will be as important as how fans view the sport. Xfinity is the nation’s largest video and high-speed Internet provider. 

That could mean more ways to watch a race, whether on TV, tablet or in person. The challenge is for tracks to meet the standards fans expect their mobile devices to deliver when at the event. 

“All our track promoters are making huge investments in connectivity,’’ said Brent Dewar, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer. 

So, what will fans at home see?

Xfinity is part of the Comcast family. Comcast owns NBC Universal. NBC and NBC Sports Network will air NASCAR races beginning next year.

Comcast is seeking FCC approval to merge with Time Warner. That would help Comcast, which is not available in 11 states and some Southern cities that typically draw the highest TV ratings for Sprint Cup races. 

“The viewership experience ... is going to be very different,’’ said Peter Intermaggio, Comcast SVP of marketing communications.

Exactly how so remains to be seen.

Will Comcast, some fans wonder, carry Fox Sports 2 since it will likely have some NASCAR programming early next season?

“I would just say that we’re looking at programming relationships all the time and that’s something that we’re continuing to study,’’ Intermaggio said.

That’s fine but next year’s Xfinity season-opening race Feb. 21, at Daytona is less than six months away.

“I think we’ll be ready for Daytona,’’ Intermaggio said.

The question is if NASCAR is ready to make changes with the opportunities Xfinity present.

Related Topics:

NASCAR, NASCAR Nationwide Series

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