More To Come

It's already a grueling and exhausting journey that encompasses ten months and is the longest schedule in professional sports. But the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series schedule will soon become longer.

Economics and television - and not necessarily in that order - will dictate the tour's growth to 40 races within the next two to three years. TV wants more "inventory" - the industry term for events networks carry and can subsequently sell advertising time for - and track operators more ticket sale revenue. So get ready for a schedule that by 2006 will more than likely look very different than the current model.

In reality, getting the current slate up to 38 points events is a simple process - eliminate or shift the two exhibition races. The Bud Shootout and Nextel All-Star Challenge take up perfectly good weekends that could be used for real events. If NASCAR needs to keep the two, they could simply be modified as part of a regular race weekend.

Television is pushing hard for prime time, mid-week programming and the All-Star race could fit the bill perfectly. Moving the race to the Thursday of Coca-Cola 600 weekend would put it right in the May sweeps period, the primo time to generate ratings and advertising numbers. And it wouldn't add any travel expense to teams who are already in Charlotte for the annual Memorial Day weekend activities.

If title sponsor Nextel moves the race closer to its corporate headquarters in Richmond, as has been rumored, the Thursday night scenario works just as well.

There's no telling where the ISC-SMI court battle will finally shake-out, but you can be sure more shifting of dates will happen in the near future. Despite denials this week, the Darlington/Rockingham being sold to SMI scenario makes perfect sense and allows the lawsuit between the two parties to be dropped. Texas and Las Vegas get their second races and the small market Rockingham/Darlington combo at least stays on the schedule, albeit in a limited fashion.

ISC's quest to bring a date to the new track on the drawing board in the Pacific Northwest is a when not an if, and best guess it will take place by 2006. And of course the coveted New York market will also come to fruition within the next few years.

The elimination of testing will off-set the expenses for teams to run the 40 race slate. But the real question will NASCAR finally reach the over saturation point. My guess is that although the television numbers will never get to the lofty 10 or 11 weekly figures NASCAR still maintains it will reach, a solid 5 or 6 on the tube and near sellouts at every event will be the end result of the latest round of expansion.

Now if we can jst do something about the racing.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2004

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