Shuffling The Deck


BROOKLYN, Mich. - NASCAR's schedule realignment has always been a work in progress.

Some of it has been good as in bringing the sport outside the Southeast with races in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Texas and Kansas City.

Others have been monumental failures like killing the Labor Day tradition of the Southern 500.

As the sport continues to evolve so will the schedule and in addition to next year's planned date shifts as outlined in Jeff Wackerlin's RacingOne column earlier this week, more are on the horizon.

Next season's Atlanta, Fontana, Talladega shuffle is one of those realignment moves that makes sense.

It brings the Labor Day weekend back to its roots in the Southeast and gives Atlanta a great holiday weekend evening event that should sell a lot more tickets than the old October date.

It gives Fontana a spot inside the Chase, which is a good opportunity to generate interest in the championship season in the second-largest market in the country. Plus it relieves the 100 degree temperatures fans had to endure at California's Labor Day weekend date.

And finally it slides Talladega back far enough away from Atlanta - a market the track also draws from for ticket sales - and takes advantage of the beautiful autumn weather usually on tap in Alabama.

Now comes word of Kansas Speedway lobbying for a second Cup date in the wake of the track winning a casino contract from the state and building a 300-room Hard Rock Hotel-Casino complex on the grounds.

If that happens, parent company ISC will lobby NASCAR for a second Cup weekend to go along with its now fall date, which has a huge economic impact on the area.

In order to do that, ISC would most likely have to take a date from one of its existing tracks and shift it to Kansas, not unlike what Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) have done to bring races to Texas and Las Vegas.

That news obviously has a lot of track presidents a bit jumpy these days with the likes of Michigan, Martinsville, Fontana, Phoenix and Richmond - among the ISC tracks with two Cup dates - potentially losing a race weekend.

It's unlikely the company would take a race from either Daytona or Talladega, which also both have two Cup dates. And with upgrades recently completed at Darlington, Chicagoland, Watkins Glen and Homestead - the other facilities within the ISC inventory - I don’t think any of those speedways will be losing their lone Cup weekend.

Perhaps there's a possibility that Pocono, which has refused to sell to SMI the last few years, will reconsider a sale to ISC given the Mattioli family's long friendship and allegiance to the France family and NASCAR, perhaps agreeing to keep one race in Pennsylvania and shifting the other to Kansas.

Or ISC could purchase Dover, an independent track with two Cup weekends.

However it works out there is going to be a need for dates to come from somewhere, especially when you throw in the potential for tracks being built in Denver, the Pacific Northwest and New York.

Plus throw in the Kentucky Speedway-SMI purchase and impending lawsuit against NASCAR and there could be some serious changes to the Cup schedule in the coming years.

There will be a time when only a handful of tracks host two Cup races a year.

The ones that have that luxury now should enjoy it because you never know when it could be taken away.

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