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Texas Motor Speedway

Greg Biffle won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)


Earlier this week I wrote about the potential of more night racing coming to NASCAR down the road specifically in the Sprint Cup Series.

FOX turning most of its Saturday night programming to sports and NASCAR’s new television contract that will begin in a couple of years most certainly points to the Cup Series holding more races under the lights.

Look no further than the packed grandstands at Saturday night’s Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway for proof that for NASCAR to grow, more prime time events are actually a good thing.

And if the television Gods are smiling on the sport, I have a feeling the ratings for Saturday night’s telecast on FOX will also be a positive story.

As of now there are 12 events runs under the lights during the Sprint Cup season including 10 points-paying races and the Budweiser Shootout/Sprint All-Star Race exhibitions.

Word is one or perhaps two more prime time events are under consideration as early as 2013.

Perhaps an additional regular season race and the move of one or maybe both exhibition events is the path NASCAR and its television partners should follow.

I’ve long been a proponent of a weeknight race (this year’s Daytona 500 rained out and moved to Monday showed at least from the TV side it could be a positive) and there does now seem to be some sentiment to at least give it a try.

A couple years ago, Texas president Eddie Gossage, after witnessing more than 100,000 fans turn out on a Monday afternoon after last year’s April TMS rain-out, pretty much volunteered to give that idea a shot.

As a way to maybe send up a trial balloon, the All-Star Race should be moved to the Wednesday night before Memorial Day weekend. That would eliminate fans needing to choose between spending two weekends in Charlotte every May, a pricey venture to say the least, and compact one of the best strings of racing into a tidy Wednesday-Sunday schedule. The All-Star Race (Wednesday), Sprint Cup qualifying (Thursday), truck series race (Friday), Nationwide Series event (Saturday) and Coca-Cola 600 Sunday finale would rival Daytona’s Speedweeks in prestige.

That puts the all-star gathering in prime time during the week and also opens up another weekend on the schedule to either give the sport a breather or to tighten up the calendar.

Once the Chase rolls around, like Charlotte’s Saturday night date in October, I’d add also add one or two more stops in the championship to the prime time list. Again television ratings would be significantly higher without going head to had against the NFL on a pair of Sunday afternoons.

And even though there is college football to contend with, I still believe attendance and attention for two more Saturday night races during the Chase would prevail.

Every other major sport has gravitated to more and more prime time events. It may break away from some tradition and not be something long-time fans completely embrace, but NASCAR needs to follow the lead. This weekend’s racing in Texas is evidence as to why.

  • Saturday night’s race won’t be remembered as one of the season’s best unless of course you’re a Greg Biffle or Roush Fenway Racing fan. There wasn’t much in the way of passing or excitement and even the possibility of the proceedings turning into a fuel mileage race went by the boards. But if anything it was evidence that the notion NASCAR throws bogus cautions in order to bunch the field and heighten the excitement is a myth. Kudos to the sanctioning body for letting things play out naturally, even if it wasn’t the most exciting race.
  • Biffle has been one of the most consistent drivers in the early going as evidence of his place on top the Sprint Cup Series point standings heading into the weekend. But his win Saturday night, the first with crew chief Matt Puccia, should quiet any doubters that don’t think the Roush Fenway Racing driver has improved tremendously from just a year ago. Biffle and Puccia started to gel at the end of 2011 and have carried that into the new campaign in a big way.
  • Another week for Michael Waltrip Racing to add to its impressive 2012 story. Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. both finished inside the top 10 Saturday night to keep MWR’s resurgent season going strong. Truex Jr. started the weekend with a pole-winning effort and led a lot of Saturday night’s race while Martin turned in one of his patented steady performances. A win appears very much in this team’s future any week now.
  • Brad Keselowski has never fared well at Texas and unfortunately the Penske Racing driver’s luck didn’t change Saturday night. Despite having a fast racecar Keselowski was plagued by a fuel pickup problem, an issue that continues to haunt the Penske team in 2012.

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