Drivers Give Ideas for Future Schedules
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on July 26, 2014 | 11:03 A.M. EST
Although cars were back on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a lot of the talk was about 2015 and beyond. (Photo: Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS - Tony Stewart would like to host a NASCAR Nationwide or Sprint Cup race at Eldora Speedway some day. Ryan Newman says NASCAR should consider running mid-week Sprint Cup races. Kurt Busch says NASCAR should allow tracks to bid to host the season finale similar to how the Super Bowl is awarded.
NASCAR’s response to those and other such suggestions to the schedule...
“Armchair schedule-makers at full froth this week,’’ wrote Brett Jewkes, NASCAR vice president and chief communications officer, Friday on Twitter. “Amazing how simple, quick and easy it sounds. #ItsNot.’’
Until NASCAR announces the 2015 Cup schedule in the coming month or two, suggestions will be made by many in the sport on what they’d like to see from fewer races to changing race dates.
Let’s make a few things clear.
NASCAR’s new contract with Fox and NBC Sports begins next season and goes through 2024. For those calling for fewer races, don’t count on it. A change in the number of races would affect how much money goes to the sport. Will the sport consider a few extra weekends off worth more than the millions of dollars lost?
Expect Homestead-Miami Speedway to remain the season finale. Ford recently extended its sponsorship of the season finale for Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Series for five years with an option to renew five more years. With a sponsor in place and good racing there - NASCAR Chairman Brian France says the track hosts the best racing at a 1.5-mile track on the circuit - it seems unlikely Homestead’s place on the schedule will change.
So, with that out of the way, let others offer their ideas.
Newman wants Wednesday night and more Saturday night races.
“I'd give us a little bit more off weekends,’’ he said. “We can still run 36 or 38 races but we don't need to be at the race track, especially for Daytona and Talladega for three, sometimes four days with the inspection process.
“I think just realigning it and giving us the opportunity to be on TV and be our own special event on Wednesday night, especially in football season, would be good for our sport.’’
There are various issues with a Wednesday night race. Would TV networks want it, specifically NBC and NBC Sports Network, which will broadcast the second half of the season beginning next year? NBC could use a NASCAR race to lead into its Sunday night NFL coverage. If NASCAR raced on a Wednesday, there’s a good chance NBC might not want to interrupt its fall schedule with a race, thus the race would have to go on NBC Sports Network.
Where would be a good place to host a Wednesday night race? Understand that a mid-week race would make it more challenging for some people to attend those races. Thus, a mid-week race would have to be in an area where fans would not have to travel far. If the attendance declines - something most likely since its easier for fans to attend a weekend race than on weekday - what will tracks have to say because they likely will receive less money on admissions, concessions and such?
Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson would like a break added in the schedule.
“I've always felt like we could use an off-weekend before the Chase starts just to leave us an opportunity to have a make-up race,’’ Johnson said. “I know it's a pretty severe event if it would take place. And the last unfortunate situation that was created was 9/11, but I think that was good to give the teams a break and give everybody a break that deep in the season before the Chase starts.’’
It’s an interesting thought, but if NASCAR doesn’t push the season back a week to get that additional weekend off, then the July off-weekend will have to be moved. It’s doubtful NASCAR could start the year sooner after having moved the Daytona 500 deeper into February. That was done to avoid any conflicts with the Super Bowl should the NFL expand its season and push its marquee event further back in February.
Busch had another idea with the schedule that would impact the tracks in the Chase.
“One unique thing is maybe we should take Talladega out of the Chase, put Richmond in the Chase and use Talladega as the cutoff to get into the Chase,’‘ Busch said. “Why not? Because we're all driving around, they're very tentative and trying not to get in a wreck at Talladega.
“But why not make it the final race to get in and throw a huge wildcard in to try to make it into the Chase. Because by then you have 15 guys that are pretty much locked in. That means those top 15 guys are going to throw it on the line to try to win. They're not going to be riding in the back to protect their points. To change the schedule, I would change Richmond and Talladega, and it works because (International Speedway Corp.) owns both those tracks.’’
Interesting thought but NASCAR seems to like having Richmond as the cutoff for the Chase - despite the issues last year that resulted in Jeff Gordon being added to the Chase.
Those are just some of many suggestions competitors have for the schedule. Most ideas will not happen. Of course, if someone had suggested 25 years ago that NASCAR should be racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, few would have believed that possible.