If you take a look at the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule you might think it’s simply a carbon copy of this year’s slate of races. While some of the dates are a bit different, the order of events is virtually the same.
Save for where Easter falls next year, the circuit will visit the same tracks in the same order as is laid out for 2018. With the sanctioning body’s current five-year track agreement in place for two more seasons the earliest any venue changes can happen to the schedule is in 2020. And even then it’s hard to imagine anything in the way of wholesale changes to where NASCAR’s top series competes.
But there might be a way to add some spice to the calendar by taking a page out of the current short track racing and regional touring series playbook.
NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East and West divisions have held a number of twin feature programs over the last two years. Last weekend the East Series held two 100-lap main events at South Boston Speedway while the West Series did the same at Tucson Raceway Park earlier this month.
Each race was a separate points-paying affair and treated as a full main event. The difference is the fans got to see two races for the price of one.
Why not try a similar format in the Cup Series?
Imagine a 400-mile race at say Michigan International Speedway being sliced into a couple of 100 lapsaffairs around the two-mile racetrack. Practice and qualifying would be held over the weekend as normal with time trials setting the line-up for the opening race.
Stage racing remains intact and the Sunday opening race is split into two stages of 25-laps and a final 50-lap stage to the checkered flag. Points are paid accordingly down the field when the race is over and the finish sets the line-up for race number two.
After a break, at which time television and radio can interview drivers and also run commercials, the nightcap is lined up and the green flag flies on race number two broken into the same stage format over the 100 laps. Should someone suffer a damaged car or mechanical failure in the first race, let them roll out a back up for race two.
The idea has a lot of merit. The short bursts provide more immediacy for drivers to race even harder while also addressing the shrinking attention spans of many of today’s fans. Breaking things up to ensure more restarts over the course of the day’s full 400-miles generates more opportunities for three and four-wide passing and excitement. And fans in the stands, as well as watching and listening at home, still get a full day of on track action without slicing any more distance off the racing agenda.
I’m not advocating this across the board but rather at a handful of events on the schedule as a way of infusing energy and variety into the season without moving dates, tracks, etc.
It’s a concept that deserves study and one that can easily be implemented next season.
Why not create the NASCAR version of the late great Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks’ famous line and “Let’s Race Two Today!”
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.