Schedule needs tinkering in a bold way
NASCAR will announce the 2010 Sprint Cup schedule in a few days. No need to wait in anxious anticipation.
No early Christmas present is coming for Kentucky Speedway. No second date is coming for Kansas Speedway -- not yet, anyway.
Apparently, no track is losing a race and no track is gaining a race. And barring some last-minute surprise, no Chase race is changing.
That's too bad. The status quo could use a shakeup. The Cup schedule hasn't had a major change with a different venue since 2005.[+] EnlargeTodd Warshaw/Getty ImagesAdding Sonoma to the Chase would finally get a road-course race into the playoff mix.
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said the 2010 schedule will have some calendar swaps, but should look similar to this season's schedule.
"The Cup schedule is close to completion," Poston said. "But we still have a few things to work out on the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. We want to announce all three schedules at the same time."
Expected changes for Cup are a one-week date swap between Texas and Phoenix in April. Dover's first race probably will move to mid-May. Daytona 500 Pole Day and the Bud Shootout both will run Saturday, Feb. 6, to avoid going head-to-head with the Super Bowl the next day.
Feel free to yawn here.
That's about it, and it's not enough. With attendance down in a struggling economy, now is the time to spark interest with some bold moves.
So I'll be bold and say what should (but won't) happen with the Cup schedule:
Bold Move No. 1
Cut the schedule to 32 races.
It's a simple case of supply and demand. Too many seats are going empty at too many events. The Cup schedule has reached the over-saturation point.
Some speedways have two races, but should have only one or none. Fewer races mean more demand for seats.
Why this won't happen: No track wants to give up a race. Even with decreased attendance, each Cup date is a huge money maker. It also would mean less money in sanctioning fees for NASCAR.
Bold move No. 2.
Go from two to one at five tracks.
Take one Cup event away from Atlanta, Dover, Michigan, Auto Club Speedway in California and Pocono. While you're at it, shorten that Pocono race to 400 miles.
Why this won't happen: See above. Also, NASCAR wants to race twice at Michigan because it's the home track for the U.S. auto industry.
NASCAR wants to race twice at ACS (Fontana, Calif., is 50 miles east of LA) because sponsors want two events in the second-largest population market in the country.
And NASCAR wants two races at Pocono because it's the closest track to New York City. NASCAR wants to race twice at Dover because, well, I have no idea.
Bold move No. 3
Bring in a new location by giving Kentucky Speedway a Cup date.[+] EnlargeDavid Allio/Icon SMIA new track would be a welcome change to the Sprint Cup schedule, and Kentucky Speedway is ready and waiting.
Kentucky is an excellent facility with good racing. It also brings in the Cincinnati and Louisville markets, along with attracting some Ohio fans who have attended the Michigan races.
Why this won't happen: Former track owners have a pending lawsuit against NASCAR.
Kentucky will get a race in 2011 if the lawsuit is dropped, thrown out or settled. If not, no race for Kentucky no matter how much new owner Bruton Smith pleads for it.
One Speedway Motorsports Inc. track will have to give up a Cup race for Kentucky to get one. Atlanta is on the hot seat.
Bold move No. 4
Change a few Chase events.
Take Dover out of the Chase and put Sonoma in. If NASCAR is going to race road courses, one should be part of the playoff to win the championship.
Swap short-track dates, placing Bristol in the Chase instead of Martinsville. The Bristol night race is one of NASCAR's biggest events. The best events should be part of the playoff, if possible.
Move Indianapolis into the Chase in place of Kansas City. Granted, racing at the Brickyard isn't the best, but neither is Kansas, and Indy is a much more prestigious event. Indianapolis should become the Chase opener.
This would give the Chase an event at almost every type of track: a 2.5-mile oval (Indy), a 2-mile oval (ACS), 1.5-mile ovals (Texas, Charlotte and Miami), 1-mile ovals (New Hampshire and Phoenix), a short track (Bristol), a restrictor-plate race (Talladega) and a road race (Sonoma).
Why this won't happen: Very difficult to make all these swaps and make it work logistically with other events.
Kansas is going to get a second Cup date, possibly as soon as 2011. One of those races needs to be in the fall to keep enough space between the two dates.
Bold move No. 5
Make the Sprint All-Star Race a traveling show.
Fans across the country should have the chance to see the event in person. An all-star event should move around, as it does in Major League Baseball and the NBA.
And what a great selling point it would be for a track to be awarded the all-star race for the upcoming season. Sites could bid on the event, adding money to NASCAR's coffers.
Why this won't happen: All the Cup teams want the extra week at home in suburban Charlotte. Smith would want something in return if NASCAR moved the event.
No one is going to agree with all these changes. But wouldn't it be fun and make things more interesting if a few of these bold moves came to pass?
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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