Does NASCAR need to
consider a floating schedule?
Photo by Sherryl Creekmore/NASCAR Media
Jeff Gordon (24) races side-by-side with Jeremy Mayfield at the final Rockingham Speedway Cup race to date. NASCAR's premiere series hasn't had the speedway on its schedule since 2004.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is the longest, most grueling schedule in professional sports. With 38 races at 22 venues and 22 cities in 40 weeks, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company doesn’t even have this kind of schedule.
It’s long, and it’s repetitive, not only on the drivers, crew members, and media members, but on the NASCAR fans as well. But is it time for a change? Is it time for things to change in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, as a “floating” schedule during some weeks, to give more recognition to the sport in more areas of the country than the 22 cities we currently see on the Sprint Cup schedule?
Now obviously, there are some dates that need to stay put. For example, the big dates, like the Daytona 500 to start the season. Also, Memorial Day weekend needs to stay in Charlotte, 4th of July in Daytona Beach as well, Labor Day needs to stay in Darlington, South Carolina, and the season finale should stay in Miami, Florida.
From there, it would be interesting to see other dates get moved around. The short tracks, since there’s so few of them, should also stay on the schedule, with both dates. Talladega as well, since it is a superspeedway track, and there’s not another track in the country that would produce that kind of racing. Also, the road courses should remain on the schedule since there are only two of them. The tracks that already have one date, Las Vegas, Chicagoland, Indianapolis, Kentucky, Auto Club Speedway, and Atlanta, should also stay on the schedule since the idea is hitting as many markets as possible.
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Kansas Speedway in October 2014. The track has held a second Cup date since 2011.
That leaves the schedule as seven dates on the 36 race schedule. Phoenix, Texas, Kansas, Dover, Pocono, Michigan, and New Hampshire, are left. Phoenix, Texas, and Michigan are in big markets, and should have two dates. Detroit, Michigan is where Ford Motor Company and General Motors are located in Detroit, and is an important market for NASCAR to be in twice a year.
So out of those seven, four tracks remain. Kansas, Dover, Pocono, and New Hampshire that are in smaller markets, and can afford to have their second dates “float.” Not necessarily take away their second date, but you pull it up, and make it every other year.
So with that, you can hit four more markets a year. You can hit tracks that are in the North Carolina area, as well as tracks that are in other, untapped markets. For example, if the 2016 second date for Dover goes to Rockingham, it doesn’t have to go there again for 2018. That can be a different track, and then go back there in 2020. That will hit many more markets in five years than NASCAR would be able to hit than just staying put with this schedule that has become repetitive and lack luster at times. Going to different places would create some umpf, which is desperately needed in NASCAR.
Photo by Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images
Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates his second win at Pocono in August 2014.
This could help NASCAR increase a fan base. Imagine going back to Rockingham, North Carolina. The fan base in North Carolina is NASCAR’s strength. Nine out of NASCAR’s last 11 races were rated highest in the Carolina area. Successful businesses play to their strengths. You’ve got to keep them happy in order to succeed. You can do this with other tracks in the area as well.
As successful as it sounds like there could be, like all changes, there are some negativities that go with it.
The track owners for Kansas, Pocono, Dover, and New Hampshire would not be happy with losing their second dates. They would lose a significant amount of money because of this, especially the second dates at Dover, Kansas and New Hampshire, because they’re Chase dates.
Another problem with these tracks that are currently on the schedule is seating. The seating at these other tracks may not be up to par with the current standards for the Sprint Cup tracks. The number of seating doesn’t matter as much now because of television.
Television is the biggest thing now in sports. This society is getting away from going to the venue with HD TV and the ability to pause and rewind live television has helped the TV business. With that, the number of seats doesn’t matter. But the quality does. Those track owners would have to spend money to update the seating if they need to.
Also, anyone who remembers the first race in Kentucky Speedway, the traffic at a track that never handled a Sprint Cup Series race could be a disaster. If fans sit in traffic for longer than anticipated, they could miss the race, and they could never buy tickets again. But, if the venue doesn’t add seats, then it wouldn’t experience any more traffic than normal if it’s seating the same amount of people.
If a venue does choose to add seats, having enough accommodations for those people to sleep and stay over is another big deal that will be affected by this change. If a city doesn’t have the hotels, it would need to build them, or have enough camping spots to fit all of the new fans that would be attracted from NASCAR coming to their track.
The final underlying problem for this change would also have to do with sponsorship and other forms of revenue. For example, Kansas Speedway, and Dover have casinos outside of their racetracks. Those are other forms of revenue for track owners, and at Kansas Speedway, it’s for NASCAR, whose owners are on the board of ISC, which owns Kansas Speedway.
Also, each track now in 2014 also usually has a pre-race concert or someone famous singing the National Anthem. At a smaller venue, it may be difficult for those performers to go there, and they may not want to go if there are not a lot of people at a race track, which will turn them off, and not give NASCAR the additional revenue.
Sponsors may also not want to be in smaller markets because of the lesser amount of people at the track. However, if sold right, and if this concept has people turn on their television sets for NASCAR, to watch it, sponsors would crawl towards the sport, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Plus, you could also sign on more local sponsors to fill those voids.
Lastly, most of the tracks that could fill the dates wouldn’t be able to hold 43 cars in their stalls and their garage area. That is something that may not be fixed because space is limited, but there are still plenty of tracks that could.
All in all, NASCAR would benefit greatly from having a floating schedule. It would renew energy in dead markets around the country, and create a buzz for the race fan who may get bored with the same old schedule every year.
However, it would be very difficult to approve because track owners would have a fit if their dates get pulled from their tracks. It would be difficult to also find tracks that could fit 43 pit stalls and cars in their garage area. It works in Martinsville and Bristol, and Richmond with limited space. It would be able to work at other venues too. This move could be a big move for NASCAR’s future, to expose this sport to more people. And if it doesn’t work, they could always go back to the tracks that are already there. The pros outweigh the cons in this situation.