Views from the Grandstands
Trimming the Tracks
NASCAR’s schedule has race fans seeing double too much of the time
As the 2010 NASCAR season got under way, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates said Michigan International Speedway should be knocked off the Sprint Cup schedule because of its state’s economic woes.
Sabates got in trouble, and he did phrase things a bit indelicately — but he’s got a point. There are too many races and too many duplicate races. Too many tracks are the same, which means the races are often boring.
I fear that NASCAR is about to make the schedule even worse. Recently, word came out that International Speedway Corp. had received approval to build a casino at Kansas Speedway and that NASCAR was intent on adding a second race there as early as 2011.
No offense to the good people of Kansas — I’ll leave the insults to Sabates — but that track is the last place that needs more Sprint Cup racing. My problem is that Kansas is a 1.5-mile, D-shaped oval — like almost every other track NASCAR has embraced in recent years, all of which spread the field out and make for little side-by-side racing.
I’d prefer fewer, but more entertaining, races. So let’s get out the old chopping block and trim some fat from the NASCAR schedule.
The 2010 season began Feb. 6 with the Bud Shootout and ends Nov. 21 at Homestead, encompassing 36 official races over 38 racing weekends. I’d keep the starting point about where it is, but I’d end a month sooner, before it gets completely swallowed up by fall weather, football and the fast-approaching holidays.
Daytona can keep its two races, especially since the summer race — it’ll always be the Firecracker 400 to me — moved to Saturday night. Talladega can keep its two races, too, though I still believe there’s a better way than restrictor plates to tame the 2.5-mile superspeedways.
Bristol can keep its two because that little place is just awesome and because the schedule ought to include a true mix of superspeedways, speedways, road courses and short tracks. Martinsville and Richmond can keep their two as well, and I’d return the spring Texas race to that crazy little uphill-downhill North Wilkesboro, N.C., track.
I’d also return the late-season California race to Rockingham, N.C., another track with personality and heritage that NASCAR should be cherishing instead of abandoning. North Wilkesboro and Rockingham both lost their dates because they’re in somewhat remote locales and didn’t always sell out. But hey, if a full house is the primary criterion for deciding which tracks live and die, then about half the ones from last year should get the axe, too.
NASCAR ought to quit scrambling for every last dollar and focus on staging the best possible races at the best possible tracks, even if that means helping some of these historic facilities get up to date. There was nothing wrong with the racing at Rockingham, only the unpredictable early-spring weather.
Charlotte can keep its two events as well as the All-Star race, because I believe the teams deserve a few “home games.” After that, no one deserves more than one.