Thinking about how the NASCAR Cup Series looks with its lack of fan enthusiasm and I couldn’t help but think the schedule needs a good reset. Now, everything is locked in until the end of the 2020 season, but one can dream that maybe there is work behind the scenes to freshen it up.
It won’t just take a schedule refresh to make things better, there needs to be adjustments to the car (mainly remove that splitter) and something needs to be done about the rising costs. I don’t have good answers on that, but here’s my take on a schedule that should help things.
One of the biggest things is it is the 36 race schedule is entirely too long in my opinion. So, right off the bat I’ve eliminated six of races to bring it to a nice round 30 for the year. I’d still have the Chase, except the cut off would be race 20. I also kept the over calendar length of the schedule because that lined up better for keeping traditional races at their spot, but one of my goals was to go no more than five races in a row without a weekend off.
Some might say that would be a time waster to have nine off weeks over all, but I’m thinking about it for two reasons. One, it affords Cup drivers the opportunity to run other series (local, Xfinity, Trucks, whatever) if they want. I would, if doing an Xfinity or Truck schedule, try to get them going on those off weekends as standalone events. For the crews, and my second reason, I think it would help to keep them from being overworked as I can’t imagine living on the road is that easy. Currently for the 2019 season, they have 10 straight races, followed by seven, then nine, and 12 to finish the year.
Obviously, we start at Daytona and I reluctantly include the Clash. I find that race boring and a waste, but I’m also a stickler for tradition so it stays. I like Daytona around Valentine’s Day. Then I dislike the move out west, but it provides for much better weather, so I would go to Las Vegas and Fontana for the next two stops. Then we come back cross country to Atlanta, and here’s to hoping weather a few weeks later in March is better than in February. Phoenix lost its first race of the year, I was at a tossup whether to take this one or the last one, I can go either way.
After taking a weekend off, it’s to Texas for their lone event of the year. I would have liked to completely remove it from the schedule, but I’m not convinced the Circuit of Americas would be good racing and the Dallas/Ft. Worth area is good for sponsors. From Texas, it’s short track mania! Martinsville (note later to help weather), then Bristol, and Richmond to get the fans pumped about the season. That’s four in a row so we take a break for Easter the next weekend.
Here’s a weird blip in the schedule, but whatever, it’s two races at Talladega and Dover then another week off. Note here, Dover has only one race and that’s it for the year. I didn’t like this set up, but it was needed to make sure Charlotte is still in line for Memorial Day weekend. I keep the All-Star race in there the week before, but nothing says it is at Charlotte.
Following the Memorial Day classic, it’s Pocono (lone race), Michigan (lone race), and out west for Sonoma. Then we take another week off, that was five races in a row (including the All-Star race), and go to Chicagoland. From there it’s the Fourth of July based Daytona race and another Saturday night trip to Kentucky the following weekend. Then it’s up north to New Hampshire and a week off.
This gets a bit funky, but again, I did it to keep some races at their traditional spots and to make sure I had the correct tracks lined up for just before the Chase. Watkins Glen happens next with an early August date, which is the second to last race before the Chase cut off. Now, major change here is the final race before the Chase will be race 20 and held at the Iowa Speedway. I like having Richmond now, but wanted to keep that in September, so Iowa was a logical pick to not only add to the schedule, but have as the cut off race.
Week off to collect ourselves and it’s off to Bristol for the start of round one of the Chase. Followed up by Darlington in its traditional Labor Day weekend and Indianapolis is the final of the opening round. My twist to this part of the schedule is weekend off between each round to get teams better prepared and the NASCAR PR machine can spend the week pushing the drivers around.
After being refreshed, it’s Richmond, Charlotte (undecided on roval or oval) and Kansas, with its only race of the year. Then a weekend off, and it’s Talladega, Martinsville, and Phoenix’s only race of the year. That sets up an off weekend and Homestead is the grand finale once again. Taking a play from the NFL, they have a weekend off before the championship, so why can’t we?
I know this schedule is far from perfect, and maybe can be condensed when it comes to the actual calendar, because I sort of agree it might be best to wrap up sooner to lessen going head to head with the NFL. I’m also too stuck with tradition, so moving certain races was not something I wanted to do. Then it just became one of sticking races in places for the sake of shortening things up.
Another idea would be most races slashed in their distance, unless you’re the Daytona 500, Southern 500, or Talladega, I don’t think they should be 500 mile races. A good example is Watkins Glen, those races are just about two hours long and no one comes away feeling like they are shorted anything.