Published on March 19th, 2014 | by Michael J Smith2
Should NASCAR Tweak Cup Schedule?
For the second time in four weeks, NASCAR fans had to endure a five-plus hour weather delay just to see the end of the Sprint Cup race.
The season-opening Daytona 500 was marred by a six-hour rain-delay. The only thing that made fans overlook that was an end to Dale Earnhardt Jr’s winless streak.
At Bristol Motor Speedway, the Food City 500 was delayed twice because of rain for more than five hours. And, the race ended under caution as the rain poured down, although the cause of the caution was a flagman’s mistake.
Jenna Fryer, of the Associated Press, says that it’s time for NASCAR to consider changing the schedule. She contends that the Daytona 500 should become a night race. That way, Fox won’t need to fill the airtime while the rain clears and the track is dried. Plus, she says, there is something “electric” about running the 500 under the lights.
While I do agree, it is painful to watch NASCAR broadcasters struggle to fill airtime and it the race just seems much better under the lights, I can’t ignore the fact that the rain would push the race to Monday. I think that’s a bigger deal for NASCAR because it is a bigger inconvenience.
A Monday race is harder for fans to attend, and watch. So, by moving the race to Sunday night, NASCAR would only be substituting one evil for another.
Ultimately, I think it is best for NASCAR to leave the race scheduled for the middle of the day, with the flexibility to get the race in on Sunday, rather than increasing the chance that it will be pushed to Monday.
Another point Fryer makes is that the first Bristol race has slowly made its way up the calendar. This year’s race was the earliest in the calendar year it has ever been. She agrees with track manager Jerry Caldwell that Bristol should come later in the schedule — mid-April.
I agree. NASCAR is never going to be able to avoid rain delays, but they can attempt to minimize the series exposure to rain. Any time in March and early April is going to be dicey for more-northern tracks like Bristol or Martinsville Speedway.
Plus, teams currently go from Daytona International Speedway to Phoenix International Raceway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Then, they come back east to Bristol before heading out west to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Then, it’s back east to Martinsville followed by a trip west to Texas Motor Speedway.
If NASCAR moved Fontana and Texas to before Bristol and Martinsville, they could push the dates for those eastern tracks to late-March and early April. That’s probably not enough to avoid rain entirely, but it certainly would lessen the risk.
It would also add the benefit of letting teams group those two early west-coast trips into one. It would be cheaper for teams to stay on the west coast and move from track to track out there because there would be less travel involved. Sure, the teams would be away from their families for a longer stretch, but it would be one trip instead of two. And, teams wouldn’t have to send their cars out west twice.
For smaller teams, this would be a huge cost-savings, especially if they only have a few cars. They would only have to pay to transport their cars from Vegas to Fontana, and then to Texas.
I think NASCAR should consider this change. What do you think?