Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Is it next year yet?

It’s about time for the 2007 Nextel Cup schedule to become the object of much speculation among NASCAR beat writers.
What happens is that a few tracks start sending out ticket renewal forms to fans and word starts to leak out about what’s going to happen when. People then start trying to fill in the blanks from there and before you know it all kind of rumors are going around.
What has apparently set things off this year is a ticket letter that folks have gotten from New Hampshire International Speedway indicating that next year’s July race there will be held on July 1.
That’s two weekends earlier than this year. More significantly, it’s in the slot where the Pepsi 400 has traditionally been run – the weekend before July 4th.
To let you in on how some minds work, there are those who’re leaping to the conclusion that means a huge shakeup in the schedule is coming, one that might include moving the summer Daytona race back into the Chase somewhere.
That could happen, I guess, but it seems to me that it’s more about the calendar than anything else.
Daytona’s summer race is barely a July race this year – it’s on July 1. Most people who get time off for that holiday will still be working that Friday night – their vacation would be the next week. Next year, the Saturday night that weekend would be June 30. That’s not July. Daytona would rather have July 7 as its Pepsi 400 date, so it would in effect move back a week. That’d push Chicagoland back a week, too. But then you’d get right back on the same routine as this year with Pocono on July 22 and a open date on July 29.
One important thing to do when looking ahead at 2007 is to remember that Easter is always a factor. Next year, it falls on April 8, one weekend earlier than this year. You always have to fit Texas and Martinsville around that date. This year Martinsville was on April 2 and Texas on April 9. Things could stay in that order in 2007, but it’s also possible that Texas might be April 1 and Martinsville April 15.
The Daytona 500 will be on Feb. 18, but there is a question about what happens after that. The past two years it has been California-off weekend-Las Vegas with the Busch Series in Mexico that off week. But if the Busch Series goes to Montreal, as is expected, will it also go to Mexico City again? If it doesn’t, will that early off weekend for Cup be moved to later in the season somehow?
If I had to bet right now, I’d say things stay like they are. California on Feb. 25, off week, then Las Vegas on March 11 followed by Atlanta, then Bristol. Then you’d have either Texas or Martinsville, then Easter, then Texas or Martinsville followed by Phoenix and Talladega. Richmond would be May 5, then Darlington May 12, followed by the all-star race and Coca-Cola 600 to round out May.
Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Infineon, New Hampshire, Daytona, Chicagoland and Pocono would then come before the week off at the end of July – is that where the Montreal Busch race might go? Then back to the same schedule order we have now.
Kentucky wants a Cup date and Bruton Smith wants a second date for Las Vegas, too. Unless a track or two is sold, though, it’ll surprise me if either gets what it wants.
I don’t disagree completely with those who say too many tracks have two dates. If you were starting the Cup Series right now, not as many tracks would have a second date. You’d go to Kentucky, and maybe to Nashville or Gateway or the new track in Iowa. And you’d leave room for tracks down the road in Washington state and New York.
Here’s how. You’d set up a 26- or 27-race “regular season” and give each track one points race. Then, you’d have the 10 Chase races and you’d let each track bid on how much it’s willing to pay in terms of total purse for the right to host one of those events. No track gets more than one of those final 10.


Monkeesfan said...

The Firecracker 400 has not always run on the exact weekend of July 4 - running on July 7 has been done before, off the top of my head I think it was done in the latter 1990s, around 1996 or '97.

As for Kentucky and a second Vegas date, not only will Kentucky get a Winston Cup date, but the old artificial limit of 36 races will go by the wayside, with 38 races and perhaps 40 in a season coming in a few years. NASCAR can't afford to drop a date at a non-ISC/SMI track because they'll be sued, plus those non-ISC/SMI tracks draw better than some ISC/SMI tracks - when was the last time Atlanta outdrew Pocono? And where did those sellouts at Texas go? So NASCAR will be left with no choice but to expand beyond 36 races, an unrealistic limit from the beginning.

I do disagree that too many tracks have two dates - for the most part all of them earned two dates, and two dates are always better than one. Using this year as the template, here is what the schedule should look like -- with NO CHASE FORMAT, chase format replaced by three-digit quarterly and seasonal point bonuses for most wins and most laps led -

22 - VEGAS 500 (no more 400 milers; 400 is a cheap, incomplete distance for big tracks)

19 - DAYTONA 500
26 - CALIFORNIA 500, Fontana

5 - PHOENIX 500k
12 - RICHMOND 500
19 - ATLANTA 500
26 - REBEL 500, Darlington

2 - SOUTHEASTERN 500, Bristol
9 - ALAMO 500, Texas
15 - FIRST UNION 500, North Wilkesboro
23 - VIRGINIA 500, Martinsville
30 - ALABAMA 500, Talladega

7 - CAROLINA 500, Rockingham (never should have been taken off the tour)
13 - MUSIC CITY 420, Nashville
21 - MASON-DIXON 500, Dover (Nextel All-Star race cancelled)
29 - WORLD 600, Charlotte (run on Monday to allow drivers to run both Indy and Charlotte)

4 - SEARS POINT 500k
11 - KENTUCKY 500
18 - POCONO 500
25 - MICHIGAN 500

4 - FIRECRACKER 450, Daytona (only night race on the tour)
9 - CHICAGO 500
16 - NEW ENGLAND 300
23 - BLUEGRASS 500, Kentucky
30 - SUMMER 500, Pocono

6 - BRICKYARD 450, Indianapolis
20 - YANKEE 500, Michigan
27 - VOLUNTEER 500

4 - SOUTHERN 500
10 - CAPITAL CITY 500, Richmond
24 - DELAWARE 500, Dover

1 - KANSAS 500
8 - NATIONAL 500, Charlotte
15 - OLD DOMINION 500, Martinsville
22 - AUTUMN 500, Talladega
29 - AMERICAN 500, Rockingham

5 - DIXIE 500, Atlanta
12 - LOS ANGELES 500, Fontana
19 - NEVADA 500, Vegas
26 - LONE STAR 500, Texas

3 - MIAMI 500

Unknown said...

Monkeesfan -- North Wilkesboro and Rockingham are gone. No going back. And the Chase certainly isn't going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

David don't rain on MF's parade. Let me do it.

"FIRECRACKER 450" as the ONLY night race? You're delusional. Just as The Rock and N Wilksboro dead and gong forever on the Cup scene so are any thoughts of retuning to anything less than the current number of night events.

If anything there will be more, not less.

And yes the Chase is here to stay. Ii may be modified in some way but it will never go away.

I almost forgot, Kentucky will have to settle for Busch, NCTS, IRL, Champ Car and whatever else they can drum up to fill the bottomline. Their anti-trust case is baseless and will get tossed.

Monkeesfan said...

David Poole, I know Rockingham and North Wilkesboro are gone, my point is they should never have been allowed to go. As for the Chase, it's not here to stay - the novelty is wearing off and the fundamental phoniness of the playoff format for racing will catch on among more and more involved in the sport.

Marc, there's nothing delusional. If NASCAR is going to have night races (and arguably they shouldn't) then it should be limited to the Firecracker race on July 4th. There won't be more night races because they don't improve attendence or TV ratings and only harm local tracks.

Also, Kentucky's antitruist case is stronger than NASCAR's defense. When NASCAR boasted that they would slot two WC dates at New York Speedway (a track that won't get built because no one in New York wants it) that advertised that NASCAR is indeed jerking Kentucky around. NASCAR's defense is baseless.

Anonymous said...

To monkeesfan,

The schedule you created is crazy. The 600 hundred on a monday, people work you know, ratings and attendance would be awfull. Only one night race would displease everyone as there the best races all year, what would people do without bristol at night. The schedule is also to long, teams dont want to travel twelve months a year. I dont even understand your no 400 mile races stance. Rockingham and North Wilksboro are gone for a reason and I am one of the few who dont mind expansion. Only four tracks should have 2 dates, Daytona, Talledaga, Las Vegas and Bristol. Lowes would also have two dates but the All star is not for points. Daytona would also keep the bud shootout and qualifing races. Maybe then we can have cup races in places like New York, Seattle, Canada and Mexico. But I know I am in the minority but NASCAR does seem to make ther right choices because they know long term expansion is good. I am also a strong supporter in the chase.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Grammar error in my post. I am a strong supporter of the chase.

Monkeesfan said...

dave, the 600 would be run on Memorial Day Monday, which many people take off. The ratings and attendence awful? They weren't for the unscheduled Monday Talladega race.

Night races are not the best all year; they hurt local tracks and do not improve TV ratings or attendence. If they're going to have any, limit it to just one.
"What would people do without Bristol at night?" They'd attend during the day.

The schedule is not too long. Teams test, build cars, and travel during the "off-season" anyway, so in the end it's not any increased workload for them.

Rockingham and Nroth Wilkesboro are gone WITHOUT reason. They could have expanded the schedule by simply adding races; no race should ever be taken away. NASCAR does not need to race in Mexico or Seattle in any event.

And why are you a supporter of the whole besotted Chase fraud? There is nothing to the Chase that justifies the whole concept. Don't give me this "2004 was the closest point race in history," because it was anticlimatic; Kurt Busch at no point of the final race had ANY chance of losing the title. The Chase is just a contrived gimmick.

Anonymous said...

to MOonkeesfan,

Yes Talledega on monday did great attendance wise, but remember Atlanta. The ratings from talledega were also way lower than had the race been on sunday. About the schedule, its true teams test and build cars in the offseason but they build cars at the shop, were employees drive to from home, not fly to. They dont test as often in the offseason. I dont think the over-the-wall guys would agree with a longer schedule being the same amount of work. The 36 six races a year are fine, but I do see 38 points races a year coming as do you, along with the 2 non-point events bringing the schedule to 40 races. As for night races they are a spectacle. Most fans love them and small tracks need to adjust and realize things change. Can't they race during the day if buisness is hurt that bad,which from what I have seen night races dont hurt as bad as some claim. Your right, NASCAR doesnt need to race in places like Mexico or Seattle but if they wish to grow the fan base they have to. Above all thats what its all about, growing the fan base and creating new revenue. Thats why theres a chase. The points system has been changes multiple times in NASCAR history and from looking back at the old systems I think the chase is the best one. I would never give you the close point race bs because if a team is good enough and they run away with the championship then good for them. The chase is a way to keep people wathing through the whole season, like you said a gimmick. NASCAR as a promoter has to think about growing the fan base without angering to many people, this is a fine line to walk but but in the end everyone has the same idea, to bring racing to as many fans as possible while keeping the current and long time fans happy, like I said a fine line to walk. This means some races will be removed and some added, you can fight it but expansion in the end will benefit everyone, even if they dont realize it.

Monkeesfan said...

Yes, Talladega and Atlanta's ratings were lower on Monday, but that was because they were UNSCHEDULED Monday races; putting the World 600 on Memorial Day Monday would not be in such a predicament; that Monday is a holiday and people would be able to attend the race and watch it on television like they would on any Sunday.

As for night races, they are not enough of a spectacle to justify them. Small tracks don't need to adjust, it's the BIG racing series that have to adjust, because they can afford to; the small tracks can't; they need weekend night racing far more than Winston Cup does. Don't believe arguments that night Winston Cup doesn't hurt so bad; it does.

NASCAR will grow its fanbase without going to Mexico or Seattle or New York City, and without a Chase format. NBone of those things are necessary to grow the fanbase - it grew and grew without any of those things. Yes, the point system has been changed numerous times, and for varying reasons - in the early 1970s the need was to get teams to run all the races, then for 1974 came a need to directly reward winning races; they finally hit on what was a good compromise at the time in 1975, and yes it outlived its utility long before 2004, but the Chase format does nothing to alter that format beyond arbitrarily locking out cars that still have a mathematical shot at at least a top-ten in points.

Removing races never advances the sport, so that is a non-option no matter how anyone slices it.

Anonymous said...


Removing races is a business decesion. When Rockingham was taken off the schedule it was because the track sold less tickets than what California could, but the races races at Rockingham where better, theres no argument there. Nascar thinks they can please more fans and make more new fans in L.A. than in North Carolina. I do see in your schedule there are two California dates but that would make the schedule to long. In my dream schedule, as I stated only four tracks with two dates you could go to many places and sellout, possibly even Rockingham although it couldn't sell out its lone date in 2004. Its true Nascar has grown fan bases in places without races anywhere near them but it can grow bigger and faster by bringing races to the people. Why no All-Star race in your schedule? NASCAR above all needs to put people in the seats and there are only so many people in the south.

Monkeesfan said...

Dave, removing races is advertized as a business decision, the problem is it's never good business. Removing North Wilkesboro did nothing to advance the sport; removing Rockingham did nothing to advance the sport.

The "Rockingham sold less tickets than Fontana" argument is bull because southern California is less of a racing market than Rockingham or Pocono or New Hampshire or Alabama or Kansas. Rockingham was executed because of Bruton Smith's BS lawsuit to strongarm NASCAR into granting Texas a second race date. It didn't sell out its lone 2004 date because fans knew it was a sham.

The scheudle I laid out isn't too long. The sport can handle a schedule like that. The argument that the sport can grow bigger and faster by bringing races to the people works, but not to the extent a lot of people in the sport's decision-making areas think it does. It isn't working as hotly as expected in Fontana, it isn't working that hot in Chicagoland, it hasn't worked that hot at Sears Point (the place sells out but there is no particular interest in San Francisco or the surrounding metro areas, and they've raced there since 1989), and the idea of a New York Speedway has gotten little except opposition there, with Kitsap, WA meeting the same fate.

The sport has to be realistic and realize there are some big markets it simply does not belong in. It does not belong in New York or the Pacific Northwest and its appeal in Chicago, San Francisco, and LA will not grow beyond what it presently is.

As for not having an All-Star Race in the schedule I laid out, the reason is the All-Star Race has outlived its usefulness. It has not been a compelling or competitive race in over ten years; for all the talk about how "the drivers don't have points to worry about," that hasn't translated into any increase in competitive intensity.

Yes, NASCAR needs to put people in the seats and there are only so many in the South. But there are only so many elsewhere, as well, and it has to realize that the markets it presently has must be kept. That's why the tracks that aren't in big markets have to stay where they are in terms of how many dates they get - i.e. no track must lose a date.

Anonymous said...

if the small tracks don't know how to take advantage of nascar fever they should open a hot dog stand!

Monkeesfan said...

anonymous, the small tracks know how to take advantage of NASCAR fever - heck, they fed NASCAR fever long before all the marketing. The problem now is NASCAR is refusing to cooperate with them.