Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito: NASCAR Through the Looking Glass – A Schedule in Dire Need of Review

NASCAR is it’s own animal of sorts when compared to professional sports. It starts off its season with its Super Bowl and then follows it up with two of the least compelling races on the schedule. Now I realize that not every race is going to be a barnburner, nor should they be. That’s just the nature of sports in general, and motorsports in particular. Sometimes an NFL game goes into overtime, sometimes you’re the Detroit Lions and it’s over before halftime.

Good God, I sound like a television announcer now, trying to make the in to stick-and-ball sports to casual viewer. You may hate that, but not as much as the trite Hollywood references that Chris Meyers will be spewing next week, or the constant, “hey, it’s VEGAS BABY!” lines and gambling analogies that will be made the following weekend.

The distinct lack of decent racing aside, the logistics of the first few weeks of the season are a complete mystery. Now, I realize that even in this era of global warming (though the four inches of snow outside my house would contradict this phenomenon), not every track in the country is going to be accessible or hospitable for a few months.

Is it so much to ask that it at least be on the same side of the country?

For a sport so concerned about spending money, what good sense does it make after spending two weeks in northern Florida, to truck thousands of miles across the country only to be right back out there just a few days later? Yes, I know there are separate trailers and teams to transport the cars, but can’t they go someplace closer?

Or somewhere moderately interesting?

If the season starts at a restrictor-plate track, why not head over to Talladega afterwards?

If you’re in Daytona, why not go to Homestead next, or even Atlanta?

If anything, the smartest thing to do would be to take a week off like the teams used to receive.

After spending two weeks at one racetrack, a break from the action would do everybody some good, help create a little more demand for the product that right now is in an overflow of surplus. With the number of smaller teams competing for starting spots this year, it would help level the playing field a tick if they had a chance to prepare (or purchase) another car in which to show up to the next track with. Instead, we’re going at breakneck speeds to hustle out to two big markets, which have produced some of the most Dramamine-moments in memory.

But they are, “major markets we need to be in…,” so let’s toe the line to the detriment of the sport.

Now I realize that the schedule is made out nearly a year in advance, and due consideration needs to be given to the promotion of the event, ticket sales, lodging, and coverage of the races. It just makes a bit more sense and common courtesy to give that same consideration to the teams involved here. For the last few years there have been preseason tests at California and Las Vegas, followed by the races there a month later.

This year, there was only a tire test at Atlanta; the only meaningful test allowed at a sanctioned NASCAR racetrack since the testing ban was initiated. NASCAR knew about this several months in advance; they very well could have shuffled things around and moved Atlanta up on the schedule.

With the series going to Phoenix in April, would it not make more sense to have a true West Coast swing and run all of those races in conjunction, with a week off mixed in there? I realize that is going to necessitate another trailer team to haul cars out there, but at least with a week off there is some time to catch your breath. And if NASCAR is committed to becoming like “other” sports, here’s a perfect opportunity to mix in a mid-week primetime race. All of these tracks have lights and are in major markets, so it should be no problem selling seats to these for a weekday night event.

Well, except maybe California. They can’t sell that race out and it’s on a Sunday in southern California in February. But hey, at least we get to see Arnold wave to the fans and a bunch of B-listers mulling about the garage area. Because much like politics, we need to have the approval of celebrities and the media to know that we are for real and that our product is sound.

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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