Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice?: NASCAR Listening To Its Fans? With One Exception

Did You Notice? … The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series schedule features real change? The sport keeps saying they’re actively listening to fan feedback. Well, this time they’ve finally backed up those words with real action. I see some great long-term positives here that are hard to criticize after several years of nothing but the status quo.

By switching around the tracks within the sport’s 10-race playoff, NASCAR has answered the call for more diversity. For example, Charlotte the intermediate is out; Charlotte the road course is in. Not only is it a new track for drivers, it makes road racing a talent needed for long-term championship success. No longer are Sonoma and Watkins Glen two random, fun races that pose no true connection to the title chase.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire’s second race, disappearing from the schedule altogether gets replaced by a mid-level intermediate in Las Vegas. That’s fine, since Chicagoland gets booted out; what a mess that racetrack has been. In its place, you get a second short track in Richmond that has potential to be a real game-changer.

That’s the same Richmond, remember with the bad crowd but the incredible racing this spring. In fact, I’d argue that was the second or third-best race of the season outside of Daytona.

In summary, the 2018 playoff distribution now consists of the following tracks:

Intermediates: 4 (40%)

One-mile Ovals: 2 (20%)

Short Tracks: 2 (20%)

Road Courses: 1 (10%)

Restrictor Plate Tracks: 1 (10%)

Compare that to the percentage breakdown for the 2018 regular season:

Intermediates: 10 (38.4%)

One-mile Ovals: 3 (11.5%)

Short Tracks: 4 (15.3%)

Restrictor Plate Tracks: 3 (11.5%)

Road Courses: 2 (7.7%)

Other (Pocono, Darlington, Indy): 4 (15.3%)

That’s about as close, percentage-wise between the two as we’re going to get. The only better option is if you threw a second race at Darlington or one of the Poconos into the playoffs and threw out a one-mile oval like Dover or Phoenix.

Darlington in the playoffs one day? It was there once, in 2004, and bringing it back come 2019 would make a good NASCAR schedule even better. (Photo: Brett Moist / NKP)

So now, the playoffs become a true representation what we see during the regular season. I also think the intermediates you have remaining are the best NASCAR has to offer outside of maybe Atlanta. Kansas? That produced one of the strongest 1.5-mile races we’ve seen this season, Aric Almirola wreck notwithstanding. Texas? The way Eddie Gossage weathered in his new pavement was a stroke of brilliance. Homestead? What a great season-ending venue the past several years, variable banking producing consistent side-by-side action aside from restarts. Even Vegas, for all its faults, presents a larger crowd and better upside than Chicagoland.

The regular season shifts, while not as dramatic, produce an uptick in excitement as well. Indianapolis still has a problem with its NASCAR racing but making it the regular season finale ups the risks drivers are willing to take there. You now end with the Bristol night race, Darlington and Indy as a three-race momentum builder right into the playoffs.

Sure, the schedule still has its problems. It’s too long, is in need of a midweek race and potentially a game-changing alternative like a dirt track or street course. But after years of total inertia, hamstrung by television and track contracts, the sport has created some real movement.

It’s a start.

Did You Notice? … The one real mistake NASCAR left on its schedule? I honestly feel there should have been two versions created: one with the All-Star Race in Charlotte for 2018 and one with it moving to Bristol. The second should have been triggered in the event of a failure like we saw Saturday night.

That All-Star Race sucked, plain and simple and it’s high time for the sport to make a change. If they had such confidence in Charlotte why did they turn their second oval race into a road course? You don’t take away an event from a 1.5-mile track that’s producing sold out crowds.

No, NASCAR made the move, untested because they need to attract attention back to the sport’s “home track.” It’s an effort to revitalize Charlotte as it’s become increasingly marginalized due to terrible competition. As Matt McLaughlin so eloquently wrote yesterday, it’s addressing the symptom and not the illness.

Rather than fix intermediates, NASCAR is looking to increase races elsewhere and at other styles of tracks because they have an aero problem. If they know that’s the case, why subject everyone to another All-Star Race history tells us is going to be terrible? They threw everything but the kitchen sink at this edition: option tires, rules matching the 1992 miracle ending and an elimination-style format. I don’t know what more we could have done.

With great cars, it could have been a classic. Instead? We got this 2017 pass in the grass from Erik Jones that says it all. I leave it below, without comment compared to what we saw in 1987. No wonder why everyone from Dale Earnhardt Jr. on down said the sport needs to find a solution that gets the splitters out of intermediate racing ASAP (and a better handling chassis and package in its place.)

P.S. – Yes, I know… they both weren’t really passes. Which is why it’s hilarious that there’s now two moves named after something that didn’t really happen.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off….

  • Best wishes to Sebastien Bourdais in his recovery from injuries suffered during Indy 500 qualifying. It’s been a weird month for the open-wheel crowd, with that wreck and a robbery at Taco Bell the two biggest storylines out of Indianapolis. (Thank goodness Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti are OK). I’m sure the race Sunday will be strong but in the midst of Fernando Alonso’s experiment, we’ll ask the same question we do every year. Why are the IndyCar Series and NASCAR not working together to produce more drivers doing the double? Every time Tony Stewart or Robby Gordon or John Andretti or Kurt Busch did it produced more interest in racing, period. Wouldn’t all sides want to have that extra boost? And why can Indy only get 33 cars for a 33-car field (with a jalopy in there from Buddy Lazier) one year after a sold-out crowd of 300,000+? People tend to discount diluted car counts as a problem for both NASCAR and open-wheel but I think it’s a growing issue.
  • Man, Chase Elliott is starting a real history of being a bridesmaid. He couldn’t even snatch a segment in the All-Star Race! How much longer before this winless drought really starts to get to him?
  • Kyle Busch is the type of driver that could take this All-Star win, get over the hump and win three out of the next four. I don’t consider him the favorite this weekend but don’t put it past him.
  • Red Horse Racing closing. What a shame. I don’t know enough inside information here but it’s always been my experience that when a team folds midseason, especially one as good as RHR has been (and around for 13 years) there’s more to the story. You don’t have a Penske background like Tom DeLoach does, then suddenly plan wrong and run out of money in mid-May. It just doesn’t magically happen like that. I’m hopeful they might still get on track at Dover but we’ll have to see.
  • My biggest worry for the Coca-Cola 600: What we saw in the All-Star Race from Kyle Larson will be 2016 Martin Truex Jr. all over again. Larson should have won the $1 million, hands down, and that car looked like it was capable of spanking the field by several seconds. Then again, those four stages won’t let him get too far away…. (eye roll)

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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Why is it with some fan boys like Tommy Boy here…a simple win is always a SUPER DUPER win, that they twist it as NOBODY ELSE EVER DID IT BEFORE!!

In fact they are so girly enamored reporting of anything Kyle, I think they have posters of him above their twin bed, and use the flashlight to stare up at it lovingly, once Mom shuts to door and says good nite!

Good freaking grief with this Kyle shit….Kyle and another driver get the SUPER DUPER WEENIE TREATMENT, which frankly is insulting to other drivers who a worthy of superlatives but do not EVER receive. It is just irksome as the mundane becomes a racing miracle…that we are all blessed to have seen. I am waiting for that miraculous transformation to happen to me, making my life even better..because I witnessed in Kyle what every other driver worth their salt has done!!!! But with Kyle somehow..well it is cosmic!!!!

Damn, it is laughable and gets tiring. A freaking exhibition race, from all accounts a major suck bomb.

Bill B

NASCAR listening to fans? Maybe, but I don’t recall anyone asking for Indy to be the final regular season race. But I agree, at least there are a few changes that fans have been asking for.

The biggest problem with the schedule is that because two organizations have a monopoly on 95% of the tracks, and neither wants to lose a race (and the revenue that goes with it), the sanctioning body (who is one of the two track owners which is a conflict of interest by any definition), won’t/can’t explore going to other tracks that they don’t own that might make things better. Ideally, the sanctioning body would not care who owns a track. If they thought it would produce a better race, increase fan interest or be a better fit given weather constraints, then they would make the change regardless of who owned the track. Instead, we pretty much have a static schedule because they don’t base where the races will be on what tracks might be best, they decide where the races will be based on who owns the track.


Darlington is an intermediate track.


It should be in the chase.


Chill kb, Kyle’s name was in Tom’s article one time (and he said he wasn’t a favorite for the next race). Not a lot of ink for the winner of the most recent race. Then you mention Kyle 5 times in your post…seems your the one enamored here?

I’m not one to jump on other’s post but yours take the cake.


Glad U liked it Smelly Fish! Guess you don’t read much on here..but hey free country..fire away.

Al Torney

The Indy race as the final regular season ending race is a disaster. Indy is one of the worse races on the schedule. It’s not a good track for passing. Going into Richmond you had a chance to race into the playoffs. This won’t be the case at Indy.

Using the road coarse at Charlotte will prove to be a real mistake. It may bump the attendence the first year out of curiosity but that will be it. Thinking it will be anywhere near as exciting as the Glen or Sonoma is dreaming. Having attended the 24 hr. Race at Daytona many times I can tell you the infield racing sucks. And Charlotte will be lousy. There is just not enough room in the infield to have competitive racing. They should have swapped Atlanta for Road Atlanta for the playoff race. Of course Smith is not going to like that.

NASCAR shot itself in the foot with signing these tracks up for five years. Their hands are tied right now.


Overall, the schedule changes are a real positive. NASCAR did the best they could to mix it up within the constraints they have. My only real gripe is Richmond is back to having two night races. It’s pretty obvious how much better the racing is there during the day. I’m fine with Indy moving to September. However, if they can’t get the racing better or bring attendance back, they should just drop the track (no road course experiment). That gives them a flexible date, not tied to ISC or SMI to go anywere (Iowa, Road America, Mosport, etc.)

Biff Baynehouse

No doubt, the schedule changes are positive & nice to see, but I could hardly care less. As long as they hold onto the “chase” & “stage” formats, the schedule is a woefully moot point, bc Nascar races & championships no longer have a shred of motorsport integrity.
The little disposable income I dedicate to motorsports entertainment is being exhausted in pursuit of integral categories. Those most certainly do NOT include GRC, Drifting, Monster-trucks & Nascar’s new style of “exhibitions” that fail to provide a rational, realistic & unmolested form of “race” or “champion”.
I have no time for Nascar, who will permanently reside at the bottom of the barrel until they elect to provide an integral product. I’ll be going to IMSA, Indycar & Trans-Am races at WGI this year. My fav streaming category is AV8 Supercars, followed by F1. Nascar is essentially dead to me…

John Brewer

I remember when nascar use to tell what the drivers were paid not no longer. Even the banquet they use to annouce what the point fund paid each driver.
If Nascar wants to fill the stands slow the cars down to say 175 and they will be able to run side by side and not have aero push.
Get rid of the splitter and just have a bumper like the cars in the showroom

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