Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Continue Racing on Easter?

Sunday night (March 31) under the lights at Richmond Raceway looked to be well in hand, right before Bubba Wallace sent Kyle Larson sliding down the frontstretch with two laps to go. While the resulting restart controversy has dominated the post-race reflection the last few days, another has emerged given the glaring absence of spectators — and competition for the most part.

Should NASCAR continue the pattern of breaking tradition and racing on holidays? This week Vito Pugliese and Mark Kristl take on the topic in 2-Headed Monster.

There’s a Way to Work Around Holidays

A year ago after NASCAR ran its Easter race at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, I argued in this column that NASCAR ought to continue racing on Easter weekend.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: When NASCAR Rules Are Recommendations

The 2023 Easter NASCAR Cup Series ratings were lower than in 2022. Guess what? This year’s race, held at a different venue, wound up with even lower ratings.
That’s not good, but not all is lost. Should NASCAR continue racing on Easter weekend? Yes. However, it should not race on Easter Sunday; it should race on Saturday night instead.

Easter Sunday is a day when families come together, often go to church and share a meal. That does not leave much time for watching a Cup race.

But other major sports play on other holidays. MLB plays on July 4, the NBA plays on Christmas, the NFL plays on Thanksgiving, the NHL on New Year’s Day and other holidays often have sporting events on TV.

On Easter Sunday, NASCAR ratings have not resulted in growth for the sport; quite the contrary.

So what is the solution? Saturday – Holy Saturday on the religious calendar – night.
That Saturday night doesn’t have as many activities for people. People are spending Sunday together, not necessarily Saturday night too.

Additionally, racing on Saturday night would allow the fans to attend the race and still have their Sunday free to spend the holiday with their families and friends. Likewise for the folks in the garage – drivers, teams, media, etc. Not racing on Easter weekend either extends the season a week longer or results in a different off weekend. For three straight years, NASCAR has raced on Easter weekend. It wants to top the TV market with high ratings.

Another challenge NASCAR has faced with racing on Easter is date equity. For the stick and ball sports, the Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving, the Rose Bowl is on Jan. 1 and almost all MLB teams play on July 4.

NASCAR fans disliked the Bristol dirt event, the Next Gen has not performed well at Richmond and without the history of racing that weekend, there isn’t any established tradition such as the season-opening Daytona 500, the Memorial Day weekend Coca-Cola 600 or the Labor Day weekend Southern 500.

Of all racetracks, NASCAR could go to either North Wilkesboro Speedway or Rockingham Speedway on Easter weekend. Both tracks have the history and love of the fanbase to support NASCAR using one of those for that weekend. Then NASCAR must stick with that track on that Saturday night Cup date. Ideally, the first year would garner high ratings. If that is not the case though, NASCAR ought to work with its TV partners, race entitlement sponsors and other involved parties to establish date equity at that racetrack on Holy Saturday night.

Furthermore, both racetracks are close enough to Charlotte that teams will not have to travel far to get there, thereby allowing them to be home for Easter.

NASCAR can capitalize on racing on Saturday night of Easter weekend. Make it a memorable family-fun event, with activities such as an Easter egg hunt for kids, driver autograph sessions to embrace the community spirit and some fun racing at one of the sport’s most historic racetracks. – Mark Kristl

See also
Only Yesterday: Martinsville Speedway & Ricky Craven's Other Cup Win

Give Me a Break – Is Nothing Sacred?

NASCAR has always been a series that has been built on tradition. Traditionally there have been times when we race and when we don’t. The Daytona 500 is typically the second Sunday in February, the Coke 600 is on Memorial Day weekend, and in the last few years, we came to our senses and returned the Southern 500 to Labor Day weekend.

On the flip side of that, we usually did not race on Mother’s Day or Easter weekend. Moms had to take a backseat to racing for a few years now, but recently racing on Easter has posed a bit of a conundrum. It is, after all, a floating holiday that isn’t the same weekend each year. It does however carry with it an inherent significance as evidenced by the acres of unoccupied aluminum visible Sunday night – and Saturday afternoon for that matter.

That being said, we should probably take the entire weekend of Easter off.

Now this might fly in the face of ‘progress’ for NASCAR. After all, with each race this year posting significant year-over-year gains, of course, they’d want to keep the momentum going. But that momentum has run headlong into less than overwhelming race response to the last couple off weekends.

Circuit of the Americas was fun on Saturday with Austin Hill and Shane van Gisbergen going at it in the final laps, but Sunday’s event was pretty bland in comparison, the biggest moments being some lap 1 contact and then Kyle Busch mean-mugging Christopher Bell after the race in the pits. Saturday and Sunday weren’t exactly the most compelling of contests, regardless of who wasn’t there to see it in person. So much so that hot on the heels of the topic du jour — Denny Hamlin jumping the restart — were rumors that Richmond is at risk of losing a date for 2025 and beyond.

If that is the case, and based on Sunday’s action, at least put the sealer back down on the track and bring the Bristol tire if they’re not going to go eliminate shifting on short tracks.

While a bit harsh, it does seem like deflection; the sparse attendance was the result of scheduling over a major religious holiday and the first weekend of Spring Break for many parents of school-aged children. The second is that the weather was pretty soggy on Sunday; at least God spared the lightning bolts or it may have been pushed into Monday. As it was, the race had just concluded and it started raining again.

When the new year’s schedule comes out, the usual banter begins about which tracks should keep and lose a date, and how break-neck and relentless the schedule is. Back in the early-mid ’90s, there would be basically a week off each month and two weeks off in May. This year the season starts with the Daytona 500 and goes week in and week out until there’s a two-week respite at the end of July with the 2024 Summer Olympics.

I don’t know about you – but I don’t need to be waterboarded with entertainment every weekend. The NFL season is too long now. MLB is murder. How do you play hockey in the middle of summer? NASCAR could stand to take a breather and go to one race a track at a couple of other locales and not backfill them. The NBA has had a Christmas Day game as long as I can remember, and now the NFL is going to get in on the holiday cheer this year as well. While its primarily to feast upon a captive audience, it’s just getting over-saturated and horning in on what for many might be better spent with family. If you are one to observe and celebrate, it likely starts to feel a bit intrusive. – Vito Pugliese

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.

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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jim

Nascar knows what is best for cultivating new fans. They did a great job with keeping the ratings up and stands full.

Ed Rooney

lol
GROW THE SPORT! WE HAVE TO GROW THE SPORT!!

wildcatsfan2016

No

Bill W.

No on racing on Mothers Day and Easter.

Kevin in SoCal

This year I understand racing on Easter because of the Olympics, but the last two years I didn’t get it. At the very least this race should be on Saturday night so the teams can spend Sunday with their families.
And I think Mother’s Day racing is ok. I enjoy seeing the moms being honored.

Kuku H

Either that, extend the season by one week and end the 2nd Sunday of which is Veteran’s Day Weekend.

Kevin in SoCal

Yes, the season used to end the weekend before Thanksgiving, and now it ends the first week of November. I don’t get the change.

Michael Latino

I can remember when they didn’t race on Easter and Mother’s Day

Kevin in SoCal

I hope you can, its only been a few years.

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