Good day race fans, and welcome to RacersReunion, a site we know is read by folks that matter. Recently… like this morning… I was looking at the NASCAR schedule, for reasons that escape me now, and couldn’t help but notice something missing. Days off! “Off weekends!” Remember those? I’m serious as a heart attack here, and I think I found the answer to a lot of the problems that NASCAR doesn’t think it has. You and I might tend to think differently.
Suddenly, I find myself looking lovingly back to the days when we only ran 29 or 30 races each season. Those now seem like the “good ol’ days”, when there were strategic breaks in the schedule that allowed drivers, crews, entire teams and let’s face it… fans… to take a break once in a while, if for no other reason than to allow the human body to regenerate.
Raise your hand if you remember “Rain dates.” Hmm, that’s what I thought. We used to have them though, and they gave teams the luxury of not having to wait through Sunday, Monday and even Tuesday, trying to get at least half a race run by out-waiting or outsmarting Mother Nature. You know what they say about Her! Oh, that might be the reason that Mr. France is so high on finding faster ways to dry the tracks.
Note to Brian France: Try to find one that doesn’t involve large volumes of jet fuel and can withstand a flank attack from JPM.
So where did all those off-weeks disappear to? First, of course, we had the great Western movement, when for some reason it became extremely important to extend the racing “Market” ( I am quickly learning to detest that word) into areas that either couldn’t care less (Fontana) or just said no. (Washington State) Add trips to Las Vegas, Chicago and Kansas in there and race dates were getting short. Give a second race to Phoenix and Texas and pretty soon, even without North Wilkesboro or The Rock, there was only a tiny smattering of off-weeks to be seen.
With that in mind, why not move the Daytona 500 back a week to somehow accommodate (run from) the NFL, which for years on end had adjusted its schedule to accommodate that same Daytona 500? Shame on the genius that hatched that plot, which only served to leave an entire weekend early this year with nothing worth turning on your TV for that wasn’t occurring on the History Channel or its close associates.
It used to be set policy that NASCAR didn’t race on Mothers’ Day. They still don’t, if we’re using semantics, but they do race the night before. That occurred in one final effort to eliminate Darlington Raceway from the schedule. Something didn’t go according to plan though, because despite having its only race on that heretofore sacrosanct weekend, Darlington ran a race and the fans came… lots of them! Hey, Moms are race fans too.
All of that left this year’s Cup schedule with exactly two weekends open, the as yet unthreatened weekend that includes Easter Sunday, and the one we see this weekend. Well, there has always been at least one break in the summer, but why this one survived isn’t clear in my mind. Personally, if I were making the rules, I might have picked a week that would better serve a purpose. How about the weekend before the Chase begins? If we must have the thing, wouldn’t that be the most logical place to stick the one precious off-week still floating free?
I’m pretty sure that a lot of you are already beginning to show signs of racing burnout as the long hot summer drones on and a brand new NFL season looms on the horizon. The free market has rules about that… the lower the supply, the greater the demand. While the gang in Daytona are plotting with their marketing experts in New York City (Please insert elderly cowboy with over-sized hat and mustache to match, delivering that line as an incredulous question), I’m thinking they are overlooking the obvious. Remove some races and I believe the results would be surprising.
Never mind the teams. It’s an established fact that they would be happy about cutting out a half-dozen or more of the currently scheduled races. Drivers might have kids that recognize Daddy again, but the main effect, if my thinking is correct, would be on the fans. So, what about you, my friends out there on the World Wide Web? Do you think your interest might grow if racing were not available every week, week after week and day after day? Enduring a steady barrage of endless and often mindless words, thoughts and pictures of anything will eventually turn off the most avid supporter. As time passes, it becomes like that old Chinese water torture… drip… drip… drip…
Here’s the part where I hope this column differs from all the rest, even my own. Instead of using all my space to give you my opinion, I ask for yours. This old gal realized years ago that you really don’t give a hoot what I think, but I do care about your thoughts, and I love having the chance to give you an open line to Daytona Beach. Thank you Mr. France, for having folks monitor this site and this column. This is where you can learn what the fans are really thinking Sir; not from a “market study” but from their own lips, or in this case, fingertips.
What about it race fans? Would you be up for some weekends off from racing over the course of a season? I am in no way singling out any track or tracks that I’d like to see cut back to one race, and I’m not even considering eliminating any track on the schedule today. I could, but it’s not my intention to start an argument or foster any ill will toward any particular track or area. Only to open an intelligent conversation on the currently overburdened schedule.
A couple of “fixes” are obvious, and would require no loss of races at all. First, put the Daytona 500 back where it belongs, in the natural flow of “Speed Weeks.” Next, move the All-Star Race to a weeknight. Keep it at Charlotte if that pleases everyone, but run it closer in conjunction to the World 600, maybe Wednesday or Thursday evening. Poof! We’d have two more off-weeks without lifting a finger except to write the new schedule.
Sure, I know that beyond that point there will arise some serious discussions, OK, maybe wars, based on the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) theory in reverse. No one wants to lose HIS or HER race. That part would not be up to us, but I suspect any decisions would be based on someone’s bottom line. I would hope that any races taken off the schedule would come from tracks already having second dates, so that no one winds up totally without a race, as we saw with North Wilkesboro and The Rock.
Right now, all this is but some ideas escaping from the brain of a racing journalist, but I’m anxious for all of you to share your own thoughts on a shorter schedule with me and our NASCAR friends down in Daytona Beach.
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