The Law of Diminishing Returns
Alex FL Racing Fan
Tuesday March 21 2017, 6:16 PM

Racing is struggling really bad right now, but this isn’t news to anybody.  IndyCar, F1, and NASCAR all have decreased field sizes.  DNQs are a rarity in all three now due to this.  Fan attendance for NASCAR is likewise down, while IndyCar has slightly increased at some and decreased at others, and F1 is about the same as IndyCar.  Sponsors are leaving in droves, and all three have multiple sponsorless races, with IndyCar and NASCAR commonly getting local Mom ‘n’ Pop stores that no one knows exist at the 11th hour.  NASCAR teams have a revolving door of sponsors (at $1,000,000/race, who’s surprised really?), and IndyCar has taken it a step further by having former champions driving blank cars.  Ratings that used to be 4.0-6.0 for a standard NASCAR race have stepped back to 1.0-3.0, while IndyCar’s are usually less than 1.0.

It’s the Law of Diminishing Returns.

So many factors have been altered, but only one is of interest today: the NASCAR schedule.  The NASCAR schedule is filled with tracks that have two dates.  Perhaps the product could be improved with a simple but difficult to implement change, reducing the tracks that have two races.

My rules are that (1) only Charlotte and Daytona may have multiple races, (2) only existing tracks that meet practical requirements of safety and size may be used, and (3) there must be at least 32 races on the final schedule.

1              1/29/17               Phoenix              

2              2/12/17               Homestead

3              2/26/17               Daytona              

4              3/05/17               Atlanta

5              3/12/17               Las Vegas           

6              3/26/17               Fontana              

7              4/02/17               Martinsville

8              4/09/17               Fort Worth         

9              4/23/17               Bristol  

10            4/30/17               Pocono

11            5/07/17               Talladega            

12            5/13/17               Kansas   

13            5/28/17               Charlotte

14            6/04/17               Richmond             

15            6/11/17               Loudon  

16            6/18/17               Michigan             

17            6/25/17               Dover     

18            7/01/17               Daytona infield road course       

19            7/08/17               Kentucky              

20            7/16/17               Indianapolis

21            7/22/17               Portland International Raceway                 

22            8/06/17               Watkins Glen

23            8/12/17               Iowa Speedway

24            8/19/17               Gateway               

25            9/03/17               Darlington

26            9/10/17               Chicago                 

27            9/17/17               Sonoma                

28           10/01/17              Thompson, CT    

29           10/07/17              Charlotte

30           10/15/17              Five Flags 

31           10/22/17              Myrtle Beach    

32           10/29/17              NOLA Motorsports Park               

33           11/05/17              Daytona                            

What has been accomplished by this?  Yes, Daytona is on there three times, but it seems appropriate for the “World Center of Racing” to do such a thing.  The season begins at Daytona, has its midway point at Daytona, and ends at Daytona.  This schedule, though, more importantly, takes advantage of downtimes in other sports (e.g. week before the Super Bowl) and gives NASCAR a broader base.  It is also the first schedule to make careful consideration of local meteorology in it's arrangement.

But I digress.

I listed seven tracks that currently have no Cup Series date, but I picked those that I thought could best, with NASCAR’s help, develop the infrastructure needed to do such a thing.  The series, as a result, has far greater coverage by adding races in Iowa, St. Louis, the Pacific Northwest, southern New England, and the Deep South.

Each race weekend would have a format like this (example for a theoretical “Thompson 400” race):

  • 9:00-10:00AM: practice
  • 10:30-11:00AM: two round qualifications, Round 1 is 15 minutes with fastest 16 cars advancing, 5 minute break, and 10 minute round for pole
  • 11:30-12:00M: final practice
  • 12:30PM: 40 lap heat races, odd positions in race 1, evens in race 2, points awarded to top 15 cars, winners on front row of main race, top 10 in each advance to A-Main
  • 2:00PM: 80 lap B-Main race for non-qualifiers, top 5 advance to A-Main
  • 3:00PM: 240 lap A-Main, points only awarded to top-20 cars
  • 6:00PM: Steel cage death mage between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano

I see it this way: Truck races are made short enough to require no pit stops, Xfinity races require one, and Cup races require two.  Maybe someday I’ll formulate how a Truck or Xfinity Series race would work under my format.  I also would need to formulate rules, should I get there.

There’s so much more that could be said, but I now toss it out to you.

Any questions?

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase   last year
I think pitching a zero-based approach to setting NASCAR tracks and schedules is fun for sites like this and bench racing. But the realities are far more complex than most are willing to accept. I'm not trying to be a shill for NASCAR, SMI, ISC, the TV networks, etc., but it isn't easy at all to on-board a new facility or trim a race from an existing one.

Economically, race teams seem to operate on an insatiable need for operating expenses - primarily people and engines. Yes, they buy equipment, haulers, steel, etc. But what they really need is access to more engineers, talented but expensive drivers, and fast and durable engines. 

Race tracks, however, are far more capital intensive. It takes cubic dollars to build and later upgrade facilities. Revenue - and more critically PROFITS - are needed to help fund the debt generally incurred up front to build tracks and their upgrades. SMI and ISC are now publicly traded companies whose investors are expecting a sustained return on their purchase of stock and bonds. Cut revenue/profits/cash flow - and their market price sinks. That reduces opportunities for additional borrowing and track upgrades.

For tracks NOT currently on NASCAR's Cup schedule, many tracks don't yet have expected and current features such as SAFER barriers, adequate garage space, media centers, WiFi, concessions and bathrooms, fencing, etc. The costs to add all of that and more are often a non-starter. Independently owned tracks don't have the borrowing capacity to make those kinds of investments. Even if they did, they won't do so unless they get a multi-year race commitment from NASCAR to ensure they'll recoup enough profits to pay for those upfront costs.

With the current State of the Nation for all forms of US racing (can't speak to F1 / international scene), I don't expect to see any new tracks or significant modifications made to non-Cup or non-Indy tracks over the next 10 years. Consequently, the tracks we now have for both sanctioning bodies are likely the same tracks we'll have in 2027. If anything, a couple of tracks will fold vs. new ones being added.

Alex FL Racing Fan
@alex-fl-racing-fan   last year
Chase, this is precisely why, for short tracks, I picked the ones I did.  Given the current state of the cars, I don't believe (and I say this as a person who specializes in fluid physics) that SAFER barriers are absolutely necessary.  Gateway and the road courses are already at the necessary level.  It's the amenities that need help, as you said the WiFi, bathrooms, etc.  That's where NASCAR needs to make a multi-year binding deal with these tracks to have a race and give the tracks some kind of help in making such improvements.  NASCAR needs to be willing to give its tracks a helping hand.  Is BZF really going to die if his paycheck decreases from $250,000,000 to $150,000,000?  If he really cares about the sport, he won't.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton   last year
If we were to immediately go to the Pacfic Northwest, Evergreen (Monroe, WA) is head & shoulders above Portland. Give Richmond's traditional date the weekend following Labor Day to Chicago? Paul Sawyer just rolled over in his grave. Ironic that we (Richmond) hosted architects, engineers and $$$ folk from the proposed Chicago track at Richmond when NASCAR suggested to them that we (RIR) had the best walls,  fencing and restrooms of any track. But, as Chase opined, bench racing and real world economics usually prove strange bedfellows.
Alex FL Racing Fan
@alex-fl-racing-fan   last year
Evergreen is certainly a superior race track, but I was trying to minimize the number of tracks in need of significant improvements. As for Richmond, the way this schedule is formatted makes it easy to swap Chicago and Richmond's dates.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton   last year
Then again, Alex... I was thinking of the old oval Portland Speedway and not the Portland International Raceway road layout, which might be a very interesting venue. With a background in Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations and Business Administration, I'll certainly have to proclaim my lack of any knowledge of fluid physics, but somehow I wonder if the outcome of the encounters with our Richmond short track concrete wall by Jerry Nadeau and Derrike Cope would have been less severe with SAFER Barrier?