The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule could use a serious overhaul and come 2018, the winds of change are set to pick up.
While not officially confirmed yet, it seems likely that Charlotte Motor Speedway is prepared to contest its fall playoff weekend on its infield road course. This is in addition to the already confirmed second date for Las Vegas Motor Speedway which will replace New Hampshire Motor Speedway next September.
Even Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials are having exploratory conversation about using its road course configuration for when NASCAR comes to town each summer. Now look, NASCAR should always remain a predominantly oval series but a little diversity could go a long way over the next decade.
Perhaps more than anything else, the current complexion of all three NASCAR national touring schedules is the biggest impediment to fan interest right now. As it stands, half of the races are contested on high speed, high banked downforce tracks and NASCAR is losing its identity as a result.
By itself for Cup, this would be totally acceptable, but the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series has joined the highest level for companion weekends at a much-higher rate for the sake of eliminating television costs and enhancing the value of a fan’s ticket.
But the end result is a tremendous amount of redundancy. It’s redundant over the course of a single weekend and it’s redundant over the course of a full-season too.
Take the Kentucky race weekend in July that features all three national tours from Thursday to Saturday. Ignoring the paltry attendance numbers for Trucks on Thursday, does anyone need to see the same show three days in a row with many of the same drivers for at least two them?
That’s a problem — and it’s only going to get worse with Las Vegas promoting two such tripleheaders next season.
Gone are the days where Trucks and Xfinity spent months at a time away from its big brother tour. Remember when the Brickyard 400 was hyped by short track racing at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana? How about standalone races at the likes of Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve or Memphis International Raceway. How about when Cup raced at Michigan but the Busch Grand National Series was at South Boston the same weekend?
It wasn’t that long ago, but now the financials of the sport dictate NASCAR to have nearly 60 percent of its national touring events on the same high speed downforce tracks and it wears on people. NASCAR could stand a little more diversity, both over the course of a weekend, and over the course of an entire season.
While it seems like a pipe dream to get the Xfinity race at IRP back, wouldn’t it be cool if the Xfinity Series race at IMS could be contested on the road course, while the Brickyard 400 remains on the historic flat oval?
While very few things will make the 400 a traditional barnburner, at least each day of the weekend would feel fresh and diverse. As for the road course to oval conversion process, those of us whom attend the month of May know the process has been refined into an overnight ordeal.
Friday could be for Cup practice and qualifying while Saturday can be a one-day show for all things Xfinity on the road course. It’s tedious but it has the potential to be a tremendous amount of fun.
How about one of those two Vegas tripleheaders? There’s no reason for the Trucks to have two races at the D-shaped intermediate speedway. Imagine one of the two Truck Series races across the street at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring — a 3/8th mile short track most notably used by the NASCAR K&N West Series in recent years.
That’s as throwback as the Eldora summer dirt race has become.
Hosting a NASCAR race requires a significant financial and logistical commitment, even for Xfinity and/or Trucks, but there are a handful of modern facilities that would fit at least the current NASCAR standard in Montreal, South Boston Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway and Kern County Raceway.
The infield road course option should probably be explored for Kansas Speedway. How about a street course race? If the NASCAR Pinty’s Series or V8 Super Car Series can make it work, so can Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.
In short, the overall NASCAR schedule often feels repetitive. The most novel part of the season will come late in the summer when the Xfinity Series breaks away from the norm and visits Iowa Speedway, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Bristol and Road America.
A month later, the Truck Series heads north to race on the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park road course in Canada. It’s a refreshing stretch of racing and it used to be the norm.
The Cup Series schedule doesn’t suck, but this trend pairing it nearly every week with Xfinity and the Truck Series on high speed downforce tracks do. Hopefully the Charlotte roval experiment is the first of many changes to come to NASCAR’s overall schedule.