One thing that this author has hawked on a regular basis is the idea of NASCAR in the largest television markets in the nation. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago are all well-covered, having Fontana, Sears Point and Chicagoland in their markets. Each of them are in the area, with adequate drives to get there. Chicagoland Speedway is 48 miles from the Loop of Chicago. Sears Point is all of 34 miles from the Embarcadero neighborhood of San Francisco. Auto Club Speedway in Fontana is the furthest of the three, 53 miles from Hollywood.
Some are crazier extremities. Michigan International Speedway is the Detroit track, but is well over an hour from downtown. (73 miles to be exact.) For our nation’s capital in Washington D.C., it is a 109 mile drive to Richmond Raceway. For NYC, the closest track is Pocono Raceway, which is 104 miles (a 2 hour drive) from Manhattan. This author has talked about that idea on multiple occasions.
However, there is another market that we do not value. NASCAR has a long heritage of New England drivers and reporters. For a sport that claims to be very southern-oriented, New England’s production tends to be overlooked. Right now, New England’s best driver is Joey Logano, who hails from Middletown. However the history is a who’s who of the last 30 years: Mike Joy, Dr. Dick Berggren, Matt Kobyluck, the late Dick and Rob Moroso, Randy LaJoie, Ricky Craven, Mike Stefanik and even Andy Santerre.
As far as tracks, NASCAR’s only voyage into New England is a twice-yearly (once-yearly next season) voyage to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. New Hampshire is an 80 mile drive from downtown Boston, Massachusetts. However, there is a signal that with the loss of New Hampshire’s second race that the racing is not drawing as much as it used to. New Hampshire is a great track, but at some point, one must wonder if one race in New England is enough.
There is another track in New England that deserves some touring date on either the Truck or Xfinity Series schedule. Located in the hills of Stafford, Connecticut, 77 miles from downtown Boston, sits a ½ mile oval asphalt track. Stafford Motor Speedway has been a tradition in the New England for the last 58 years, since it changed from a horse racing track to an automobile racing track. Right now, Stafford has a permanent place on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, with the Spring Sizzler in April. The Sizzler is a great race for the modifieds and Ryan Preece is the most recent winner.
As we keep looking at the NASCAR touring series schedules and the lack of attendance, we have seen that some of the smaller short tracks have brought people in. The race at Eldora for the Trucks was a mad house. Not only that, it was a full house. At the same time, the short track in Iowa has struggled to keep a full field for the standalone races. No offense to Iowa, but Eldora is the superior track. If we reduced the amount of races at Iowa, more people might turn out.
That is where Stafford comes in. Could one imagine having the Xfinity Series and Truck Series go to Stafford on the weekend that the Cup Series is at Loudon. Stafford does not have a large grandstand, with only 10,000 seats. However, showing a packed house at Stafford for a NASCAR top-tier touring series would be a great sign for short tracks across the nation, and be a tribute to all of Connecticut’s long history.