In the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, there are four important races (the four that make up the round eliminators. However, in that time we have ten races, most of which are on tracks 1.5 miles long. In those kind of races, passing is at a premium and some of the fun is drained when it’s a long game of follow the leader. In the chase, we have numerous tracks that suffer from that: Chicago, Kansas, Charlotte, Homestead, and Texas. Five of the ten are on races that can get boring and tedious at times.
At the same time, as much as the racing is tedious, the media coverage in these races have been dreadful. In a playoff format such as this, it is a guarantee the 16, 12, 8 and 4 drivers who are in line for the championship are going to get the majority of the air time, but in a race where 100 straight miles or 100 straight laps can be green flag, there is time to talk about different racers, not just the vital drivers for the championship.
We are in a different age in technology. People have numerous ways to get information about NASCAR races, with online streams, live data technology and lap by lap details. What this information cannot provide is a chance to highlight 40 drivers in 40 cars, instead of the main 16. Chris Buescher’s miracle win at Pocono Raceway gave Front Row Motorsports the most air time it ever had and now that they are out of the chase, it is almost a guarantee they are nothing more than an afterthought. No one did the tribute special about Front Row Motorsports and their tough rise into NASCAR. There is time to talk about 40 drivers, but NASCAR on NBC seems completely focused on the Chase drivers and that is not fair. Sponsors pay for television time, and they do not get their fair share.
While the complaining about the lack of good coverage in NASCAR races is important, the main focus here is that the amount of 1.5 mile races in the last 10 races is absurd. Drivers got offended at the idea of Talladega being the final race of the Round of 12, and that was changed. Why do the fans not get a say in what 10 tracks are part of the Chase as it is? 1.5 mile tracks are not all of the schedule, yet instead, NASCAR roots (small tracks) are given only four races (Dover, Phoenix, New Hampshire and Martinsville, the best track in the series). The other race is Talladega and that is the biggest wild card.
There are 26 other races, involving tracks of all kinds (short tracks, road courses, 1.5 mile tracks, 2 mile ovals and the two superspeedways). Beat writers for NASCAR have written dozens of articles saying that a road course should be added to the Chase (usually happens every time the circuit is at Sears Point or Watkins Glen.) There is reason to support that movement, but there’s more reason to change things around. NASCAR’s five-year deal with tracks is the biggest headache in changing the schedule around, but with the tracks provided things can be changed:
First off, let’s look at the system that the Chase should really follow. Using the types of racetracks the Cup schedule goes to, the priority should be that except for the 2.5 mile superspeedway at Talladega, there should be 3 1.5-milers, 1 two-mile speedway, one superspeedway, 4 short tracks, and 1 road course. While there are still 3 1.5-milers in my schedule, it’s because NASCAR has them in large markets where they belong. The Chase is a publicity thing and NASCAR loves publicity.
So here’s what would be a suggested schedule, starting with what would be cut from the Chase:
- The Kansas 1.5 mile race.
- The Homestead 1.5 mile race.
In the place of the cuts, the new schedule would look like this:
- Week 1: Chicagoland (nothing changes there.)
- Week 2: Pocono (August race moved to Week 2 of the chase for the sake of making sure that the 160-lap distance can be covered instead of constant rainouts.)
- Week 3: New Hampshire (moved from Week 2 on the schedule.) [Round of 16 ENDS]
- Week 4: Charlotte (nothing changes)
- Week 5: Talladega (Moved up a week to ensure no elimination race at Talladega, which drivers dislike.)
- Week 6: Dover (Moved back three weeks, ensuring a second short-track completes the round) [Round of 12 ENDS]
- Week 7: Texas (Like the previous two rounds, the third round will be led by the 1.5 miler.]
- Week 8: Sears Point (Now this is the craziness! There is no reason to move the Sears Point race from July to November. Instead, it is proposed that two get California some air-time in the Chase, the 8th week of the playoffs would get the road course people demand in a second race at Sears Point.)
- Week 9: Phoenix (This also would not change at all and ensures the third short track finish of the round.) [Round of 8 ENDS]
- Week 10: Martinsville (Homestead is a nice race track in the middle of November, but what would be more fun in NASCAR than ending the season at the oldest track o nthe circuit. Drivers might protest that a wreckfest-prone track is deciding the Chase, but this is Martinsville we are talking about, not Dover). [Chase for the Cup ENDS]
These changes ensure that the short-tracks are as important to the Chase as the 1.5 milers are in the current iteration. While it is a guarantee this schedule would never happen, there is reason to be think about trying to keep the marketing up. Outside of Martinsville, Pocono, New Hampshire, Dover and Talladega, five of the biggest areas in the country get airtime in the Chase (Dallas, Phoenix, Charlotte, Chicago and San Francisco). NASCAR will love that. Martinsville is the perfect place to end the season and while these ideas are radical, it is worth every shot.