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Sabates was right in suggestioning changes to the schedule and he didn’t go far enough

By admin | January 31, 2010

By Richard Allen

Last week, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team co-owner Felix Sabates stirred some controversy by saying that NASCAR should not be racing in Michigan because as he said, “There’s nobody left in Detroit other than the police and the unemployed. I’d cut Michigan off the schedule altogether. Michigan — I’m talking about the state — is never coming back to what it used to be, so why go there and throw good money after bad money?”

It would be hard to argue the part of his statement that Michigan is never coming back to what it used to be. The troubles of the American auto industry combined with the changing way in which the world now conducts its business pretty much assures that a state so entwined with that particular industry will never return to its former stature.

However, NASCAR does need to race there because of the fact that the track still drew more than 100,000 fans to its last race, but more, because it is the symbol of American automobile manufacturing. The track has been a part of NASCAR’s schedule for more than three decades so it should remain as such. Whether there should be two races there is perhaps open for debate. Certainly, that track as well as several others could be evaluated as to how many events they should have, if any.

With that said, though, Mr. Sabates was not wrong in saying that the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule should be reduced and redefined. 36 races per year is too many. There is an over saturation of the product. The NASCAR season runs longer than any other sport even in a time when other professional leagues go out of their way to extend their playoffs for as long as possible.

Immediately, NASCAR would do well to eliminate the race in Homestead-Miami. That track has never been truly integrated into the racing community. Crowds there are sparse and often only there as a result of ticket giveaways and greatly reduced prices. The track was poorly planned, at least for NASCAR, and has no real place in the sport.

Along with eliminating the Homestead race, NASCAR ought to take one date away from the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Crowds, if they can be called that, are embarrassing to the sport. More empty seats appear to the eye than filled ones when viewing on television.

When the California track had only one date it did not seem as though the crowds were so sparse. So, it would make sense to allow the facility one race to maintain a presence in the country’s second largest metropolitan area.

Taking dates from these two tracks would reduce the schedule to 34 races and would allow a bit more flexibility in providing other tracks with more favorable dates. Specifically, I would move the Darlington race back where it belongs, on Labor Day weekend. And then I would move Atlanta to the last race of the season so the championship could be decided closer to the roots of the sport.

However, we live in a real world and we know that neither of those changes is going to take place for one simple and obvious reason…money. Both of those tracks are owned by International Speedway Corporation which, like NASCAR itself, is controlled by the France family. They will not cut dates from their own tracks, and thus, cost themselves money.

But while we are on the subject of streamlining the NASCAR schedule I am going to take it one step further. Most of the races in the Sprint Cup Series are too long. Why ride around for all that extra time just to get to the same result that would been achieved much earlier?

These next suggestions may not be too popular with some fans but team owners would love to have races shortened because of the big reduction they would see in their tire expenses. Also, I believe shortening some of the races would make those that are 500 miles in length that much more special.

I will start with the most obvious and frequently mentioned track in need of a mileage reduction. Pocono Raceway’s 500 mile events seem like endurance races. Each of the two should be shortened to 400 miles. This would eliminate that long stretch in the middle sections of those races in which everyone sits and waits for the predictable ‘debris’ caution just before the end. That yellow could be thrown at lap # 150 just as easily as lap #190.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway also hosts two events of 500 miles in length. Although AMS does provide some of the better racing on the circuit, a reduction of at least one, if not both, of those races would seem logical for the same reasons mentioned in the Pocono case.

The one remaining race at Auto Club Speedway should be cut to 400 miles as should the fall race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both Texas Motor Speedway events could slim down from 500 to 400 miles as well.

Perhaps most open for debate, I would reduce both Talladega races to 400 miles. As I have said earlier, what is the point of running that extra 100 miles just to get to the inevitable, a staged caution which leads to a massive pile up. That can happen just as easily at the 390 mile mark as the 490 mile mark.

Basically, I would leave the Daytona 500, the Southern 500 and the 600 miler at Charlotte as the only races running those extreme distances. Shortening the races might also improve the competition as well. Drivers might feel an extra sense of urgency realizing they do not have as much time to make their moves as before.

If I did my math right, which is highly doubtful for this history major, I have removed two(and possible more after track evaluations) races from the schedule and subtracted 1,000 miles. The tire savings alone for teams would be significant.

Some fans may claim they would not be getting good value for their tickets by having the races shortened. I personally would much rather see a good short race as a long boring one. I attend many dirt races each year and often come away from those feeling as though I saw more action in 50 to 100 laps there than in 500 miles of a Sprint Cup race.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

13 Responses to “Sabates was right in suggestioning changes to the schedule and he didn’t go far enough”

  1. Bill Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Wow, you sound like every other fan or “writer” on the internet, bitching and moaning about what can be fixed in nascar, this is what has put nascar in the state it’s in right now! fans crying and moaning because of this and because of that! 10 - 15 years ago fans weren’t bitching! and yeah nascar had less fans, but maybe it’s better that way, i myself can’t wait until nascar loses that “it sport”so we can get back to REAL RACING! we are losing fans and already we get bump drafting back, maybe if nascar loses afew more we can get rid of this stupid free pass and MAYBE even the top 35 rule, the fact that people are talking about taking races away and shortening races, well christ, i have never had a problem with the race lengths! nascar has been racing these races for whatever length for years and years! why change it now? because afew new fans that do nothing but bitch want it shorter? BULL!!!! and as for getting rid of races? the only track that should lose a race is california, maybe we will get to less celberites and actually see more racing! as for this whole idea of writing about changing this and changing that….what for? why? i have the PERFECT answer as to what to do if you don’t want races to be 500 miles or don’t want 36 races a year….JUST DON’T WATCH THEM!!!! it’s called freedom! use it and quit bitching, write something other then “trying to change whats worked for 60 years” i say screw the new fans, and go back to the 90’s when nascar was not mainstream! i can only pray though!!

  2. Charles Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Richard

    I agree with some of your comments, but as far as shorten races I have yet seen where it works!

    On paper you would think that shorten races would provide more exciting races!

    But from what I have seen, the Charlotte 600s have provided more action that New Hampshire 300, Phoniex and Sonoma and Glen Races!

    If the races are shortened under the present Chase more important than Raceday you will still see a boring early and mid portains and still action at the end with either a debris caution etc!

    The heart of the problem is “give incentive” to perform on Raceday! Until such a system is given with all the money maded at the end of the season instead of raceday you will still see boring races! As far as shortening the races nothing is stopping a fan from leaving a race, or cut off on TV which I do a lot!

    Sabates has got it wrong! “Nascar is never coming back to what it was as well!!!!!!!!!!

    As far as adjusting the races! I say bring back a race at Rockingham, more Southern 500 back to Labor Day! Get rid of all the ‘forced on us road course races” and bring back a race at N Wilkesboro, one race at Martinsville, one race at Dover, one at Atlanta,California,Pocono, one race at New Hampshire!

    But most of all remember why we go to a race! To see action that day! Until they start giving incentive to lead laps, either by paying points to lead or more money just shorting races will do nothing in my opinion to help with racing!

    You stated it would save teams money by shortening races,I dont really care about saving millionaire or corporate race teams more money! Its time the “paying racefan” gets its moneys worth!

    Its not that the races are to long its that the action is not long enough!!!!!!!!!

  3. Lydia Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Whew Bill…there’s alot of anger in your post!! I had a couple things to throw in the pot..but..after reading your post I think I will pass. The bottom line to me is ..let’s go racing…it will sort itself out along the way. It seems to me about this time each year some of the fans start to get a little cranky…maybe feeling some withdrawal heebie jeebies….So hang in there Bill…only a few more days and the engines will fire!

  4. Rick Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 8:41 am

    I can’t really disagree with most of the article. I have followed the sport since the late 70’s. What sucked me in was the competition, the different personalities, and the war between car makers. Well guess what, all three are just about gone. They have butchered and sanitized the cars so much that decals are all that seperates them. Short tracks have always been by far the most entertaining, and yet NONE have been built or added in 50 years. The 1.5 mile tracks are so boring that you can watch the first 20 laps, the last 20 laps, and not really miss anything. Why no one has built a 3/4 mile Bristol totally baffles me. Chicago, California, Las Vegas, Kansas, and Homestead all had chances to do it. In a nut shell, unless NA$CAR gets back to actually entertaining the fans, the glory days are over. I used to plan my weekends around the race schedule, and never missed a lap. Now,except for the short tracks, I record it and skip through the majority of it. Can it be fixed? Maybe. But if recent history is any clue, I’d say the chances aren’t good.

  5. keith Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 9:33 am

    #1 Bill you hit it right on the head. I feel your anger and I’m tired of all these people in the business who says we should shorten races and cut some off the schedule it is sad anymore that they all want to work less days and less hours and make more money and if this is not what they get they whine about it. They should fix the COT and some of the track designs because all the multipurpose tracks built for the IRL and Na$car both suck.

  6. Terry Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I’m sorry, but if Fontana loses a date, Loudon and Pocono must as well as those tracks are just as, if not more, dull for racing.

  7. Steve Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I think Rick summed it up well. What brought me into the sport was the fact they raced on a different unique track every week that tested the drivers skills. Now they race on the same extremely wide cookie cutter tracks each week. Without any beating and banging, having wide race tracks sets yourself up for boring racing. (Weren’t the cookie cutter tracks designed with the Indy Cars in mind as well?)

    The Chase also makes it boring because everyone is points racing and not necessarily racing for the win unless they are up front at the end.

    I would love to see a shorter schedule too. Maybe 1 race at all the tracks and add a few that don’t have one, like Iowa.

  8. goat Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Some of the races should perhaps be removed, like one each from Michigan, Fontana and Pocono.

    But Homestead needs to stay. It makes sense to race there at the time of year when the last race of the season is run.

    And a new track (how about a 1/2- or 3/4-mile?) needs to be built somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. One race a year ought to be run in the region that produced Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Mike Bliss.

  9. Richard Allen Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Goat,

    I believe the last thing you will see in this current economic climate will be a new track being built. A few that were started prior to the downturn may be completed like the one in the Gulf Shores area but I would doubt new ground will be broken any time soon.

  10. We Hate Brain Fran¢e Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    The season is really only 10 races long now anyway. The rest of it is riding around, taking it easy points racing. Brainle$$ Fran¢e’s changes started ALL of this negativity. The most fun now is watching this train wreck of a sport crash and burn. Ha Ha Ha, in your face France and all you teams, media and other “yes men” who didn’t resist any of his changes. I hope you all go down with this ship so something else can rise and take over, like REAL racing.

  11. Gina Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I vote for one race at each track during the season and dump the chase. Go back to deciding the champion over the WHOLE season, instead of this dumbass 10 race deal that has led to so much points racing it is ridiculous.

    The main factor is still making the racing exciting to watch - getting back to being able to chase down the leader and pass. No one likes a high speed parade. I don’t go to a race or tune in the TV to watch what I can get twice a day on my commute.

  12. Richard in N.C. Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I’ve never talked to a fan after he or she went to a race who thought the race was too long. Most of the complaining I hear about the length of races is from the print media, who just might not like the inconvenience of having to hurry to meet deadlines.

  13. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    I’m all for getting rid of one of 2 dates at the cookie cutters. I think Michigan should keep its 2 dates just because it has the historical signifigance of being in the big 3’s backyard. But losing the short tracks (remember the short track season?) is killing this sport. (And talk is Martinsville losing a date to Kansas–yuck)I guess old cranks like Bill WANT to keep these long races at the bore-rings because I think it gives him his naptime–which he needs obviously.