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If Kansas is to get a second date it should come from California, not Martinsville

By admin | February 18, 2010

By Richard Allen

Every time the Sprint Cup Series visits the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California the question arises as to whether or not this track should even be hosting NASCAR events.

Well, I am going to raise that question once again due to a recent happening that might have gone unnoticed in the sea of publicity surrounding Daytona, Danica and a pothole. On February 12, the owner of the Kansas Speedway, International Speedway Corporation, was given final approval to place a casino on the grounds of that facility. ISC plans to ask NASCAR to give the track a second Sprint Cup date. That request is almost certainly going to be granted since NASCAR is controlled by the same France family that controls ISC.

It is not probable that the current Cup schedule will be expanded to 37 points paying races so the new Kansas Speedway date will have to be taken from another track. And, most likely that date will come from one of the other ISC tracks already hosting an event.

So, what are the possibilities?

Michigan Speedway currently hosts two Sprint Cup races. That part of the country has been devastated by the disasters to have hit the auto industry of late. The track, in turn, has struggled to fill its seats.

Team owner Felix Sabates made off season headlines when he questioned whether NASCAR should even be going to Michigan at all. To take a date away from Michigan at this time would not be a very good public relations move for NASCAR. To do so would make it appear as though a team owner was making decisions for them. Also, it would appear as though they were turning their backs on a state and industry that has supported their cause for decades.

The Chicagoland Speedway only hosts one event so it is unlikely that track would lose its date. That is likely the case for the Homestead-Miami Speedway as well. The same can probably be said for Watkins Glen, especially since it is one of only two road courses on the circuit.

Darlington Raceway has already been forced to give up one date. Hopefully, the historic racing venue will not lose another. Phoenix Raceway hosts two events which typically sell out so that facility will most likely keep its races.

The ISC tracks in Daytona, Talladega and Richmond are untouchable mainstays on the schedule.

With all of the other ISC tracks being eliminated, that leaves two likely options as to where the new Kansas date will come from, Martinsville and California.

NASCAR has recently made some good PR decisions. This is an opportunity for them to make another. Pure economics probably favors taking a date from Martinsville rather than the Auto Club Speedway. The California track has a greater seating capacity and can have more fans while looking empty than Martinsville does when full. And, having two dates in the Los Angeles market offers extra exposure in the nation’s second largest urban area as opposed to the rural Virginia setting of Martinsville.

With all that said, Auto Club Speedway seems the obvious choice to keep its date. However, there are several things that make Martinsville the better choice from a public relations standpoint.

Martinsville is old time NASCAR. This track has been on the circuit since before most of today’s drivers were born. It is one of only three remaining tracks left on the schedule that fit the definition of a short track where once short tracks made up the backbone of the sport. It is one of the few places in which drivers still have to push and shove their way around other cars rather than have better aerodynamics.

To take a date away from a short track in order to give it to another ‘cookie cutter’ would seem almost criminal to many old school fans.

Also, Martinsville is in the heart of what once was ‘NASCAR country’. The fans who have followed the sport since the days before massive television contracts are in Virginia, not California.

It seems as though NASCAR has finally come to realize they made a mistake by ignoring their core fan base for so long. It recent months they have appeared to be trying to remedy that. Taking a date away from one of the venerable old facilities to give to one that has a shiny new casino attached to it would be a critical error that could forever detach many of those core fans.

If the Kansas Speedway is to get a second date, NASCAR would do well to take that date from California rather than Martinsville.

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 |

17 Responses to “If Kansas is to get a second date it should come from California, not Martinsville”

  1. Jeff Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Hey there Rich,

    I am from socali and have been to every Cup race at the track since 2000, except for 2001 and will continue to do so. However, if Kansas must get a 2nd race, I do agree that it needs to come from Cali over Martinsville. I would have said that even 4 years ago. I went to the Spring Martinsville race last year and loved the place. I believe that all 3 short tracks need to keep their 2 races a year. I even want Iowa Speedway to get at least 1 Cup race sometime sometime soon. It appears Kentucky will be getting a race next year as well. I am all for more than the current 22 tracks getting all 36 points paying races. I’d like to see Gateway added, Nashville added, North Wilkesboro re-added. Kevin Harvick mentioned adding more tracks to the Cup series a few years ago and I have been thinking that for a good long time too. I’d also love to see the Rock back. We just need to get it some new seats, since alot of theirs were taken after Cup last went there. Just my take. Thanks Rich and I will be at Cali this week. Go Smoke and Go Jamie too!!!!! Jeff

  2. Charles Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I agree, which I dont think Kanas needs to get a second date either!!!!

    If Martinsville loses a race it should go to Rockingham!

    I have been to Martinsville races for the last 5 years Spring and Fall, like it a lot!

    But I cannot see yet how Martinsville gets to kept its two races and they close Rockingham!

    Another senerio would be for Atlanta to lose a date and it go to Rockingham!

    Anyway something somehow needs to be done to get Rockingham and mabe N,Wilkesboro back on the schedule, and Darlington Southern 500 back on Labor Day!

    This great gold rush to the west that Nascar started in the last decade has run its course, and now its time to come back home!!!!!!!

  3. Gina Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I don’t think Kansas needs a 2nd date at all, but with the incestuous relationship between ISC and NASCAR, they will probably get it.

    Taking a date from Martinsville would be a really poor idea. It’s a great little track and the racing is fun to watch there. I go to both races there every year with my family and NASCAR will lose my money and even more of my interest if they continue to make stupid decisions.

    Touching Darlington again - except to give BACK the southern 500 on Labor Day would be another huge mistake.

    But then again, NASCAR doesn’t function at a high level of cognition. In other words, they are pretty stupid, so they will probably make the wrong decision.

  4. Rocket Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 8:59 am

    I think the easiest way to predict NA$CAR’s future is to look at their recent past. They say they are now listening to what the fans want to make it better. We’ll see. If they can make rules changes that don’t cost them anything, they might do that. But if it involves money, sorry folks. The only reason Kansas would get another date is it’s more profitable for ISC. Racing quality, tradition, or what the fans want is not even a thought here. One race in Fontana is plenty, period. One race at Michigan and Pocano are enough. Rockingham and N.Wilkesboro should still be on the schedule. Why no one has ever built a 3/4 mile Bristol beats me. There were plenty of chances when they built Fontana, Vegas, Chicagoland, and Kansas. It’s funny that NASCAR was built up to what it is because of racing, and now racing has nothing to do with it.

  5. Justin Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Didnt even have to read the article Rick, for me to be 100% in agreement!! (For the record, I did read the article anyways)…..

  6. Ole Putz Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I’ll chime in with my two-cent’s worth ……
    The Kansas race is boring. The California race is boring. Pocono really sux.
    I miss North Wilkesboro and The Rock. Bring on Kentucky and Milwaukee. Don’t schedule the California race during Academy/Grammy/Emmy Awards weekend.
    On the cookie-cutters and plate tracks, lose 100 miles, and limit tires. Smaller fuel cells, too.
    Let the teams and drivers decide their own fate …

  7. The Mad Man Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 11:24 am

    After I$C bought out the Campbells, there was a 5 year guarantee that Martinsville wouldn’t lose a date. Well, the 5 year guarantee is up. I’d much rather see 2 races at Martinsville than 2 races at Fontana, Michigan, Pocono, Joliet, Kansas, Talladega, Texas, or yes, Daytona.

    Brian France use to say that if a track couldn’t sell out its’ race dates then it should be stripped of a date. Well, once none of the I$C tracks could sell out, he shut up about that.

    With the poor design and handling characteristics of the Camry of Today, the only track that it really shows anything close to being a raceable car is at Martinsville. So unless they plan to replace that poor excuse of a car with something that can actually race, they need to leave Martinsville on the schedule twice a year and jerk a date from one of their cookie cutter or flagship tracks to fill the 2nd date for Kansas. But as we fans have seen, common sense and logic have no place in NA$CAR.

  8. Tom Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I would like to see Kansas get the second date only because I live close and would get to go twice a year. Otherwise, I would be all in favor of taking one of Fontana’s dates and giving it back to Rockingham or Darlington. The history, tradition and oh yeah the racing are much better at those tracks. Whatever NASCAR does, I hope it does NOT include taking a date from Martinsville.

  9. Chase Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    NASCAR says they are going to go back to their roots. If the France family does not share this same point of view as you and the rest of us die-hard fans out there, then I would really have to question Brian France’s ability to move this sport forward.

  10. Mike O'Reilly Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I think a second race at Kansas still has to be looked at as an “if and when it happens” thing. Being owned by ISC and Penn National Gaming only means they have the money and it will probably be built, but the casino is controlled by the state of Kansas and they have run every gambling facility they have “controlled” into the ground. It will only be a matter of a few years before the casino sits idle and abandoned. Stupidest idea NASCAR has ever associated itself with if this all comes to pass.

  11. Mick Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    They need to add not subtract short track events. Take a race from SoCal and give it to Iowa. If they cut Martinsville that is one more race I will not bother watching. ISC/Nascar/France Family enterprises == total conflict of interest.

  12. Jim Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    I was a season ticket holder at Kansas for several years - and demand was much higher than supply for tickets. A 2nd race is a no brainer - as long as it is not scheduled in the middle of summer. Or they install lights at Kansas and make the summer race a night event.

    The race at Las Vegas helps satisfy Left Coast market - so I think moving ACS to one event makes alot of sense. Leave Martinsville alone. Move Darlington to Labor Day where is belongs. Give ACS one race - the Chase date right after Kansas sounds good to me.

    Me-chicken is like Pocono - there is only 3 months of weather they can run races (June/July/Aug) without it effecting the race and attending fans. Puts a target on their back but I agree as long as Ford/Chevy/Fiat are in NASCAR they can’t drop a race there. The teams would much rather run Kansas twice - much closer to the Charlotte shops.

  13. Jim Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Iowa Speedway is a great facility - but would need major changes to support a Cup event. I think seating is only about 50,000 - not to mention parking is already a problem. They would need at least 100,000 seats and all the infrastructure changes to support than many fans. Plus infield upgrades…..etc. etc. etc.

  14. mkrcr Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    As one of those long, long, long, time fans of NA$CAR I have been hanging on, with bleeding fingernails, hoping the catastrophe could not possibly continue. With all the “promises” that have been given, take a date from Martinsville, take another fan. At some point enough is enough.

  15. Richard in N.C. Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Right on. They definitely should not move a date from one of the few remaining short tracks to a speedway - and as I recall Cal. used to be a sell-out when it had just 1 date.

    North Wilkesboro will never come back. SMI intended to and has killed Wilkesboro, which just happens to be just about half way between SMI’s tracks at Bristol and Charlotte.

  16. Marybeth Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I agree. If Kansas has to have a second race, it has to come from Cali, not Martinsville.

  17. Keith Says:
    February 19th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    This is what is wrong with Na$car and I$C they are spending to much money on stuff that is not important to racing or real race fans. In Kansas they are spending money on a Casino at a race track and this the is reason to get a 2nd date not the racing. At Daytona they spent millions building a 5 story building to block everyone’s view of the race track and filled it with bars, pool tables and dart boards and let the racing surface turn to crap. Lesa Kennedy and Brain will kill the company with these stuipid decisions.