By admin | August 3, 2011
By Richard Allen
On Wednesday morning the Dover Motorsports Group announced that its Nashville Superspeedway would not host a Nationwide Series event in 2012. Based on attendance at the facility in recent times, it has to be asked if anyone really cares that the track is being shuttered, or at least significantly scaled back?
“Nashville is a tremendous market filled with passionate race fans,” the speedway’s general manager Cliff Hawks said. “We have some extremely dedicated and talented employees who have made this track a great destination, but the reality is, after 10 years of effort, we have to face the fact that without a Sprint Cup race and/or a significant change in the operating model for other events, we simply cannot continue.”
The trouble in my view is that the Nationwide Series(or Sprint Cup Lite) has been so closely tied to the Sprint Cup Series that stand alone events have become meaningless. And the result of that tying together has depleted the soul and identity away from the series that was once an excellent alternative to NASCAR’s highest division.
Now, the series has become a time filler on Sprint Cup weekends at Sprint Cup tracks with Sprint Cup drivers.
The Nashville Superspeedway opened in 2001 and the 1.33 mile concrete track has never been very much of a favorite among fans or competitors. The track hosted one Nationwide Series race in 2001 and two races of that series in every year since. From 2001 to 2009 there was a single Camping World Truck Series race per year and two of those events over each of the past two seasons.
The track has also held IndyCar and ARCA Series races throughout its history.
For its part, NASCAR issued a statement on the track’s closure.
“As we continue to work on the 2012 schedules, we believe the changes that we made at the beginning of the season, particularly the ‘declare a series’ revision, have helped create renewed excitement and interest in both the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president for racing operations.
“The schedules for these two series will remain strong, the racing will remain extremely competitive, and the development of future talent will continue to serve the sport well.”
The part about the “development of future talent” is laughable as the second series is currently run. This series over the past ten years has become nothing more than a means for tracks and television networks to promote Sprint Cup races and they have done so by allowing Sprint Cup drivers to completely and totally dominate the races. The ‘declare a series’ policy has done nothing to change that other than to set up a points system in which a paper champion will be declared at the end of the season.
If NASCAR really believes this series is serving the purpose of developing talent why then do they so desperately seek new drivers from the ranks of Formula 1, IndyCar and motorcycle stunt riding?
It has become apparent that fans have come to see the series for what it is as evidenced by the scores of empty seats and reduced television ratings, no matter where the venue. The only thing that could allow the series to survive again as a stand alone entity would be a complete reworking of the system, but that is not going to happen. Over the last few years, tracks in Memphis, St. Louis and this year Indianapolis and Nashville have disappeared from the Nationwide Series schedule in favor of more Sprint Cup companion races. Along with that, the soul and identity of the series has also disappeared.
So, does anyone care that the Nashville Superspeedway is off the Nationwide schedule? The answer is not really, and that includes NASCAR and its television partners.
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