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Eldora Trucks and Indy Nationwide Illustrate Reasons Why Lower Divisions Should Stand Alone

By admin | July 28, 2013

By Richard Allen

This past week, NASCAR sanctioned two of the most contrasting events imaginable. On Wednesday night, the Camping World Truck Series ran a stand alone event at a unique venue in front of a crowd charged with electricity. Then on Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series conducted an event on a Sprint Cup track that was dominated by a Sprint Cup driver in front of an empty grandstand.

Before going any further, this column should not be taken as an endorsement for moving half the NASCAR schedule to dirt tracks like the Eldora Speedway. This, like a number of other pieces I’ve written, is simply an endorsement for having the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series to serve less as companion races for the Sprint Cup division and more as a means of reaching out to audiences at more unique venues and creating more buzz for the sport as a whole.

I have watched racing of all forms for virtually all of my 45 years. In that time, I can remember very few events that created the type of buzz the truck race on the Rossburg, Ohio dirt track brought to the sport. Of course, relatively new social media contributed to the energy, which is part of why I believe my argument in favor of uniqueness has greater merit as tools such as Twitter and Facebook build enthusiasm for events that have their own identity.

According to SPEED, the Eldora race was the most watched truck race of the season and one of the most watched of all time. For those who argue that television networks won’t go for a split among the Sprint Cup division and the two lower series, those ratings cut the legs out from under that argument. And those ratings were achieved with only one Sprint Cup driver involved in the race.

And besides the benefit for the lower series, Sprint Cup could gain from what was learned on Wednesday night as well. The top division could enhance its product by employing weekends that use heat races and last chance qualifiers to boost excitement and provide more entertainment.

I have suggested a format change for Sprint Cup races that would allow host tracks to benefit while at the same time give the other series’ a chance to go off on their own. In brief, Friday practices and a mandatory autograph sessions with drivers would precede Saturday qualifying and heat races and Sunday’s main event. Here is that suggestion in greater detail.

While the fact that Wednesday’s truck race gained added attention because it was the first dirt race sanctioned by NASCAR for one of its top divisions in over 40 years, the same energy could be provided at more typical racing venues. Tracks like Hickory, North Wilkesboro and Rockingham could be brought back into the NASCAR fold and would provide excitement because the Nationwide or truck race would be that venue’s biggest event of the year rather than simply a precursor for the more anticipated Sunday race.

Indianapolis provides and excellent example. For years, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races were held at what is now called Lucas Oil Raceway as a lead-in for the Brickyard 400. The stands were packed and the racing was excellent. Saturday’s bland offering at the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was filled with empty seats and void of excitement, save a brief moment in which Kyle Busch was passed on a late race restart.

Some will say that even with the empty seats at IMS, there were more fans than were at either Eldora or at previous LOR races. That may be, but there’s no debate which had more energy. And energy translates to buzz, which lifts the entire sport. Eldora created buzz, the Nationwide race at IMS did not.

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16 Responses to “Eldora Trucks and Indy Nationwide Illustrate Reasons Why Lower Divisions Should Stand Alone”

  1. RacingFan Says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Some will say that even with the empty seats at IMS, there were more fans than were at either Eldora or at previous LOR races.

    Extra tickets sold at the tracks pales in comparison to the value of having a good race on TV for millions of viewers. The tracks need to survive financially, so I hope a share of the huge TV deals that have been struck go to the tracks, too.

    I am not opposed to experimenting with the structure of the races, but first I would prefer that the traditional race structure be given a chance with some consistently good racing. For starters, fix the aero push, get rid of multi-car teams or teams selling complete cars to others (Hendrick-Stewart). Make winning and placing in each individual race more important and the season championship less important. Get the cars off the bump stops and make them ride on springs (that might reduce the dull races being won by engineers before the car turns a wheel in the race).

  2. Tony Geinzer Says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    It is not funny,Rich. I would be happier with some of the riff raff (Pocono and Dover) be cut off the NASCAR Tour and it is comic to see Nationwide in IMS. I feel IRP would work better for Trucks and Nationwide, and leave Eldora out of the Future IMS Discussions because you don’t want to monopolize an existing major. I would see Eldora and Knoxville in Nationwide and Trucks and IRP be Monday and Tuesday Night for Trucks and Wednesday and Thursday Night for Nationwide and the 1 Year Only Offer for Friday Afternoon Twins and Saturday 11 AM Brickyard 400 before it goes to Night Racing in 2015. Indianapolis Motor Speedway was designed for Big Series Only, and I feel MotoGP and USCR will not be negotiated for 14 at IMS 1. Time to get rid of the USGP Vestige. 2. Sports Cars and Indy haven’t got along, 3. Brian France has to be part and parcel with the potential of his unemployment (JC France, Divorce Court) and 4. The Owners (Current and Future) at every level, namely the lower ones are so upset at the Status Quo they are going to have to fix it one way or another.

  3. Leto Says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Indy will be removed from the Nationwide schedule when the track is no longer making a profit.

    Indy made a profit on the Brickyard Grand Prix in 2012 (with only like 10,000 people in attendance). They made a LOT of money with the Cup race- their ticket income paid their bills; everything on top (sponsors, tv deal, etc) was profit.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think NASCAR needs to return to whatever-IRP’s-official-name-is, badly. A packed house there though is only in the low 30,000 range; Nationwide at the “big track” got 40,000 people last year. That’s part of the reason that moved FROM IRP- it just simply couldn’t pull in the crowds that Indy had the potential to grab.

    Indy’s problem is that its size hurts itself. There could be 100,000 people there for an event and it would look horrible. The place, including the infield, can hold over 400,000 people. The Nationwide crowd could have easily been 40-50k and it would look like no one was there.

  4. Tyler West Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I agree, the trucks and Nation wide series need to run more of the smaller venues. Then add a few of the bigger cup tracks. Unfortunately it boils down to money and not the racing product. I love the cup guys but limit them to 5 races in each series of their own choosing. Leave the big tracks for the top series. Also, maybe try to keep these series from traveling as far as the cup guys do.

  5. Mike Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 8:24 am

    For years, I’d drive from north central Alabama to Indianapolis specificially for the trucks & Grand National series (am I giving away my age?) at IRP. It was a long but easy drive up I-65 but was well worth the trip.

    IMS is boring for Winston Cup let alone Grand National. I don’t ever bother turning on the tv for either. On the other hand Eldora was fantastic & was well worth staying up late on a worknight.

    Not sure how well the mid-week races will work out. For those of us still fortunate to have jobs, the expense & lost wages of a mid week event may not be that easy.

    For what it’s worth, I’d try for same day events for both trucks & GN. It’d make for a long day but,hey, baseball has had double-headers for years & they seem to do ok.

    Companion races should be limited to crown jewels (Daytona, Darlington, Martinsville, Bristol, & Charlotte). Otherwise they should standalone at venues already mentioned plus South Boston, Irwindale, Iowa, Pikes Peak, Nashville (Fairgrounds that is), Milwaukee, etc.

  6. Ricky Whittenburg Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Leto, with all due respect that extra 10,000 estimated last year at Indy over IRP doesn’t exactly make sense business wise. You have to factor in the sheer amount of security, concession workers, ticket takers, janitorial staff, etc. When they were racing at IRP/ORP/LOR - whatever it’s called now - they had so, so much less overhead costs. Those extra 10,000 butts in the seats couldn’t make up for the overhead expenses. At that point, it may have even came out less than what could have been made at IRP when you figure in all of the overhead.

    Rich, in my humble opinion in a perfect world, CWTS would have 3 dirt races per year. Use dirt like road courses - sparingly. Since CWTS races twice per year at Charlotte Motor Speedway it makes perfect sense to have their spring race moved to the dirt track across the street. They have the facilities and the means to have a great show. The third race could happen at another dirt racing mecca - Knoxville, Iowa. And you wouldn’t have to add any races to the truck schedule to accommodate this. Swap out Charlotte for Charlotte dirt and just get rid of one of the two Texas races. In fact, get rid of both and put Trucks at South Boston or Myrtle Beach too.

    Rich is 100% right in the fact that CWTC/Nationwide don’t need to rely on Cup as companion events. Make them the showcase where they are going. I’m sure a Nationwide standalone showcase race at Salem, Toledo, or Winchester would be much more exciting and create more buzz than a companion event at say Dover where they race twice.

    I hope NASCAR starts listening to the fans a bit more and tweaks the CWTS/Nationwide schedules to allow for better tracks to race on. Get Nationwide OUT of IMS. Did I see where they had about 15,000 paid Saturday and the other 8,000 people that showed up were comps? Pathetic! But I guess I’m just an East TN redneck that doesn’t know anything.

  7. NaBUru38 Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 8:53 am

    There’s a downside to your proposal: Cup spectators get to see only one race. I’m from Uruguay, and in South America and Europe you usually get several categories racing on a weekend.

    I’d put Cup and Nationwide together: heat races on Saturday, main races on Sunday.

  8. Rusty Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Doesn’t Rockingham already have a truck race again?
    Either way, I agree with the sentiment that Trucks and Nationwide need to be decoupled a bit from the Cup series.

    I think that’s a bit more doable with the Trucks given the make up of the driver demographics (veterans winding down their careers and young guys looking to make a name for themselves), but half the field in the Nationwide series is made up of Cup drivers who will be racing on Sunday as well. Yes, you can certainly find other drivers to field those cars, but the teams might not be able to get sponsors to pony up the cash.

    The Nationwide series really doesn’t have its own identity anymore. Even ten years ago, the fields maybe had a few Cup drivers, but that was the exception and not the rule. You really did feel you were watching potential stars of tomorrow. Now it’s just Cup drivers getting more seat time and extra pay. Most of the non-Cup drivers in the field are not in equipment capable of keeping up with the stuff the Cup guys are driving.

    It’s a catch 22 - the Nationwide Series is supposed to be a stepping stone to the big time, but the economics of the sport pretty much require that almost all of the competitive rides will be driven by Cup drivers in order to keep the sponsorship dollars flowing. It will also mean that we won’t see as many guys given a shot in Cup cars. If Jimmie Johnson was an up and coming driver today, he wouldn’t get a shot at a Cup ride. Let’s not forget that he was not setting the world on fire in the lower series. Only the major standouts (like Stenhouse, Keselowski) or people with marketing and family connections (Danica, Austin Dillon) will get shots at Cup rides.

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 9:52 am

    I’d much prefer that the trucks & Nationwide were stand alone events. I seldom watch either series these days because I’m tired of seeing Cup drivers dominate.

    I agree with many of racingfans comments. Fix the current problems. It isn’t a mystery but maybe NASCAR needs to hire better engineers. The introduction of the ugly car put an end of the fun in racing. NASCAR could have put the safety pieces into place in a real race car w/o going to a spec car, but they wanted to control things. So everyone runs the same speed, no one can pass except on pit road and it is boring to watch and most of the time even if you’re at the track, there is far too much boring. Stewart may think that passing isn’t part of racing, but I disagree completely. This sport used to be fun to watch, now it’s not and that is why the fans aren’t showing up like they used to do.

    On the other hand, the truck race at Eldora was fun to watch.

  10. Start from Scratch!!! Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Rich,
    There was a day that on my day off I would wear NASCAR related hats, t-shirts, etc. Bumper stickers on my car; heck, I have a host of old 1/18th die cast cars (you know, the expensive ones,) from the 90’s and VERY early 2000’s. Now, I set the DVR to watch the race in an abbrieviated form and if its a Hendricks car or one of his satellite teams that won, I erase it with watching! NASCAR has ruined itself in so many ways, its almost painful to watch. Brian France does not give two hoots about what the fans want because he will tell the fans what they want to see; the funny thing is that the ex-NASCAR driver commentators seem to be in on it (except for Kyle Petty who ACTUALLY speaks for himself.) There is no longer really an excuse to blame the economy because real NASCAR fans would pawn the wheels off their trailers (just being funny a little,) to go see a race close to them. The fans have been SCREAMING for years about getting the Cup guys out of the lower tier series and putting them at smaller venues and making them stand alone races. I think I would of been devastated if the only Cup guy to run the Truck race at Eldora would of won, I would of been really pissed off is more like it. It is the ONLY race I actually watched live this year. I gave up overtime at work just to be home (losing overtime is a BIG deal to me, however, there is that wheels off the trailer thing.) Lets look at some of the changes we need to see:
    You must WIN to even qualify for the chase; if you can’t win in the first 26 then too bad so sad, however, you must be a full time cup driver and MUST compete in EVERY race (barring injury.) Points play with the win; if there are fifteen winners and only 10 chase spots, this is where your points matter. If there are only 8 winners in the first 26 races, 8 race for the cup that last 10 races.
    No more two lap qualifying sessions to set the field…BORING!!! Yeah, lets use qualifying to set heat races and then race later that afternoon. Shorten the races then.
    Watching “strategy” races SUCK!!!! Tired of “fuel” races.
    Hack off 4 inches off the rear spoiler. Aero push and dirty air comments turn my stomach!!!
    Bulldoze all the cookie cutter tracks 1.5, 2.0, etc. Don’t even bother to watch these snooze fests. Leave Atlanta and Charlotte.
    Turn Pocono into a roac course for the second race and while your at it, Indy Brickyard too!
    Why do the cars need to go 200mph anyway? I bet 160mph with a tiny spoiler and having to hear a driver “pedal” the car through a corner would be much more fun and entertaining. I could go on and on, but lets see the responses!

  11. Jeff Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Stand along events? Was anyone at Chicagoland last weekend? We had the place to ourselves. Nascar wants a national series but they are going to have to go back to a regional series in markets that will support the events.

    In regards to the Brickyard race it was just fine on Racebuddy! I could run around that track all day and never get bored!

    They do not race chariots at the coliseum anymore. Some of these tracks will experience the same fate in the future.

  12. Michael in SoCal Says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    And it’s Jeff with the line of the week:

    They do not race chariots at the coliseum anymore. Some of these tracks will experience the same fate in the future.”

    Well said.

  13. rich Says:
    July 30th, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Lets get real people the cup series is not going to do heat races for qualifying. That would take way to much time and if they don’t fix all these aero push issues they would be just as boring as the normal race. Plus most race weekends only 43 cars show up anyways so what would the point be.

    Also there might be a chance to get the nationwide at rockingham but thats about it. Hickory, irp, north wilkesboro etc.. dont have the money to upgrade the track to get it to current nascar standards. Add in the high sanction fee cost and other reasons these races have no chance of happening, so lets get out of lala land and try to fix the biggest problem which aint jimmie johnson. Its the aero push issues.

  14. Leto Says:
    August 2nd, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Qualifying isn’t going to heat races in Cup because of costs and time. Heat races at any large track would take too long to be feasible, especially when NASCAR would have to run a regular qualifying session to determine their lineups anyway. At a short track, that might be feasible, but not at a track such as Indy.

    Besides, could you imagine how many drivers would simply start and park in the heat races at a plate track?

  15. Richard Allen Says:
    August 2nd, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Dustin Long wrote a piece yesterday for MRN’s website that said one of the things NASCAR officials are looking into was some form of heat races.

    And, there is only one Sprint Cup race that currently uses heat races and that is this little race called the Daytona 500, and it is on a plate track.

  16. Leto Says:
    August 3rd, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Those “heat races” are also 150 miles in length, pay purse money, and teams often sign sponsors for the Duels. Oh, and they occur on a day when they’re the only Cup activity at the track, and they have their own engine rules.

    They’re hardly heat races when you consider all of that. They’re longer than a number of NNS/Truck races.

    But you’re right Rich, they’re exactly like heat races…