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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