By admin | November 12, 2008
By Richard Allen
Well, it’s finally here. The last race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule has arrived. No doubt, there will be many drivers, team members, officials and media types who will be glad to leave the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday night.
The NASCAR schedule is a marathon even among other professional sports schedules. It includes 36 regular, points paying races along with two all star events. The entire season takes up a total of 42 weeks from beginning to end.
For the sake of comparison, NFL teams play 16 games over the course of 17 weeks. The playoffs and Super Bowl add another four weeks. In all, the league’s season takes 21 weeks of the calendar, exactly half the amount of time NASCAR takes.
Major League Baseball teams play 162 games as well as playoffs and a World Series between the months of April and October. NASCAR’s schedule, on the other hand, runs from February to November, a full three months longer.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. went on record recently to say that he believes the season is too long. He claims that when the sport had a shorter schedule people felt as though they could not miss a race. According to Junior, people would race home from church so as not to miss the start of an event.
Now, there is no need to be in a rush. There are so many races on so many similar tracks with so much similar racing that missing one week will make little difference. There will be a race just like the one missed the next week.
Rumor has it the financially strapped automobile manufacturers have also expressed concern about the length of the season to top NASCAR officials.
The length of the schedule also serves to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots. The longer the schedule, the more money it takes to compete. This simply plays into the hands of the three or four power teams in the sport.
On Sunday in Homestead, Jimmie Johnson will be crowned as the Sprint Cup champion for the third year in a row unless some strange occurrence takes place to allow Carl Edwards to sneak in and grab the prize. Either way, it will be a representative of one of those super teams to walk away with the trophy and the big check. The length of the season plays at least some role in that big team dominance.
From the standpoint of working in NASCAR, it is hard to imagine being away from home 38 weekends a year. While drivers and even some crew members travel in style, the amount of time on the road has to take its toll on family life. Personally, I cannot imagine being away from my wife and sons that often.
If the U.S. economy continues in its downturn for very long the schedule may be trimmed by natural forces. Some of the weaker races on the tracks with the lowest attendance may have to trimmed away.
Like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., I am not so sure that would be a bad thing.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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