By admin | June 30, 2009
By Richard Allen
The arrival of Independence Day signals that the time has come for NASCAR’s second trip of the season to the Daytona International Speedway.
The topic of this column is not necessarily the July 4th classic but rather the earlier race held on this speedway. The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s Super Bowl. It is the grand prize on the Sprint Cup Series schedule.
However, every February brings about the same question from those who mostly cover stick and ball sports. Those reporters always ask why NASCAR holds its biggest event at the beginning of the season rather than at the end. After all, the NFL Super Bowl comes at the end of the season. The World Series and the NBA Championship also come at the end of their respective seasons.
In NASCAR, it actually makes sense for the top event to come first on the schedule. Since every race contributes equally to the championship, the Daytona 500 does not have to come at the end of the year. Being first allows teams to fully prepare for the sport’s biggest event. Also, being first means there will be more racing for the win rather than riding for points.
But things have changed a bit since this past February. The NFL has announced they are considering a move that would expand their regular season schedule. How does that affect NASCAR and the Daytona 500?
If the NFL goes ahead with its plan their Super Bowl would be moved into the traditional mid-February slot that has served as the calendar home of the NASCAR’s premier event for years.
The Super Bowl is a television ratings and attendance behemoth. No event could successfully go up against it, including the Daytona 500. So, if the NFL moves their Super Bowl, NASCAR will almost certainly have to move their’s.
So, where does NASCAR move their prized race to? Simply moving one week back is certainly an option. However, to do so would run the risk of becoming the victim of a sports overload. Casual racing fans may be partied out and not looking for yet another weekend of ‘the biggest event’ in a particular sport. NASCAR often over-caters to the casual fan but this is one instance in which those who only watch a few times a year have to be considered.
Another problem with moving the Daytona 500 back only one week is the appearance that the race was pushed around by the bully that is the NFL.
The next logical place then to move the Daytona 500 would be at the end of the schedule. Imagine having the points champion determined in the sport’s biggest race. While drivers might easily make the decision to just ride along and race for points in Homestead, they would likely race much harder for the sport’s most coveted trophy.
Reporters of the stick and ball sports would be robbed of what they think is a funny line. The last race would unquestionably be the most important.
If things remain as they are, I would not be in favor of moving the Daytona 500 away from its traditional date. However, all of this speculation is contingent on the NFL. If they do change their regular season and move the date of their Super Bowl, the time may have finally come to move Daytona to the end of the NASCAR schedule.
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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