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Ingram: Roll The Dice, Move The Vegas Date

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 5 2010

Las Vegas would be a great place to bring the checkered flag down on the NASCAR season. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

From The Monday Morning Crew Chief:

Daytona Beach, Fla. – One of the hot topics during the July weekend in Daytona was the realignment of the Sprint Cup schedule for 2011. Given that politics is the art of the possible – and that so many things in NASCAR are political – here’s one opinion about the schedule from a writer who’s seen more than three decades worth.

I’d like to see something more substantial than switching a couple of dates.

As it stands, the International Speedway Corporation would like to move one date from its current list to create a second race at the Kansas Speedway. Speedway Motorsports evidently wants to put a race into the recently acquired Kentucky Motor Speedway, now clear of legal wrangling.

Are we looking at moving a race from Martinsville’s relatively small facility and market to Kansas City in the spring and a date switched from New Hampshire to the Kentucky track in the summer? Would that be the extent of realignment?

If NASCAR insists on further eroding its short track history and southern heritage by cutting one race at Martinsville, why not at least make one other big change?

The one thing I’d like to see is the Las Vegas Motor Speedway date moved to the season finale. It’s a logical step to put one of the most popular venues into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. At a time when NASCAR is looking at spicing up the Chase format, Las Vegas is a memorable and distinctive location to decide the championship and then crown the champion.

Such a move would leave Homestead as the home to the season finales for the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. If the date for Dover was switched from September back to August, then Richmond’s fraught short track confines would remain as the scene of final race of the “regular season” and New Hampshire’s lone remaining event would still host the first round of the Chase.

Moving Las Vegas away from an early spring date would also take some pressure off of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, which continues to struggle with two dates. Moving the finale to a Speedway Motorsports facility would also help relieve the constant push by SMI founder and chairman Bruton Smith for an additional date in Las Vegas.

Clearly, the California track’s second date, which came from Darlington, remains the biggest blunder thus far in realignment history.

I think NASCAR can’t go back to one date in California without looking as if it’s in retreat. In the short term, the damage done by moving a Labor Day date to California has been rectified by switching that holiday weekend to an Atlanta date and putting the Auto Club Speedway into the Chase. In time, the California date in February may be better off if moved to Las Vegas – but that’s only possible if the Auto Club Speedway is sold to SMI.

What about  turning the Sprint All-Star Race into a traveling event to satisfy promoters who would like another date? That’s a good idea, perhaps, but I think it would flop as a stand-in for a points race. Also, in addition to being tied to Charlotte’s home base for the Sprint Cup teams, the Sprint All-Star Race is now umbilically tied to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and its annual induction ceremonies in what appears to be a good matchup.

As for the actual calendar, the worst thing for fans, participants and television viewers is predictably bad weather. The new schedule, presumably, would account for decent timing when it comes to the weather by having the Kansas date in April, when the average daily high is in the mid-sixties. That would re-arrange Phoenix and Texas a bit, but not by much.

What about Atlanta losing its spring date instead of SMI moving a date from New Hampshire to Kentucky? Well, one of the attractions for NASCAR in Kentucky seems to be the track’s relative proximity to Cincinnati, home to a slew of Fortune 500 companies. One of the attractions of moving a second date to Kansas City is the fact the city is home to the series sponsor Sprint. If these are part of the criteria, why would NASCAR move a date from Atlanta, currently home to more of its major corporate sponsors than any other city?

As for shorter races, all Sprint Cup races should not exceed three and a half hours in duration. So if a track is not fast enough to bring 500 miles – or 500 laps – consistently near that mark, the event should be cut back to 500 kilometers (312 miles), 400 miles or 400 laps. The lone exception: the Southern 500 at Darlington, the sport’s original 500-mile event.

Quote of the Week: “We typically put the schedule out, as you well know, usually around Labor Day, give or take a couple of weeks here or there. It’s my hope that we’ll meet that goal. There are obviously new requests from SMI and ISC. They’ve followed the policy that we have laid out on realignment. We’ll have to see how it all fits into the greater schedule as we go in the next couple of weeks.” — Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO.

See ya! …At the races.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 5 2010
8 Comments

8 Comments »

  • Marc says:

    Richard – “From what I can find, the average temperatures in Las Vegas in November are in the range of 43 to 67,”

    And so?

    The same stats say the average is 55 degrees. Cold? A bit but so what, I and many other fans have sat thru snow flurries to see races.

    • Richard in N.C. says:

      Marc, the issue is that there is a significant weather difference which the author should have addressed – but that would blur promoting Las Vegas.

  • Sal says:

    I still don’t see why building a casino makes a track attractive for a second Cup race. What does that have to do with a good race? Nothing. But it’s obvious that having a track with the potential exciting race is NOT part of the criteria.

    • ed says:

      Sal, I am not sure you are serious with the question, but here is an answer anyway. The second Cup date at Kansas is purely a business decision, not a racing one. The owners of the Kansas Speedway will have a major interest in a casino that will generate significant revenue 365 days a year, while a race track has one or two productive weekends a year. In order to get the casino deal from the State of Kansas, they sweetened the pot with a promise of a second Cup race.

      All businesses are about money, including NASCAR.

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    As often happens with you media guys, you ignor the fans in the stands – who any more you seem to ignor unless you can talk about empty seats. From what I can find, the average temperatures in Las Vegas in November are in the range of 43 to 67, while the average temperatures for Homestead are 60 to 80. Which is likely to be better for those attending the race, who can’t watch the race from the pressbox?

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