Pedley: Is It Time To Put Speedweeks On A Diet?
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Speedweeks are upon us. But you have to wonder if, in this time of cutbacks and downsizing, might it not be a good idea to trim things back to Speedweek – singular?
During flush times – for NASCAR and the world – spreading the opening of the racing season out over 10 days was pretty cool.
It gave the start of the season a highly visible presence. It gave the sport a biggness and a uniqueness. It put the NASCAR on the front pages of sports sections from coast to coast and would even help it elbow its way past dead and dying stick-and-ball sports onto national television.
Speedweeks, baby. What a hook for fans. Get out of the lip-blueing winter cold of the Northeast and Midwest, hit the thaw-cycle button and head down to central Florida for 10 days. Or two weeks.
Or, if you were a sports car fan as well as a sedan-racing fan, heck, make it three weeks as you could catch the Daytona 24-hour race.
You could kill the dead spots on the schedule – the days when nothing happened on the track at Daytona International Speedway – with relaxing walks on the beach or trips to the Atlantic Ave. tattoo joints. Blow out a flip-flop, step on a pop top, thing.
Or you could head 50 miles down the interstate to Orlando, the location of the biggest bunching of theme parks in the world.
If the trip was about racing and racing only, the wonderful short-track events at Volusia Speedway a couple miles west of Daytona Beach offered the ideal counter-point to the big boy stuff at the
Yep, going down to Daytona in February was not just going to a car race. It was like going to a major event. People planned their entire years around Speedweeks.
All it took was some time off of work and the stashing away of some of that expendable income. With proper planning, you could head home with your hearing impaired right up until the Fourth of July.
But that was then.
That was when there was such a thing as disposable income. That was when hard-working Americans actually had the opportunity to work hard.
It was when a gallon of gas cost less than a Big Gulp and giant Snickers bar. Back when people could watch races instead of racing to the bank themselves to get the mortgage paid so as not to give anybody the excuse of foreclosing on their homes.
It was when daily papers still had sports sections and racing reporters who knew racing.
This is now.
Now, pennies are being pinched so tightly that Lincoln’s eyes are bulging.
Those who still have jobs have given up vacations in favor of what the morning news shows have cutely dubbed “stay-cations”. They’ll spend Speedweeks
in front of their televisions. The grilled foods will be prepared on back stoops instead of next to pickup trucks and campers.
For all the voicings that the Daytona 500 is racing’s Super Bowl, the fact is, in one important (and some say wonderful) sense, it is not. Daytona is not a party for posers. It is not parties in suites at the Four Seasons, “doing” dinners at Chez Yuppie, Gray Goose bloody marys for breakfast.
It’s real people with real lives and, now, sadly, real financial problems.
Two weeks, or 10 days, in a camp ground or smelly beach front motel? Gasoline and food for four during that time? The cost of tickets and a couple of rounds of miniature golf on top of all that?
For many NASCAR fans, not in the budget any more.
NASCAR officials have tinkered with about everything else in recent years. How about compacting events in Daytona in February?
How about practices beginning on Monday for all series, the Bud Shootout on Wednesday night, Cup pole qualifying on Thursday night, the Gatorade Duels on Friday afternoon, Camping World Trucks on Friday night, Nationwide on Saturday and the 500 on Sunday?
Move the Rolex 24 to the weekend before the 500 so sports car fans who also have an interest in NASCAR can conceivably cram that onto the their Speedweek itinerary.
Gone would be the big chunks of dead air between the start of the 24 and green flag for the 500. Watery soup becomes a thick stew. Action is constant. Focus is intensified. The sense of drama is heightened.
Fans could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Less time in hotels, fewer rental car days, fewer meals, less time away from work. Enough of all of that so that attending NASCAR’s seasonal grand opening just might become economically viable once again.
The Speedway would likely benefit from bigger crowds at non-500 events.
And all NASCAR would have to do is drop the lower-case letter “s” from Speedweeks.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments