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Pedley: NASCAR Should Take Its Show On Road

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 10 2011

Another full house greeted the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night. Cup time? (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Newton, Iowa – Some final thoughts from Iowa Speedway:

Another NASCAR race at Iowa Speedway and another enthusiastic sellout crowd. That’s three this year alone – a Camping World race, two Nationwide Series races.

It just may be time to take the track’s request for hosting a Sprint Cup race seriously.

The place currently squeezes about 55,000 fans into the facility. Not a lot by Cup standards. Not even by today’s recession-era standards. But the kind of support the track has generated cannot be ignored.

The viewing is super at the Newton track, the grounds are clean and neat, the customer care is first rate and the seven-eights-mile track is as racy as the Richmond track which served as the template for Rusty Wallace and his partners.

It’s perfect for Camping World and Nationwide. It would be equally perfect for occasional visits from the Cup series.

Occasional visits?

Yep. I’ve preached this before but the trip to Iowa over the weekend re-invigorated the belief that NASCAR, in a time when people are having trouble getting to races, should embark on a campaign of bringing the races to the fans.

Two of the 36 races on the Cup schedule should be “travelers”. Points-paying, real gosh-darn event travelers.

Take the travelers to places which are underserved by the current schedule. Hold them at tracks which are up to NASCAR standards, but may not be as big as existing venues.

Places like, well, Iowa. Or Nashville Fairgrounds. Or the Milwaukee Mile. Or Irwindale. Or Pikes Peak. Or Mansfield. Or…

There are several road courses in underserved areas. Like Road America. And Lime Rock. And Mid Ohio. And…

Perhaps it is time for NASCAR to consider a street race. A Long Beach kind of event. These type of runs through downtown streets do not produce wonderful racing but they can completely take over a city like Denver or Portland for a week – turn the downtown areas of large cities into three-day festivals.

I even like Tony Stewart’s idea about throwing a dirt track onto the schedule every once in a while, though I also know the the obstacles (like tires, for one thing) such events would have to overcome would be too costly.

NASCAR: Want new fans? Go get ‘em.

Dang monkeys

Sam Hornish Jr. was a mystery in his days as a full-time NASCAR driver. One of the best oval

Sam Hornish Jr. looked good at Iowa. (File photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

drivers ever in the IndyCar Series, he never looked comfortable on NASCAR ovals.

Through 109 Sprint Cup races in Penske Racing equipment, he could do no better than post two top-five finishes. There were some very good runs mixed in, but he never was able to turn those into a victory.

In part-time Nationwide and Camping World attempts, well, nothing there either.

But on Saturday night at Iowa, Hornish looked like he was back running a Panther Racing IndyCar.

Subbing for injured Brad Keselowski in the championship-winning No. 22 Penske Dodge, he led 39 laps – second most on the night – and ran top-five through the first 150 laps of the 250-lap race.

Then, Hornish looked like Hornish in a stock car again. That is, bad luck spoiled everything. He got a flat and then blew a brake line and then finished 24th.

“I really need to get this monkey off of my back,” he said. “It seems like no matter what happens, we always have some kind of issue.”

More monkey woes

Then there are the monkey problems Elliott Sadler continues to have in the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 2 Chevy.

At Iowa, he had another shot at victory – he won the pole, led 38 laps and had the lead with 12 laps to go – but a second-straight bizarre finish (he appeared headed to victory at Lucas Oil Raceway) saw him cross the line third and he will head to Watkins Glen this week still looking for his first victory.

Sterling debut

The stand-alone NNS race at Iowa also saw David Mayhew get his first start in the series.

David Mayhew was impressive in his Nationwide debut. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Driving the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Racing car of Paul Menard, Mayhew looked to have a shot at winning his series debut.

He ran top-10 virtually the entire race, ran top-three for much of it, led a couple of times for four laps and finished 10th. Only the late-race craziness kept him from a top five.

He looks to be a driver deserving of more work. In six Camping World races the last two years, he has a pole and two top-five finishes. In the K&N West Series, he has three victories and 23 top-fives in 52 starts.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 10 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Dick says:

    Southern Iowa is a ‘fan-rich’ area to go prospecting in! I was at the Saturday session of the “360 Nationals” just south of there at Knoxville and there were pretty good crowds there also. Those Southern Iowa folks just plain love their racing! It’s no accident that NASCAR chose to situate their race among the 10 straight days of fabulous racing at Knoxville and Oskaloosa. It’s drawn me there from race-deprived Illinois for the last 6 years!

  • Michael in SoCal says:

    I like your thinking on the ‘traveling’ races each year, but I think the list of tracks ready to hold a Nascar race will still bepretty limited because of the safety requirements (namely SAFER barriers) and pit road requirements. Seeing a top division Nascar race at Irwindale would be great (it is a great place to see a race), but I’m afraid the closest we’re going to get out here is the All Star Showdown each year.