By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Brian France has hinted that NASCAR may be looking at making some changes to it’s schedule next season.
Now I love tradition as much as the next person, but I for one am behind NASCAR’s chairman on this. The sport is in survival mode now more than ever. With attendance dwindling, the chance to capitalize on huge ratings boosts would be now. At least with the majority of the fans at home in front of the television you would think that, however ratings are suffering as well. So what could save the sport?
Spice up the schedule by making the ten race chase a spectacle.
How do you do that?
It’s so simple that I don’t know how we missed it… You put your ten most exciting races inside the Chase For The Sprint Cup.
That being said, could the Daytona 500 be moved from the first race of the season to the final event? Absolutely, according to a report that has surfaced from Jim Utter of ThatsRacin.com.
Let’s face it for many years many outsiders to the sport of NASCAR have wondered why the sport has it’s ‘Superbowl’ at the beginning of the season.
For years I defended NASCAR, and it’s tradition of having the Daytona 500 as the kickoff event, every team would work all winter long in an effort to take home the sport’s richest and most prestigious prize. It just made sense… and before 2004 the race weighed just as heavy as every other race as far as the championship went. But with the advent of ‘The Chase’ in 2004, the tradition now seems outdated, if not down right silly.
The Daytona 500, the most history laden race in our sport is now just one of the 26 races that are lost in the shuffle of the regular season. One can actually argue that the Daytona 500 actually has no impact whatsoever towards the championship anymore. So what we need to do is change that immediately.
In addition to the Daytona 500, add more crown jewels to the mix such as Darlington, and Bristol.
Because to understand why NASCAR is not captivating the ‘casual’ audience during the chase, you must think like a causal fan.
When the chase begins all of our “major” races are done and over with. So if you aren’t a hardcore NASCAR fan what is the real point of watching single file racing at California, for a championship that you really don’t even understand how the points are awarded?
Hearing that someone is just 50 points behind someone else really doesn’t matter if you don’t understand how many points each spot is worth, and I don’t see the NASCAR point system explained every week for those people.
Here is the current ten race schedule for ‘The Chase’
Do you see a trend with the tracks that are in the chase? Outside of Talladega, to be brutally honest the majority of the tracks are ‘safe’ cookie cutters.
Most of these tracks were built in the late 1990s or 2000s and were focused purely on fitting as many seats around them as possible, then if they produced good racing that was a bonus. This is actually the reason that tracks such as Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, and Texas World Speedway were forced off of the circuit. They just simply didn’t have the seating capacity that NASCAR wanted, as they expanded.
Well guess what, now we are stuck with a whole bunch of racetracks that produce ‘snoozer’ races that are only filling half of their seats. Maybe now would be the opportune time for NASCAR to also begin looking at possibly reviving the Wilkesboros and Rockinghams of the world, but that is another topic for another time.
So you add prestige to the schedule, but that doesn’t completely solve everything. What The Chase needs is a serious schedule overhaul for the simple fact that during that part of the season NASCAR is waging a ratings war against the NFL, that quite frankly we are losing year in and year out.
What we need to do is think outside the box. How can we improve the show, and avoid going head to head with the NFL at the same time to help the sport continue to grow and prosper for many, many years to come?
It’s simple, every race inside the Chase must, in my opinion, have lights.
Well because if every track has lights, then we can make the races inside the chase ‘Saturday Night’ shootouts. Fans love night racing, and this would help us avoid battling the NFL on Sunday afternoons.
Add the fact that you have some of the more prestigious events to look forward to, and the fact that it all ends with the Daytona 500 would make ‘The Chase’ exciting again, and as unpredictable as ever.