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NASCAR Missed Their Chance to Fix the Schedule

Posted by chadmusselman on March 16, 2011

A couple of weeks ago NASCAR announced that they will start the season a week later in 2012, eliminating the off-week after the third race of the season.  They’re doing this for two reasons.  One is to add a week to the off-season.  As it is, they race until the week before Thanksgiving and only have 12 or 13 weeks until the season starts up again in Daytona.  The other reason is anticipating the NFL going to an 18 game schedule.  NASCAR wants to avoid having the Daytona 500 too close to the Super Bowl.    This is a smart move by NASCAR and definitely the right thing to do, but they really missed their chance to fix the schedule.

Everyone knows the NASCAR season is way too long, and many of the races are too long as well.  Even some drivers, like Dale Earnhardt Jr, have voiced their displeasure with the schedule and length of races.  Back in late January Earnhardt said, “The Pocono races are entirely too long.  I think NASCAR should shoot for a three-hour or three-hour and 15-minute televised event, and try to fit into that sort of time frame. But it can’t be done at all times. I understand. I think you’ve got to have races like the 600-miler [Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte] and the Daytona 500 and things like that — but there are certain events [that should be shortened].”  Amen, Dale!  I’ve said it before in previous posts, and I’m going to say it again.  NASCAR needs to shorten the season.

Schedule History
In 1996 there were 31 races on the schedule.  It expanded to 32 races in 1997 and 33 in 1998.  As recently as 2000 there were 34 races in the schedule and things seemed to be working out just fine.  The sport was as popular as ever.  Of course, this wasn’t good enough for NASCAR and they had to keep expanding, trying to make more money.  They added two more race dates to the schedule for the 2001 season giving us the ultra-short off-season we have today.

Baseball has a 5 month off-season.  Football has about a 6 month off-season.  Why does NASCAR think they need 36 races spread over 40 weeks?  Isn’t the saying, leave them wanting more?  After the marathon NASCAR season is over does anyone really want more?  I know after the NFL season fans can’t wait for next year and are always excited about it.  Heck, NFL fans can’t wait for the draft each April.  NASCAR fans seem to give a sigh of relief when their season is over.

Changes for 2011
Late in the 2010 season NASCAR announced that the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California would lose races.  Why reward these race dates to other tracks and not shorten the season?  They gave Kansas a second race, and are going to the Kentucky Speedway for the first time in 2011.  Why?  Why not stay with one race in Kansas, and take a date away from Texas or Phoenix and give it to Kentucky if they want a race there?  This time NASCAR missed a golden opportunity to actually shorten the season.

If your sport is losing viewers and attendance is down across the boards, is it smart to keep with the norm, and not shake things up a bit?  I understand that there are TV contracts in place and revenue streams they’re depending on, but sometimes you have to trim dead branches off a tree to allow it to grow.   Look at what happened to the NHL a few years ago.  They were close to folding and had to make some major changes to survive.  Now they’re doing better than ever.  I’m not suggesting NASCAR is nearly as bad off as the NHL was, but why chance it?  NASCAR should have taken action when they had the chance.   I’m sure they could have negotiated with ABC and FOX to get the TV contracts modified.

A 34 race schedule with an 8 race chase could be ideal for NASCAR.  This would eliminate two weeks of competing with the NFL at the end of the season, make their “playoffs” two months (and more in line with the traditional sports’ playoff length), and give them a 15 week off-season, allowing everyone to catch their breath and give time to actually want more.

Do you think NASCAR will ever take the hit and drop two or more races from the schedule to help fix what’s wrong with the sport?  Do you think the number of races is part of the problem, or is it something else?  Leave a comment and let everyone else know what you’re thinking.

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One Response to “NASCAR Missed Their Chance to Fix the Schedule”

  1. […] more here: NASCAR Missed Their Chance to Fix the Schedule « Chad's Fantasy NASCAR Share and […]

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