NASCAR’s vision on future schedules is clear, what I mean by that

Do you want to be on a future NASCAR schedule? Better pay attention. If you hold a date on the circus, you better bring the juice. You better bring the energy. You better bring the crowd. If you don’t, someone else will and NASCAR has sent a clear message the last two years now, we’ll go where we’re wanted.

The Clash lacked the punch it once had. Teams spent a lot of money to wad up a bunch of race cars while no one wanted to show up to watch in person.

No one wanted to come watch the Brickyard anymore. The race was moved to the road course at IMS. Kentucky and Chicago lacked the atmospheres and were part of the old cookie cutter layouts that are since moving away.

That makes it clear. Want to be a part of the NASCAR schedule, you better provide a track with good racing and hope fans come. If not, you’ll be left behind because NASCAR’s found that fresh blood bring fresh eyes and fresh eyes bring eagerness and anticipation.

But, if you bring new tracks on, existing tracks have to drop off.

“We’re always looking at both our existing tracks and our new tracks,” Ben Kennedy said. “As we shifted over to St. Louis, ultimately those shifts come from somewhere. Last year Chicagoland and Kentucky came off the schedule.”

NASCAR has found that they had to change the schedule up. You can’t go to the same tracks, in the same places, in the same weekends each year. It gets dull and stagnant. Sometimes you need to change it up. We’ve seen how these new tracks are receipted by fans. NASCAR notices too.

“I think the biggest takeaway that we’ve seen is in particular with some of these new venues that we’ve introduced to the schedule, some of the changes in the schedule, is the amount of excitement and engagement we have for a lot of these new tracks,” Ben Kennedy said.

He cited the new events at Nashville and Road America this past year as reasons as to why.

“Take Nashville Superspeedway as an example in the 2021 season. To have a sold-out crowd, so much energy around that event, I think it really speaks to the decisions that were made, again, how many fans we have in that Nashville area. Same thing goes for Road America, as an example. A ton of great fans out there.

“I don’t know if it is eye-opening, but one of the neatest things to see is kind of the reception we’ve had from the fan base and from the industry for a lot of these changes we’ve made within the schedule.”

So, what’s next then? What’s the next venue or venues to host NASCAR races? Well, I think NASCAR has a clear vision on the future schedules now. The aim is bigger markets. In saying that, how do you bring fans in big metropolitan areas to your sport?

That answer they’ve now found simple – you come to them.

“To your point, exactly. I’m sitting in downtown St. Louis right now. I’m only a five-minute drive from World Wide Technology Raceway,” Kennedy said. “I think to your point, it’s an opportunity to bring the racing action to our fans and to bring some new fans out to the track to sample our sport and sample the Cup Series that haven’t had the opportunity to do so before. I think that’s part of the calculus.

“On top of that, as well, going to the Los Angeles market, we’re excited to be back out in Fontana Auto Club Speedway again in late February of next year, but also going to downtown Los Angeles, which is another five- to 10-minute drive from the Los Angeles Coliseum.

“I think it brings an opportunity to really bring the racing action to the fans that are in these larger markets where you have a lot of fans and give them the opportunity to not only come out and experience the race but also come out for the first time to even see what it’s like.”

Los Angeles in a football stadium. St. Louis in a race track. They’ve been flirting with street races, most notably in maybe Chicago. The next drastic change moving forward is going to be finding spots in downtown areas to race.

They’re also willing to go back to being on Sunday’s again. Richmond went from a pair of night races annually to half day half night to now all Sunday afternoon’s. Kansas will be a day race against the NFL next Fall. Why Sunday’s and not utilizing Saturday night’s anymore?

“I think from a fan perspective our fans, again, are accustomed to tuning in on Sunday afternoon and seeing NASCAR Cup Series racing. For a fan going out there to the track, to have the biggest event of the weekend on that Sunday afternoon I think gives them something to look forward to and builds anticipation around the weekend.

“I would say a lot of our fans, myself included, are accustomed to turning racing on, NASCAR racing in particular, on Sunday afternoon. I think we all have that habit. Certainly helped us kind of drive the decision to move that there.”

In 2009 and 2010 we had 10 scheduled night races on the schedule. They were at Phoenix, Richmond (x2), Darlington, Charlotte (x2), Daytona, Chicago, Bristol and Atlanta. Next year, that number is down to six (Martinsville, Bristol (x2), Charlotte, Darlington and Daytona). Out of those 6, half will take place on a Sunday night at that. That’s down from 8 of 10 in 2010.

Plus, among the past tracks with lights, Phoenix, Richmond and Atlanta doesn’t use theirs anymore for Cup with both visits now being day races. Chicago is also gone. The shift is clear. Lights are basically a backup plan now for tracks for the event rain pushes them to night to complete.

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