Now that the questions are answered for how this past weekend’s action would look at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, a new point as come up – is it racing or entertainment? See, this new Atlanta couldn’t look as opposite as the old.
The old one was an aged surface that separated the men from the boys. You’d get spread out racing but could do just that, race. Tire fall off was huge and pit strategy was a large factor on when to get off the old tires and jump on the new.
The new tires would create a big burst of speed in comparison to those on old tires. So, managing tire fall off and when to pit or not was the biggest key in who was successful or not. It was racing at it’s finest.
The new Atlanta, well the talent was still there for the showing, but in a vastly different way. This was pack racing. This was Daytona or Talladega but on a track a mile shorter. The talent was more on who was brave enough to make the moves that it took to win. It fell more into the entertainment category than racing.
So, which is it now? Is NASCAR racing because that’s what the “R” stands for in their name, or is it entertainment?
Obviously, the drivers feel one way and who could blame them. They’re the daredevils strapping themselves into these cars and putting their lives and livelihood on the line. They grew up wanting to be race car drivers and anything else has them questioning their jobs.
However, for fans, you want entertainment. You don’t watch something that’s not entertaining. Why would you? Especially in this day and age where entertainment is everything, you want to sit there and like what you’re witnessing. If you don’t, you don’t tune in and if you don’t tune in, the sport loses money and if it loses money, how long can they stay a sport.
That’s why we are where we are. How can you marry the two sides? Atlanta went radical and by all accounts, those outside of the fence liked what they saw. The thing is, how long can you piss the ones off inside the fence before it becomes a larger problem?
The other issue for tracks is, NASCAR is an ever evolving schedule. Not many tracks are keeping two weekend’s anymore. The thing is, just Richmond, Daytona, Vegas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Martinsville, Bristol, Talladega, Darlington, Kansas and Charlotte each host two races each season. That’s it.
But, if you break them down, NASCAR owns the tracks at Daytona, Talladega, Phoenix, Richmond, Martinsville, Darlington and Kansas. SMI owns the rest (Vegas, Atlanta, Bristol and Charlotte). Among the SMI dates, Bristol and Charlotte have two separate weekends with Bristol’s spring race being on dirt and Charlotte’s Fall race being on a ROVAL. Vegas and Atlanta are their only two outliers.
Dover, Texas, Pocono, Michigan and Loudon each lost a weekend lately. Chicago and Kentucky are gone.
With NASCAR constantly adding new tracks now, the dates being taken away are those who host two. So, Atlanta went outside the box and did this and one could say it paid off. Bristol went the dirt route. Charlotte the ROVAL. What’s next?
Does Texas try what Atlanta did? Does Vegas? SMI is trying to evolve to stay on the NASCAR schedule with the fear of losing dates. But, should other 1.5-mile tracks try to replicate what Atlanta did or does Atlanta need to be it’s own unique 1.5-mile?
If you get too many, you dilute it. They’re not as special. But if you don’t adapt, you could get left behind. I mean look at Chicago and Kentucky as prime examples.
So, what’s the right balance? A NASCAR schedule now has 6 superspeedway races. When is that too many? What number is the magic number? You can’t have too many or you risk a fluke champion since these races take a lot of the skill out of the cockpit.
That’s why Atlanta opened up a whole new can of worms and one that’s going to be a debated topic for weeks to come.