Atlanta should keep 2nd date, but maybe swap dates with Daytona instead, my thoughts

The first year of the “new” Atlanta Motor Speedway went off without a hitch. I’ll admit though, I was skeptical of this move to not only repave this driver favorite track, but to do so in an effort to make it a junior version of Daytona and Talladega. I consider myself an old school NASCAR fan. I like aged tracks with strategy in play. I love the uniqueness of Daytona and Talladega to separate themselves from the rest of the calendar and wondered if it was right to add a 3rd track to this exclusive club.

However, after 901 miles of Cup racing on the 1.54-mile race track this year, I’m a fan. I like it. While changes could certainly be made, I’d be in favor of this track keeping 2 dates moving forward.

See, after a dismal crowd for Sunday’s Quaker State 400 and with a race on USA on a summer afternoon, I sense the ratings won’t be much better which means a call for bigger changes will ensue. However, while some may suggest Atlanta losing a date again, I don’t think that’s the right direction.

Some tracks don’t need 2 dates. Some do. Atlanta is one that does. I don’t think we need to go to Richmond, Martinsville, Kansas and Las Vegas twice. Daytona, Talladega, Phoenix, Darlington, Charlotte so long as we get 1 on the ROVAL, Bristol and Atlanta have earned the right for a pair of race weekend’s.

Atlanta is one of NASCAR’s oldest and best tracks. They had 2 dates each season from 1960 through 2010. They scaled down to one date in a wrong spot from 2011 though 2019 before getting 2 spots back in 2020.

Atlanta is the site of Richard Petty’s last race. It’s also the site of Jeff Gordon’s first race. It’s a place of thrilling photo finishes and other iconic moments that will forever be cherished a few hours to the east in a Hall of Fame in North Carolina.

Atlanta is right in the middle of NASCAR country. You don’t mess this up again.

My changes though are, shorten both to 400 miles and make the spring date a day race and the summer date a night race. It’s asking far too much to have fans sit in the sweltering Georgia heat in the middle of July. A summer afternoon in aluminum grandstands in the south is not for the faint of heart.

As saying some tracks don’t need 2 dates, most don’t need 500 miles. Keep the “500” sacred. No longer is a 500 mile or 500 lap race as special as it once was. Back then, 500 miles was a test of man vs. machine vs. track. Nowadays, all are easy tests worth passing. Drivers are in the best shape as we’ve ever seen, the cars are as durable as they’ve ever been and the tracks are unchanged to counter.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – JULY 10: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 10, 2022 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The Daytona 500, the Southern 500, the Coca-Cola 600. That’s the triple crown. Keep the rest 400 miles or less.

We just witnessed 27 lead changes among 12 drivers in a 3-hour, 22-minute and 18 second race. There were 46 lead changes among 20 drivers in the 3-hour, 57-minute and 14 second spring race.

Another change is, make the summer race a night race for Atlanta. That’ll help the crowd in a sense. I fear the temperatures forecasted for the 90s with a threat of rain kept folks away this past weekend.

A night race will help for sure. Does TV see it that way though? NASCAR has already said that they envision an older NASCAR where they raced on more Sunday afternoon’s than Saturday night’s. The viewership in primetime is never as good as a Sunday afternoon.

However, maybe a night race is better for Atlanta.

If that’s the case and they do move this race to a night time event, I wonder what it would do if they move it back on the schedule to the regular season finale and move Daytona back up to the 4th of July weekend. It just seems like NASCAR is struggling to find the right fit for a holiday date that already had one.

Out of all the changes to the schedule I agreed with, moving Daytona wasn’t one of them. I get the notion to make the regular season finale a wildcard event and you were never going to move the Daytona 500 there nor would you move Talladega out of the playoffs. With that said, you can’t race in Talladega twice in a 2 month span. So the ‘400 was the odd man out.

Granted, it’s worked the last couple of years, but it just never felt right. It didn’t feel right for Indy to be in this Fourth of July date in 2020, nor Road America the last 2 years either. With rumors that this may be it for Road America and Atlanta proving to be a hybrid speedway race, isn’t this a better spot for it in late August?

A lot of people never felt like having a Speedway race set the final playoff spot was fair. I get the notion you want to make it eligible for everyone to still have a shot, but isn’t Atlanta the most level playing field for both sides?

You can Speedway race but also get some separation. You had Spire running for a win and a championship front runner still reaching victory lane. We saw a pair of Trackhouse cars, a Petty Ware car, a Spire car and Kaulig car in the top 10 at the end of Sunday’s race. It’s a perfect fit to move Atlanta to the regular season finale and Daytona back to July.

You boost Daytona, boost Atlanta and help TV in the process…

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