Okay, Fine, but It Still Doesn’t Add Up

Jeff Gordon at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2013. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevolet)

Jeff Gordon at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2013. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevolet)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 7:04 p.m.

I’ve got a few thoughts about the Sprint Cup schedule announced officially on Tuesday.

It still doesn’t add up to me. I don’t see as how a month warmer weather at Bristol is worth relegating Atlanta’s one date to the beginning of March. For Speedway Motorsports Inc., Bruton Smith’s empire, it just doesn’t seem to be a fair deal. Maybe I’m wrong. Smith and his advisors apparently disagree.

William C. France used to refer to Daytona Beach as his “bell cow” – he used that term for lots of things – and Smith’s bell cow must be Bristol, not Charlotte, as is widely assumed.

I’m still waiting for a punch line, understanding that it may be a while before anyone delivers it.

Next year at Phoenix, Kevin Harvick will be "swinging." (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Next year at Phoenix, Kevin Harvick will be “swinging.” (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Another change is a West Coast swing early in the season – Las Vegas to Phoenix to Fontana – that makes sense in terms of travel, how much remains to be seen, but perhaps not so much in terms of the consumer. Races are expensive affairs for fans, and if Westerners want to attend all three races, it’s going to cost a lot for families still paying for Christmas and shy of tax-refund time. I don’t think as many fans will go to all three of those races, though the ones for whom money is no object will make quite the festival of NASCAR’s merry Western month of March.

Like every other sport, NASCAR caters to the rich folks, and the rest will just have to watch on TV.

Undoubtedly, these considerations have been discussed by the great minds of NASCAR and its partners.

I bet David Pearson is smiling, too.

I bet David Pearson is smiling, too.

I’m a traditionalist and a sentimentalist, which naturally puts me at odds with the bean counters and marketers, but to please me more than having the Southern 500 restored to Labor Day weekend, the Colts would have to go back to Baltimore and the Dodgers to Brooklyn. I feel like singing the opening tune of “All in the Family.”

“… Guys like us, we had it made, those … were … the … days!”

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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9 Responses to Okay, Fine, but It Still Doesn’t Add Up

  1. Because of age and funding, I missed the salad days of the Southern 500 on Labor Day. And then I simply didn’t make it a priority in the years the race was on the Sunday before Labor Day. I finally went to what was then billed as the final one – in November. I bought the ticket & event pin – but I knew it wasn’t a legit trip. Heck, we didn’t even visit the Weatherly / NMPA museum – which I think now may be the gutted equivalent of a gypsy tent.

    I really want to go in 2015 – with Schaefer in the cooler and awareness that swamp ass will have to be endured on that hot summer weekend.

    Atlanta on March 1 is indeed a mystery. Yet I catch myself forgetting about the relatively recent past. Richmond & Rockingham were frequently scheduled in that time frame – though admittedly often were rained/snowed out.

    Atlanta could put on a good show – but Bruton, Ed Clark, the beach suits & others who obsess over attendance numbers will likely re-define their measure of attendance success for the date.

  2. Jeff Scott says:

    Like you I am delighted that NASCAR finally had the sense to put Darlington back to Labor Day Weekend. I don’t get Atlanta, seems like a pretty racy joint but they don’t draw well no matter when the race is anymore. I does seem like it would have been better to move the west coast swing up one week, then Atlanta after that would have been better. Reminds me of the dates Rockingham got.

  3. Janice says:

    march 1st in atlanta major crap shoot with weather. past 2 years it’s snowed here. not much by northern standards, but even a flake here causes panic and craziness. this morning the news broadcasts here specifically said it will be a daytime race, i guess to settle the hearts of those folks who thought it would be a night race….who knows, but i remember spring races at atlanta that ended up at night races cause of rain.

    wonder what kind or marketing spin ed clark and bruton will start the day after labor day. maybe free tickets will be way to fill the place up.

  4. Scott Beasley says:

    I think Bruton is fine with moving the Atlanta date because he knows that attendance will be down, weather will probably play a factor and the race will be delayed; so he will then say he is closing Atlanta and he will give Vegas that second date. The other scenario might be that he closes Kentucky instead of Atlanta but either way I see this as a ploy to get that second date for Vegas and nothing more.

  5. Janice says:

    just saw schedule and cup races are airing on fosxports1?! shame, shame, shame. i guess race fans are lucky they didn’t put them on foxsports2.

  6. Troy says:

    Glad I didn’t lie awake anticipating a real “shake-up” to the NASCAR schedules (all 3 series). It’s the “same old-same old” just like every other year.

    if NASCAR truely wants to re-align the schedule, the first thing they need to do is say, we are going to run 36 weekends (not races, 36 weekends (including the shootout and the All-Star Race) with 4 off weekends. Spread the off-weekends throughout the season so it’s not a 18 week stretch at any point.

    Next, forget the tracks you have existing agreements with (if they truely are “year to year” as NASCAR insists they are, no reason why one year Charlotte, Talladega, Michigan, Chicago, Kansas City, Daytona (yes, even Daytona), Pocono, Fontana, Las Vegas or any other track with 2 dates only gets one date to allow you to schedule a “wild card” like an Iowa, Gateway, Eldora, etc..

    IMO, the only way to keep teams on their toes is to “mix it up” and currently they know exactly where they will be racing (and pretty much know “when” they will be too.

    By doing so, you’d also make it so the tracks have to “step up their game” to provide tracks that are raceable, more fan-friendly amenities, etc. Make them COMPETE for the dates with tracks that don’t get any currently. If you take a date from Pocono and give it to Gateway in 2015, you (1) went to a new market, (2) may do a better job of putting bu##s in the seats (they haven’t gotten the opportunity to before), TV ratings (it’s not just another “cookie cutter” track) you may see crowds return to those tracks that lose a date every so often.

    NASCAR seems to have forgotten the rule of “supply and demand”. Supply of seats at most Cup dates (ALL Nationwide and Truck) is pretty high right now and demand is low. By eliminating 2 weekends (Shootout and All-Star), you have 250,000 less tickets to see your “show” available. (and 100,000 less in both Charlotte and Daytona, that makes the tickets that are available more desirable (might be your only chance to see them race).

    Demand — right now I have (4) chances to go see a Cup race within 5 hours of my house in Iowa. Nascar doesn’t realize that if they cut that # to 3 or 2 they may actually sell MORE tickets (with 1/2 the costs – 1 weekend instead of 2, one purse instead of 2, etc.) to those events and make more $$$$. Plus, just like a Rock Concert and the like, it’s your ONLY chance to see them, so you will be more inclined to “risk” the weather forecast than if “they’re coming back in 8 weeks, maybe it will be nicer then”.

    Trucks and Nationwide — figure out a way to get more “stand alone” events. Those seem to be the most popular of the season (attendance wise), yet NASCAR continues to do “companion weekends” (outside of Atlanta’s deal with 2 races for 1 ticket price), these tend to be horribly attended and a lot of those are Free Tickets given away by sponsors.

  7. John says:

    I’m easy to please: NASCAR put the Southern 500 back on Labor Day weekend, where it belongs.

    Sadly, it appears that Atlanta might have moved onto the “schedule bubble”. But it may defy the odds and thrive in its March spot.

    A big shout-out to Janice for her hilarious description of Atlanta’s reaction to snow: “even a flake here causes panic and craziness.”

    So true, so true.

  8. Al Torney says:

    Mr. Beasley gets it. I remember years ago, before Bruton bought it, the folks at Atlanta begging NASCAR for a date other then March. Now they’re praising it as a great move.

    Of course we will be bombarded with the tradition of Darlington being continued. Which is non sense. The tradition was stopped we will now be creating a new tradition.

    Darlington was the key on this deal. France wanted it back in September, I doubt we will ever hear that it was a mistake to move it in the first place, so he had to begrudgingly satisfy Bruton’s needs with Atlanta and Bristol. France and Smith qualify as strange bed fellows. One must never forget that Big Bill put Bruton out of the sanctioning business back around 1949.

    Listening to the media yesterday you would think that they had completely revamped the schedule. That’s how hard up this sport is for something to talk about. Pathetic.

  9. Andy Denardi says:

    We need two leagues! Dump either Nationwide or trucks and dump most of those drivers into the new series. There’s not enough demand to support three major series.

    Make the leagues North/South, East/West or whatever you want. They can share tracks but they only meet at the end of the year for the chase. Make that a true playoff. Cut the schedule to fewer races per season to increase demand and give the teams a rest, but with two leagues there are enough races to fill the same number of TV weekends. Each track would have the opportunity to run more races and there would be room to add some new ones. More opportunities for local short track heroes to get a one off ride.

    If I made all the rules, I’d let drivers pick and choose any race in either series but limit them to no more than a season’s worth of races. Get some cross-pollination and grudge matches going to heighten excitement like you used to have when Foyt, Gurney or Andretti was slumming.

    I know we had Winston West before, but that was then. There was never a strong push to make them competing leagues.

    PS: kudos to NASCAR for putting the Southern 500 back where it belongs. So long Atlanta, it was nice to know ya.

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