Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, April 5, 2018, 3:09 p.m.
This is an old idea. I proposed it many years ago, before there were playoffs. The late David Poole proposed something similar before I did. Miraculously, even though David and I kept close tabs on each other, I didn’t know he had written something similar.
In reality, the notion wasn’t original to David or me. We both got it, in separate conversations over dinner, or at a ballgame, from the late Ed Shull, who, for many years, directed Gatorade’s NASCAR program and was a peach of a fellow. He’s one of relatively few people ever to pitch an idea that David and I both liked.
The idea was how to reconfigure NASCAR’s schedule in order to work in more tracks without placing too onerous a burden on the ones currently involved. Back when we originally wrote about it, the idea was to keep some room for tracks that were endangered and are mainly out of business now.
This morning, while I was writing a chapter of fiction, at some point when I should have been thinking about baseball, it occurred to me that these same principles might apply, now that the 2019 schedule has been announced with almost no change from the existing one, and adjustments that won’t occur have stirred up some discussion over adjustments that should have.
Thirteen tracks have two annual races. Ten have one. I increased the group of 13 by five, adding tracks that once had two a year: Atlanta, California, Chicagoland, Darlington and New Hampshire. Then I left the tracks in the NASCAR capitals of Daytona Beach and Charlotte with two each. The remaining 16 are grouped, mostly geographically, in twos, with each track getting a combined total of three each year. One gets two of the three one year, the other track the next.
The groups are: (1.) Atlanta-Darlington; (2.) Bristol-Martinsville; (3.) Las Vegas-Phoenix; (4.) Chicagoland-Kansas; (5.) California-Michigan; (6.) New Hampshire-Pocono; (7.) Dover-Richmond; and (8.) Talladega-Texas.
The above groups could be paired differently, but the basic concept leaves a 36-race schedule with four races at Charlotte-Daytona, 24 among the eight groups, five at tracks with one date (Indianapolis, Kentucky, Miami, Sonoma and Watkins Glen) and three vacancies.
That makes room for Iowa, a short track; Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wis.), a road course; and Eldora (Rossburg, Ohio), a dirt track. Or the road course in Austin, Texas. Or the dirt track in Knoxville, Iowa. Or somewhere in the Rockies or the Northwest where NASCAR currently doesn’t go. Or Canada. Or Mexico. I don’t know. Bahrain. Australia. Japan. Rockingham. North Wilkesboro. The Nashville Fairgrounds. Mid-Ohio. Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
Everyone’s arguing now. Might as well argue some more.
NASCAR can play those three hands with whichever cards it draws. The all-star races could be left alone – both are parts of annual festivals, in a way – or even shopped around as tryouts where tracks could prove their ability to draw viewers.
NASCAR’s All-Stars Come to Newton, Iowa! It’ll be bigger than the tent revival!
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