During the first quarter of the season, I noticed that there have been a lot of complaints about how NASCAR has been going downhill, with the implementations of the caution clock, the stage breaks, retirements of superstars such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., to name a few. Here is part one of what would change if I was to become a NASCAR CEO. If you have any other ideas that I may have missed, please don’t hesitate to share them.
Changing the schedule would be one of the first things that I do. To be honest, 36 races is far too many in a season. I would decrease the number of races to 31. I would also cut one race from several tracks (Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas, Phoenix, New Hampshire). None of those tracks really needed two dates in the first place.
I would move Las Vegas to after Daytona, place Chicago back in its post-Coke Zero 400 slot, Keep one New Hampshire date in September. (Weather is cooler in the fall as opposed to the summer), and make Phoenix, Atlanta, and Homestead the final three races of the season for the Cup, Xfinity, and Truck series. This makes sense, because Atlanta being near the end is a nod to the old days, and the weather in early November is better than late February (unless someone from Georgia tells me otherwise).
I would drop one Texas race, one Phoenix race, Indianapolis, and Pocono and move the New Hampshire date to Mother’s day weekend. There is no reason for the Xfinity series to race at the Brickyard or Pocono. New Hampshire going back to Mother’s Day (preferably a Saturday) would be the first step in giving the Xfinity Series its own identity again.
For the Camping World Truck series I would cut the fall Texas race and the Pocono race. The Trucks season would have 21 races in a season, with Texas, Kansas, Las Vegas, and Mosport being standalone events.
Depending on the quality of the racing product, the less races there are in a season, along with cutting the prices of tickets, I feel that more fans would be motivated to come to the track for race weekend.
I would also outlaw stage racing. That is reserved for rally cars, not stock cars.
NASCAR does not need breaks like other sports. NASCAR is not, never has been, and never will be a stick and ball sport, and Brian France and Co. need to stop making it that way. There was nothing wrong with the original way of how races were run, but they seem to know what’s best for the fan base so…
Racing back to the caution would still be outlawed, simply for safety reasons. However, the wave-around rule would be abolished, as will the double-file restarts. (Except lap down cars to the inside). There wouldn’t have any green-white-checkered finishes either. If a race has a certain scheduled distance, then it will go that distance, no questions asked, and if the race ends under a yellow flag condition, then it is what it is.
The Charter System
In my opinion, the charter system is one of the worst things NASCAR has ever implemented outside of the playoff system, which we’ll talk about later. The charter system cut down fields from 43 cars to 40, and according to this deal, only 36 cars makes a full field. It also means that no teams can run more than three cars, and a team can’t run a car with a rookie driver for a select amount of races, which is completely stupid.
Cup fields have dwindled over the past two years, and stuff like this doesn’t help at all. This year, only 42 cars attempted one of the most prestigious races in NASCAR, the Daytona 500.
Gone are the days where 50 (or more) drivers would show up to races, and several different teams would attempt races to break into the series and make a name for themselves. But the charter system dissuades that completely, as there are not enough rides opening up for some of the top Xfinity drivers that are coming up through the ranks. I would disband the charter system completely and allow teams to run a car for rookies. I would also re-expand the field to 43 cars. Less cars means less cautions, but it also means less potential winners, another problem that NASCAR has suffered.
Of a 36-38 car field, only about 14-15 drivers have a realistic chance of winning a race on any given Sunday, and it’s been like that for the past two to three years.
There was nothing wrong with the old qualifying format. I would go back to the single-car format that worked so well over the first 60+ years of the sport.
Here are some facts from the last three years.
12 different drivers qualified for the pole in 2014. Two of them were from underdog teams (David Gilliland with Front Row and Brian Vickers with Michael Waltrip Racing). This is the lowest number since 11 in 2009.
15 different drivers qualified for the pole in 2015. (AJ Allmendinger won both poles on road courses for JTG Daugherty Racing), and 14 qualified from the pole last season.
NASCAR keeps on screwing with things that were never broken in the first place to try to cater to a fan base that could, in all honesty, care less about the sport, while ignoring their core. The Monster sponsorship is a good start, because it’s the closest to Winston that we’ll get. This stage format with playoff points stuff seems very contrived to me, even though the intention is to make the regular season matter more. I prefer going back to the Latford System because it actually made sense. Even if a driver clinched the championship before the season finale, they would have earned it over the course over the entire season, instead of potentially losing because of one bad race in the playoffs.
Three potential scenarios can come out of the current playoff system.
Scenario A: A driver could potentially be barely in the top 30 in points after Richmond, and win one race in each of the three “playoff rounds”, and the season finale, and win the championship.
Scenario B: A driver could win no races at all, have a so-so season, and somehow win the title without winning a race.
Scenario C: A driver could have one of the best seasons in the modern era, winning 14-15 races, and one screw-up at Homestead can cost him the championship.
Part 2 of the “If I Ran NASCAR” series will come early next week. Next week’s post will focus on the problem of Cup drivers in the lower series, rule changes, and the fear of criticizing NASCAR.