The NASCAR schedule is often criticized as redundant, as it regularly includes the same tracks at the same times of year, every year, without much flexibility. But new report indicates that may change as soon as 2021, and that NASCAR could toss in some street courses and temporary purpose-built tracks.
The story comes from Sports Business Journal, which cited unnamed sources in reporting that NASCAR wants races in new markets, especially in metropolitan areas. SPJ reporter Adam Stern tweeted that NASCAR is looking at putting races in major cities as soon as 2021, with the possibility of street circuits or purpose-built temporary tracks near stadiums.
When asked for comment about the report, NASCAR sent quotes from a press conference with NASCAR president Steve Phelps earlier this month, during which he said the 2021 schedule should come out around April 1. Phelps said NASCAR is “having a lot of discussions right now on the 2021 schedule,” and that it will need “compelling racing” and “full grandstands.”
Here’s more from Phelps:
We’re looking at three things when we’re looking at that race schedule. We’re looking at where we’re going to have the most competitive racing that we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like, is it a new market that we can service.
There are a lot of discussions that are going on both internally and then with other owners of racetracks. We need to obviously work with Speedway Motorsports, work with the three independent tracks that we have, then the tracks that we own as NASCAR now.
The 2021 season also happens to be when NASCAR wants a new-generation car, and 2022 is when it’s eyeing some sort of hybridization to its engine, which is currently a pushrod V8 mated to a four-speed manual transmission, just like your grandfather’s grandfather and NO ONE ELSE (if you get in the comments to tell everyone that you missed the joke and Actually, the Corvette has a pushrod engine, you will be banned).
What we’re witnessing here, folks, seems to be NASCAR dragging itself into the present in attempts to keep the present interested.
NASCAR’s recent history has been a game of attempting wide appeal, as it peaked more than a decade ago. It’s tried to become more like ball sports in terminology and formatting, and now, it’s working to be less antiquated.
That effort seems to include what a lot of other racing series are already doing: becoming more relevant to modern road technology and reportedly bringing racing to the people, rather than asking people to come to the racing. It’s hard to convince folks to drive out to a race track and sit in traffic when they can watch on a high-definition flat screen at home, and the awe of racing is hard for a new viewer to understand without having seen it in person.
But the move to add more races outside of NASCAR’s speedway norm would likely come with the elimination of some races at current tracks, Stern reported, as adding to the NASCAR schedule isn’t the most realistic option.
That’s because NASCAR already has one of the longer schedules in racing, with the Cup Series running 36 annual points races compared to F1’s roughly 20-race calendar and IndyCar’s 17 scheduled events in 2020. Those 36 Cup races are in addition to extra exhibition events and weekends that don’t count for points. If the schedule gets much longer, it risks going year round.
There aren’t currently street races in any of NASCAR’s three national touring series, with the most out-there events being the Truck Series’ single dirt-track race at Eldora Speedway and the new roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Most of NASCAR’s current tracks are oval speedways, with a few road courses.
But it seems like NASCAR might realize that the schedule it’s been clinging to over the years, despite a few tweaks, may benefit from even more change—ones that go against the norm it’s held for so long.