Special days call for special races. For the birth of the NASCAR season and the celebration of our nation’s genesis, fans celebrate at the birthplace of speed- Daytona International Speedway for both occasions. NASCAR’s longest race is run Memorial Day weekend at NASCAR Central, Charlotte Motor Speedway. For Labor Day weekend- the celebration of the rugged American workers who build this country- NASCAR returns to the track too tough to tame, Darlington, home to the Southern 500.
Of the changes announced for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, this will be the one the fans will talk about most. Sure, scheduling Atlanta to run after Daytona gives fans in the region a chance to catch races on successive races. Booking Las Vegas, Phoenix and California back-to-back-to-back provides a convenient west coast swing for fans near the Left Coast. Fans in eastern Tennessee will like having their spring date a month later, when the average daily high temperature at Bristol is 76 degrees. There are are plenty of things to like about the new schedule.
For all that, moving the Southern 500 to Labor Day weekend is the one thing (among others) that their voices have actually been heard. There have been a number of NASCAR ideas that have gone over like “New Coke” in recent years; racing at Darlington is in some small way a signal from NASCAR that says “We’re sorry, we screwed up. If this is when you want this race, then your wish is our command.
There are a lot of things about the NASCAR of old we can never go back to. You can’t go back to running a racing series with old automotive technology. “Run what you brung” will not fly at Chicagoland Speedway. You may despise the way the wishes of the sponsor seem to take bit of the “raw” out of a driver; but to run a successful team in this series, you need a sponsor’s money, and if they squall when a driver says something untoward, well what are you going to do? To make a small fortune in racing, you must first possess a large fortune. The days of Herb Thomas, Lee Petty and Red Byron are long gone.
NASCAR can devise a better race schedule. It’s not easy when you think about all the gymnastics it takes to arrange a NASCAR, but it’s a less expensive alternative than tearing up an existing track, or building a new one. A schedule can be arranged that flows better, as this one seems to do. The speed and locale of Atlanta follows Daytona well. Getting a week off after the Bristol night race makes huge sense as teams desperate to make the Chase gear up for their final opportunties to get in. That’s another thing about having Darlington and Richmond as the two race prelude to the Chase. You win there, and you are a “wheelman”- no lottery here.
Bristol, Darlington and Richmond running races over a four week period leading up to the Chase? That’s how you build up good momentum to end the summer and hopefully keep NASCAR relevant as the onslaught of football dominates the sports conversation. NASCAR will never overtake the NFL, but it can still have a place in the conversation if run correctly.