Without good race tracks, it’s impossible for a Sprint Cup race to take place. So while drivers get ready for testing and teams get some final R&R before Daytona prep, the homes of the Sprint Cup tour are in the midst of some major moves. Here’a look at some winners and losers in this NASCAR recap.
Win: Kentucky Speedway
Kentucky Speedway will have a makeover for the July 2016 race. The changes are significant. The bumpy features that differentiated the track and annoyed some drivers will be more smooth. Turns 1 and 2 will also be reconfigured to be different than turns 3 and 4. The track will also add additional SAFER barriers and drainage.
The news is good for the track on several levels. It spent decades trying to get a Sprint Cup race, then had one cursed event after another, ranging from terrible fan traffic to driver issues with the race. Plus, summer in Kentucky is ripe for pop up rain to wash out a Saturday night race. These changes give Kentucky Speedway character while positioning the event to run more smoothly.
Lose: Richmond International Raceway
The track announced it plans to remove an entire backstretch of stands in time for April’s race. The race may also move to Sunday from Saturday.
The loss is on two fronts. Selling tickets to a NASCAR event (any live event) is a tougher sell than in past years. The TV coverage is so good that you don’t need to throw hundreds of dollars at attending the event. Richmond’s seating decreased 20% in five years. Let’s hope they can sell out; the racing at Richmond is great.
On another front, I wish there were more Saturday night races, not fewer. It’s easier to watch, and I think the racing is more exciting under the lights. I would love all summer races to be night races, be it Saturday or Sunday.
Draw: Bristol Motor Speedway
My favorite track on the Sprint Cup tour is building one of the biggest big screens in the history of big screens. Part of the reason is Tennessee will host Virginia Tech in a football game at the track. Fans attending college football events will love the screen. Racing fans will to since it’s so easy to miss key passes or larger events/wrecks.
So why is this a draw? Big screens are nice; don’t get me wrong. But how many times have you been to a major sporting event or concert and seen people glued to their phones the entire time? Sports are meant to be seen live, not on a screen. Let’s hope the 160,000 people that show up to Bristol ever year keep their eyes on the prize.
Teams test in Vegas this week. Enjoy the start of the 2016 Sprint Cup season, and insert a random catchphrase here.