Question of the day: What kind of difference will the new NASCAR schedule make? [Updated]
[Updated at 2:48 p.m.:
Jim Peltz, Los Angeles Times
The changes shouldn’t hurt NASCAR, but is that the best to be said about such a major overhaul of the schedule?
There will be some interest in seeing the NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series in a new race at Kentucky Speedway near Cincinnati, although it’s yet another 1.5-mile track in a sport that some observers argue already has too many of them.
Indeed, the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway will now get two races, including one moved from the two-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, and next year’s Chase will open at the -- you guessed it -- 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway. Maybe that will give NASCAR’s critics something else to complain about now that they won’t have the two-race card at Fontana to kick around anymore.
In any case, next season’s opening rounds should prove popular with races at Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas, all popular venues.]
Andrew Wagaman, The Morning Call
NASCAR as we know it will never be the same. Maybe I’m going too far, but transferring the Chase opener from New Hampshire to the Chicagoland Speedway arguably will be more consequential than golf’s groove rule.
Never mind that NASCAR didn’t add Las Vegas or a road course to the Chase schedule and that rumors of a weeknight race remained unfulfilled. Underwhelmed by the two other reported additions, races in Kansas and Kentucky? Don’t be. Brian France promised some “impactful” changes, and he delivered.
Consider: The Chicagoland race is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18, in the afternoon, probably when the Bears are playing, potentially at home. Instead of merely shortening the Sprint Cup schedule to avoid competition with the NFL, NASCAR’s throwing a Hail Mary and banking on hardcore Chicago fans to travel 55 miles south to Joliet instead of going to Soldier Field or turning on the TV. Brilliant!
Shawn Courchesne, Hartford Courant
NASCAR officials are desperate to stem the tide of dropping attendance for the Sprint Cup Series, and the changes coming for the 2011 schedule should have some impact.
NASCAR is fixing one big mistake it made by dropping back from two events to one in 2011 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Putting a second event there in 2004 will go down as one of the biggest scheduling blunders by the sanctioning body in the modern era of the sport. NASCAR desperately wanted the Southern California fan base, but the area never bit, making for two sparsely attended events each year.
Now the question is whether the Kansas market is ready to support two events with the second Auto Club Speedway event shifting to Kansas Speedway next year.
Atlanta Motor Speedway will take the hit for a southeastern market flooded with events. The track, which has hosted two Sprint Cup Series events annually since it opened in 1960 but has struggled to fill the grandstands the last five years, will cut back to a single event next year on Labor Day weekend.
Atlanta’s lost event will move to Kentucky Speedway, a market where fans have been desperate for years for the facility to find its way onto the Sprint Cup schedule.
In the cases of Auto Club Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR is far better off having tracks focusing their efforts on putting people in the seats for one event rather than struggling to try to sell fans on two races.
Another big change comes with the opening race of the 10-event, season-ending Chase for the Championship moving from New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., for 2011. In the grand scheme of the mid-September sporting landscape, the event gets lost behind the NFL, college football and pennant races in Major League Baseball. It’s difficult to envision how shifting this event to the Chicago area will give it any more bang for NASCAR.
Photo: Drivers David Reutimann, left, and Kevin Harvick speak during a press conference Monday announcing that Chicagoland Speedway will host the first race in the 2011 Chase. Credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images