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Could NASCAR Change the Daytona 500 Schedule Like They Did With The Clash?

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What’s Happening?

The Daytona 500 weather forecast is iffy at best, and fans are getting understandably antsy about it. NASCAR decided to get creative with the exhibition Clash at the LA Coliseum 2 weeks ago by moving the race up a day, so, could NASCAR try the same thing at Daytona? Simply put, the answer is no, and we will explain why it’s simply not practical for NASCAR to make such a big change to this particular race weekend.

Read Also:

  • The Clash at the LA Coliseum was an extreme situation that required NASCAR to make a major change to the weekend to ensure the race would happen. Daytona is not in the same category, and we explain why.
  • Daytona International Speedway is notorious for its issues with weather. It is tied with Bristol Motor Speedway for the most races impacted by weather since 2014.
  • Fans are nervous about the weather for this weekend, and understandably so. Some fans have suggested that NASCAR make changes to the weekend schedule given the forecast.

A Look at The Forecast Compared to the Clash at the LA Coliseum

Below we have a detailed weather forecast for all of Speedweeks at Daytona. Within that forecast, we see that there is a chance of rain on both Saturday and Sunday, but, the rain chance during the race on Sunday is currently sitting at 44%.

Within this, there are two major issues with NASCAR moving the race up. First, the Saturday forecast looks just as questionable if not worse than the Sunday forecast, so, moving up the race to Saturday does not guarantee the race is run on Sunday. Secondly, the forecast is not nearly as extreme as the forecast was for the Clash.

The Clash called for a 100% chance of rain throughout the day on Sunday, more rainfall throughout the early parts of the next week, and potentially “Life-threatening flooding”. It was going to rain, and the only way NASCAR could fully guarantee the race would run would be to bite the bullet and race on Saturday.

The Daytona forecast calls for potential showers that could likely clear by nighttime. If the race does not start on time, it’s reasonable that NASCAR would wait out the rain until later on Sunday. There’s also no forecast for “Life-threatening flooding”.

Also, since Daytona is a purpose-built race track that NASCAR owns, NASCAR has the flexibility to push races back into the week if they have to. That flexibility does not exist with temporary circuits like the LA Coliseum.

The Speedweeks Schedule

The Clash at the LA Coliseum was more or less a typical race weekend in terms of scheduling. Only two series were there, the Cup Series and the Mexico Series, and the entire weekend was over two days. Speedweeks is far different with on-track activity for 5 consecutive days, including very busy days on Friday and Saturday.

With only the Mexico Series to accommodate, NASCAR could shift the schedule around for the Clash to accommodate both series. It was also a non-point event, so limiting practice and changing the qualifying procedure didn’t have as big of an impact as if it were a points event.

Daytona is not only the biggest weekend of the year for the Cup Series but the lower series as well. Daytona holds the biggest purse prize for Cup, ARCA, Trucks, and Xfinity, so, keeping the integrity of the weekend intact by not cutting out practice or qualifying is very important for those teams. This weekend is as important to them as it is to the Cup Series.

The Saturday schedule is already jam-packed as it is with on-track activity starting at 10:30 AM and finishing up around maybe 7:30 or 8:00 PM. If NASCAR wanted to move the Cup Series race to Saturday, Xfinity practice and qualifying with either need to be moved to Friday or cut out completely. The ARCA race may need to be moved to Friday as well or held on Monday, which either throws a wrench into Friday’s schedule or forces the ARCA Series to run their biggest race on a Monday afternoon.

All of this trouble for a forecast that does not 100% guarantee a rain shower on Sunday mind you.

The TV Ratings

Another important reason why NASCAR will try to run the race on Sunday is TV ratings. The Daytona 500 is by far the biggest TV audience NASCAR will garner all year. In 2023, for example, the Daytona 500 almost doubled its next closest competitor for TV viewership, the Chicago Street Race.

When NASCAR moved the Clash from Sunday night to Saturday night, the TV audience plummeted. This was a result of both the schedule change and the broadcast being moved from free-to-air network TV to cable.

If NASCAR were to make such a drastic change to the Daytona 500, they would be moving the Daytona 500 out of its’ designated network-TV time slot to another time slot that may or may not be on network TV. Likely the biggest TV audience of the year could be a fraction of what NASCAR could have raked in.

TV ratings are very important for NASCAR because that’s how the vast majority of NASCAR fans consume the sport. Only 100,000 plus people will be at the Daytona 500, which is a fraction of what the TV audience will be. Bad TV ratings mean bad publicity for the sport.

Oh, by the way, all of that trouble when it is not even a guarantee it will rain during the race on Sunday.

Ultimately, the forecast is not extreme enough to warrant such a drastic move as of right now. While it could change, the LA Coliseum was such a rare event that it’s incredible unlikely it happens again this weekend.

North Carolina Moonshine and Motorsports Trail
North Carolina Moonshine and Motorsports Trail

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