Throughout the offseason, many fans are starved for racing, and fans also love to see young drivers get an opportunity to show what they can do to some of the Cup Series top team owners. Well, we have an idea for that, and it is a brand new NASCAR Offseason Developmental Series, similar to something like the NBA Summer League.
The Inspiration for the Idea: The NBA Summer League
During the offseason, many sports leagues have some sort of major event to give their fans something to watch. In the NFL, there is the Draft with everything leading up to it including the Scouting Combine and College All-Star Games. Major League Baseball has winter ball leagues such as the Arizona Fall League. The NBA, however, has potentially the coolest idea, the NBA Summer League.
In 2023, the NBA Summer League was held in Las Vegas, Nevada from July 7th to July 17th, and the start date was about two weeks after the NBA Draft. In this league, NBA prospects including young players, draft picks, undrafted free agents, and developmental-league players play a few games followed by a tournament.
It provides two things. First off, it gives young players a chance to develop their skills against good competition before the season starts. Secondly, for die-hard fans, it gives them some basketball to watch during the dead of the offseason.
NASCAR could have these same benefits with a similar offseason developmental series. It could allow young drivers to develop their skills and show off in front of an audience, while also giving die-hard fans some racing to watch in the offseason. So, how would this work?
How Would NASCAR’s Offseason Developmental Series Work?
The participants in this series would be young drivers looking to develop, and there are NASCAR Series already available that can pool some drivers together. These series include the ARCA Menards Series, ARCA East, ARCA West, and even the NASCAR Weekly Series. In order to keep this a developmental series, the age restriction would be set around 20 years old, with drivers who raced full-time in any National Touring Series throughout the previous season being ineligible regardless of age.
Qualifying for this series would depend on performance in the season prior. A couple of ways to go about this include all race winners from these three series in the previous year being eligible, but, that could create a lot of entrants, especially with something like the Weekly Series running a lot of races across the country. Instead, NASCAR could say maybe the top-5 drivers in the standings in these series under 21 years old would receive automatic qualification. Maybe they could throw in the top drivers in the CARS Tour or series similar to that as well. Other drivers, such as part-time drivers, could maybe pay their way into the series through sponsorships should they not automatically qualify
Race Team Participants
Now for the race teams. What NASCAR could do is have each race team field one car for the series. By my count, there were 49 different race teams between Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks, and I counted every team with cars in multiple series as just one race team. If there were say, 50 teams that showed up, NASCAR could split the teams up between two locations, or, they could run an “A” Series and a “B” Series to make sure there are not too many cars on track.
As far as cars, NASCAR could go the SRX route, and provide spec cars to each race team. In the SRX Series, the cars are all identical, and they are meant to be durable. The goal here is to use as few cars as possible, which could help teach young drivers how to handle equipment. The race teams could use this as an opportunity as well for younger crew guys to become crew chiefs or pit crew members depending on the race.
Date, Location, and Race Format
As far as when this occurs, it needs to be far enough removed from the season to catch the fans when they are craving racing the most, but, it needs to be far enough way from the next season to not distract race teams. It also needs to be relatively short as well, maybe two weeks. The ideal time for this would be between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so, maybe the two weeks following Thanksgiving or starting it one week later for the first two weeks of December.
As far as the where, Florida would be a great place for it as Daytona, in Florida, is one of NASCAR’s hubs with decent weather. There are short tracks there such as Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola or New Smyrna Speedway where they could host this. Maybe a place like Irwindale in Southern California could host the series as well.
As far as the race format, NASCAR could host four overall races over the course of 11 days with every three days following the same format. Day one could be for practice and qualifying, day two could be heats and the race, and day three could be a rest day. With two different series potentially going, each series could rotate who goes first on a given day. Races could be maybe 100 laps or so with heats being 20 or 25 laps.
NASCAR could partner with their new broadcasters from the next TV deal to broadcast this series. This could be good streaming content to have during the offseason as it is something that will likely mainly attract hardcore fans. Maybe The CW could jump on this with NASCAR producing Xfinity Series races on The CW starting in 2025. Maybe Peacock could jump on this with NBC, Amazon Prime, or so on.
It could provide content on streaming platforms for NASCAR during a time when NASCAR content is lacking. Yes, it would not be on major network TV or anything, but, a die-hard NASCAR fan who wants to watch this could find it.
What’s The Point?
Many people may look at this and think, what would the point of this be? NASCAR already has a developmental series with the Xfinity and Truck Series plus ARCA. However, what sets this apart is both the time of year and the team participants.
First off, it is in the offseason, which is when NASCAR fans are starving for racing. It would be something that die-hard racing fans who are just looking for something could look to.
Secondly, it allows young drivers to race and work with some of the top race teams in the sport. The top drivers in the lower series will be able to get into it for free based on their performance, which allows them to build much-needed connections with race teams higher up the ladder and even their sponsors. However, it does not keep out drivers who can pony up the funding for a car either. They are working with race teams that are higher up in the sport than ARCA teams, and that is what sets this apart.
Is this idea just crazy enough to work? Well, maybe NASCAR will look at something like this in the future, you never know.