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Should NASCAR Race on Holidays?

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NASCAR was forced to race on Memorial Day this year with the Coca-Cola 600 being rained out on its traditional date, the Sunday before Memorial Day. The TV ratings for the Monday show were not half-bad as NASCAR pulled in nearly 3.4 million viewers and a decent at-track attendance clip. Some fans began to openly wonder about whether or not NASCAR should race on Memorial Day?

This does open up a legitimate question about whether or not NASCAR should consider racing on holidays. During the NASCAR regular season calendar, there are two other major holidays they could race on being Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and NASCAR already races on Easter. What would that look like, and would it be a worthwhile idea?

Pro: Every Other Sport Makes Holidays a Big Event, Why Not NASCAR?

The NFL has Thanksgiving, the NBA has Christmas, and MLB has the Fourth of July. Each sport makes these holidays a big event, and they put marquee matchups on each of these days. The NFL on Thanksgiving is a part of many houses’ Thanksgiving routines, as is the same with the NBA. When I was growing up, I would always watch the Cubs game on the Fourth of July during the day while my dad grilled ribs.

Why not make a big event out of racing on a holiday? Imagine the Coca-Cola 600 pre-race on the actual Memorial Day and how awesome that would be. It could be a fun way for NASCAR to either create another crown-jewel event or to enhance a current crown-jewel event.

Con: It could be a scheduling nightmare

With the current NASCAR schedule being as compressed as it is, only one off-week during the season, scheduling a race on Memorial Day Monday or potentially a mid-week race on the Fourth of July could be difficult. NASCAR would either have to move the current off-week or add in more off-weeks. This pushes the schedule further and further into November where weather becomes less than ideal.

Add to that the nightmare scenario, rain outs. Imagine a Tuesday Fourth of July race being rained out or a Monday Memorial Day race being rained out. That could create logistical nightmares for teams depending on what the schedule is following. Even racing in the middle of the week could throw off race teams routines.

Pro: NASCAR Has Done it Before

The Coke Zero Sugar 400, formerly the Firecracker 400, used to be traditionally held on the actual Fourth of July rather than Fourth of July weekend. The Southern 500 used to be run on Labor Day rather than just the Sunday before Labor Day. The last few years, NASCAR has broken from tradition and begun racing at Bristol Dirt on Easter.

In recent years, NASCAR has had the Fourth of July fall on Sundays as well, causing them to run Fourth of July races. Most notably, the 2009 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona where Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch battled for the win, and in 2021 where Road America hosted a race on the Fourth of July.

Con: It Would Likely Not be Popular with Drivers or Teams

It’s important to take into account that these drivers are humans and these teams have humans working for them. They probably like the fact that, generally speaking, they have these holidays available to them. It’s a great way for them to plan family events and things like that.

Back to the scheduling con I discussed earlier, teams would feel the brunt of this scheduling impact. They would be the ones who would have to upset their routines for these holidays races to happen, and I doubt they would be very happy about this.

Pro: Recent TV Ratings and At-Track Attendance on Holidays Have Been Good

Look no further than the 3.4 million viewers for a rain-out race this past Monday and the decent at-track attendance. If NASCAR was able to schedule a race for this day with fans able to plan around it, I would imagine the viewership and at-track attendance could go up. Even the race this year on Easter Sunday at Bristol Dirt was pretty even with typical FOX viewership during the early portion of the season, meaning that TV ratings at-worst were even.

Road America pulled in over 100,000 fans on their Fourth of July race in 2021 as well. The precedent is there for good ratings an fan turnout during holiday weekends. However, is it a guarantee that that would stay?

Con: Mid-Week TV Ratings During the Pandemic Were…Not Great

NASCAR was forced to experiment with mid-week racing during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was either no crowd or a limited crowd during these races meaning it was hard to gauge how at-track attendance would be. As far as TV ratings go, the mid-week races in 2020 rank among the least-watched NASCAR races of the new millennium according to SportsMediaWatch.com.

Maybe a holiday would be an exception, but it is no guarantee that NASCAR could get the audience they are looking for. Ultimately, it comes down to TV ratings and at-track attendance whether or not NASCAR sees it as a good idea to run mid-week races.

As for whether or not NASCAR should run on holidays, there appears to be no right or wrong answer. It may be a worthwhile experiment, but it’s far from a surefire success.

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Joshua Lipowski

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