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Should NASCAR Synchronize The Playoff Schedule Amongst the 3 National Touring Series?

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Joshua Lipowski

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This weekend is the regular season finale for the NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona. The Truck Series, meanwhile, is in Milwaukee in the second race of the first round of the Playoffs. The Xfinity Series is racing at Daytona this weekend, but their Playoffs do not begin until Kansas in the second weekend of September.

This is a weird scheduling convention, and the three series do not have their Playoff schedules completely synchronized until the Championship Four at Phoenix. Should NASCAR work to synchronize the Playoff schedule so that the rounds coincide with the same weekends?

The Problem

As opposed to other sports where their “Minor Leagues” are in completely different markets and rarely if ever on national television, NASCAR is different. NASCAR’s lower-tier series partner with the Cup Series on virtually every race weekend, and those races are all broadcast on national television.

As a result, NASCAR fans tend to follow each series to some extent. They may not sit down and watch every race of a weekend, but they probably will follow at least at a distance. It was confusing probably to many to see that the Craftsman Truck Series was running a Playoff race on Friday night with the Cup Series still three races away and the Xfinity Series still around a month away.

Even when the Playoffs start, the rounds are not totally synchronized. The Cup Series’ first elimination race is at Bristol. The Truck Series’ first elimination race is a week earlier at Kansas. The Xfinity Series has the last race of their regular season at Kansas with Bristol being the Playoff opener.

The series does synchronize somewhat as the Playoffs go on with the Xfinity Series and Cup Series Round of 12 elimination races coming at the Charlotte Roval weekend and both Round of 8 elimination races for the series coming at Martinsville. The Truck Series Round of 8 elimination race, however, is a week earlier at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The three have all of their Championship races at the same track on the same weekend at Phoenix in November, but getting there was different for each series. Synchronizing the Playoff schedules would be helpful.

The Benefits and Detractors of Synchronizing the Schedule

This would make the sport much easier to follow from the outside. Every weekend, you can easily follow what is at stake for all three series because every series is at the same point in their season.

It also could make it an easier race to market at race tracks. Tracks like Martinsville could promote that they have three Playoff elimination races coming up on the same weekend. That would be fun to promote, and it could make those races can’t miss events.

However, there are some issues to sort out. The most obvious one is that the Cup Series Playoffs are longer than the Xfinity and Truck Series Playoffs. The Cup Series takes four rounds and 10 races while the other two series are only three rounds and seven races.

There is also the issue of scheduling. The Truck Series (23 races) and the Xfinity Series (33 races) both run fewer races than the Cup Series (36 races), so, synchronizing the Playoff schedule totally means that there could be bigger gaps early in the season between races in those two series.

If each series ran 36 races on all of the same race tracks, then the problem would be much easier to solve. Unfortunately, that is not the case, so, if the Playoffs need to be synchronized, then there have to be some sacrifices made in the regular season.

A Solution

In order to counteract some of these issues, here are some potential solutions. First off, just make sure that the final seven race weekends are all triple header weekends for all three series. If those final seven races are all synchronized, then that gives NASCAR the entire rest of the season to help make up the differences.

Make sure that off weekends for the Xfinity and Truck Series never intersect. Every race weekend should have at least one preliminary event, and that allows the Xfinity and Truck Series to keep their schedule relatively similar to what it is now.

For the Cup Series, it would be cool to have the same weekend as their cut-off race be the same as the Xfinity and Trucks, but, if NASCAR wants to keep the Playoffs at 16 drivers, then it is reasonable for the Cup Series to be out of sync for the first round.

However, NASCAR could choose to increase the amount of drivers eliminated from four drivers to six drivers so that it is still three rounds of seven races. Either that or decrease the Playoff field from 16 to 12 so that it is completely in sync with the Truck and Xfinity Playoffs.

Sure, this is something that probably does not matter much to many fans, but it would be nice to those who follow all three series. It would make the later part of the season much more streamlined and easier to follow. However, it would cause some major shakeups to the schedule, and it could bring some issues in the regular season schedule for all three series.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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