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Should Race Tracks Only Have One Race Date?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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This past weekend at Pocono was one of the most action packed weekends it ever had, and it brought in a sellout crowd on Sunday. It looked and felt like NASCAR’s heyday with full grandstands and a packed infield. Pocono Raceway was the place to be on Sunday afternoon, and it opens up an interesting question.

Should NASCAR limit each of their race tracks to only one race date per season? Pocono offered an interesting case in that debate, so, let’s analyze this some.

Pro: It Makes That Event More Special

When race tracks have two race dates in a season, it waters down both events to some extent. Why go to the race this weekend if you can just go either later this year or early next year? Part of what created the great event at Pocono this weekend was because it was only one date.

Pennsylvania race fans knew that if they wanted to see NASCAR at their hometown track, this was their one shot to do it. It made for a great singular event rather than spreading that energy out over two events. It’s more special when it’s rare.

Con: Less Races at Popular and Iconic Tracks

How would NASCAR fans feel if they only went to Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, and Atlanta once a year? Those race tracks are popular amongst NASCAR fans, and that’s why they continue to have two dates. The racing product is so good that NASCAR wants more of it.

Is it worth it to sacrifice one great race for one that is an unknown at best? Making a sweeping change that every track can only have one date means that some great race tracks will lose a date. Even if it’s not every track, something has to give somewhere, and, sometimes that may be beloved race tracks.

Pro: Only One Race Date Gives More Value to That Weekend

This past weekend at Pocono, the fans had four major races they could watch. They could watch ARCA on Friday evening, even though it was delayed to Saturday morning. On Saturday, they could watch the Truck Series race then the Xfinity race with Cup practice and qualifying in between. Obviously, the Cup race would be run on Sunday.

In previous years Pocono, and other tracks like it, would split the weekends up. The Cup guys would come twice, but the June race may only bring the Xfinity Series with the Truck Series coming in late July/early August.

That devalued each weekend, but now, with only one weekend, fans get more out of their weekend ticket. As opposed to only two races in a weekend, they get three or four races in a weekend. Homestead-Miami is going to do the same thing in October with the Truck Series and Xfinity Series both running on Saturday afternoon. Not every track does this, but, if more tracks had only one date, this could motivate them to do weekends like this.

Con: Team Travel Expenses

Why does NASCAR go to tracks like Charlotte, Martinsville, and Atlanta twice per year? Part of it is because of ease of travel for teams. It’s a reasonable day trip to get from the Charlotte metro area to each of these race tracks in one day.

More tracks added to the schedule means the schedule probably spreads around the country more. NASCAR can curtail this by replacing current “local” races with tracks nearby, but do they really want to do that? That’s the whole reason NASCAR expanded in the first place.

Teams would not like it if some of these races were taken away for the travel reason. Especially if the teams owners and NASCAR are still negotiating about the current economic viability of the sport.

Pro: It Opens Up the Schedule for More Race Tracks

NASCAR’s potential reach of race tracks is higher now than it ever has before. In 1972, NASCAR never thought it could race overseas and be successful, but, now, it seems they may go overseas. In 1972, road course racing was a novelty that many drivers tolerated at best, but, now, it’s a major part of the schedule.

Steve O’Donnell said after the Chicago Street Race that NASCAR can now take their product anywhere they want to. The more dates that open up, the more places NASCAR can go.

Con: It Can Take NASCAR Away From Loyal Fanbases

What was the major mistake people felt NASCAR made during its’ 1990s expansion? It gave in on some of its core demographic in the Southeast to chase more people. In fairness, if NASCAR wanted to expand, they had to expand out of the southeast to a large extent.

However, the risk you run is the new fanbase getting tired of the sport over the years. Unfortunately, that new fanbase did not stay, and tracks like Texas, Chicagoland, and Kentucky are either gone or down to one race per year. NASCAR has tried to rectify that in recent years by adding races in places like Darlington and North Wilkesboro, but the damage has largely been done.

Does NASCAR want to risk doing that again? Do they want to take away races from places like Daytona or Martinsville? That’s what they have to consider if they go down to one race date per year.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts