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Why Did NASCAR Make These CONTROVERSIAL 2024 Schedule Changes?

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The 2024 schedule is definitely controversial with plenty of dates being swapped around and tracks both coming and going. Ben Kennedy talked with the NASCAR media on Wednesday to discuss the 2024 schedule, and Jeff Gluck provided some interesting, what he called nuggets, from this conference on Twitter. Let’s discuss each of these points made about why NASCAR made some of these incredibly controversial schedule changes.

Darlington as the Regular Season Finale

Kennedy discussed that Darlington was moved to the regular season finale because NASCAR wanted to keep the race on Labor Day weekend, and that weekend happens to fall at the end of the regular season in 2024. This proves that NASCAR truly cares about keeping the tradition of the Southern 500 alive. The race has experienced an incredible revival over the last few years after it was moved off of its traditional Labor Day slot between 2004 and 2014.

Now, it is one of the most popular races amongst fans, and it has more than solidified itself as a “Crown Jewel”, which is exactly what the Southern 500 should be. However, it’s understandable why some fans are a bit disappointed by this change because the Southern 500 being the Playoff opener produced some great races. However, it’s still the Southern 500 no matter where in the schedule it lands.

Daytona not Moving Its’ Summer Date

As a consequence of Darlington not moving, Daytona is no longer the regular season finale in 2024. Some fans are not big on this change, because some felt it was a great opportunity to move Daytona back to its traditional spot closer to the 4th of July. Instead, NASCAR kept it on the same weekend it was in 2023.

However, there is some hope for these fans hoping for Daytona to move on the schedule, because Kennedy said there is no guarantee that Daytona will be the Regular Season finale in 2025. This opens up a few possibilities for that summer Daytona race. Will it move back to July, or will it move into the Playoffs, or could it stay where it is with the Playoffs just starting later in the future?

Atlanta as the 2nd Race of the Season

For the first time in NASCAR history, two drafting-style/superspeedway-style races will begin the season. The last time NASCAR put these types of tracks back-to-back was in 1998 when the Pepsi 400 was postponed to October, which just happened to be a week after Talladega. As Gluck points out, Kennedy said Atlanta was a “natural fit” for fans who tune in for the Daytona 500. The logic does make some sense.

Casual fans who tune in to the Daytona 500 in previous years have seen close packs of cars associated with superspeedway racing, but the next week they get a more traditional race where the cars are likely more spread out. If that second race is a borefest, and it has been multiple times in the past, you run the risk of losing those new fans who tuned in to the Daytona 500. Putting Atlanta there means they get the same thing they saw at Daytona, and that maybe keeps them around an extra week when the calendar moves on to the more “traditional” racing.

Some fans do not like this move because putting two of these types of races back-to-back could cost the teams a lot of money, but, above all, the weather is a concern. Atlanta has hosted races in February before, and a few of them were held in cold weather, rainy weather, or both, such as the 2015 race below. Will that happen again in 2024?

Atlanta Opens the Playoffs

Atlanta’s spring date is not the only date that is controversial amongst fans, so is its’ second date which now opens the Playoffs on September 8th. Kennedy said regarding this that it was meant to, “Test the variability of our drivers and their skills as they think about punching their ticket to the Round of 12”. He also mentioned, according to Gluck’s tweet, that they wanted to “shake it up a bit” with the new date to open the Playoffs.

Now, NASCAR fans are not totally against changing the schedule up a bit. One of the biggest complaints about the schedule from the late 2000s through the 2010s was that it was too predictable, and NASCAR made little to no changes to the schedule from year to year. However, this specific change is definitely controversial.

Yes, it is a very different type of race track in the Round of 16, however, there is already a superspeedway in the Round of 12. Now that there are two superspeedways in the Playoffs, fans are not sure how they feel about this change. In fairness to Kennedy, the 2024 Playoff schedule does have a lot of variety and balance between different venues with three intermediates (Kansas, Las Vegas, and Homestead-Miami), two superspeedways (Talladega and Atlanta), two road courses (Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Roval), and three short tracks (Bristol, Martinsville, and Phoenix).

Why No Doubleheader?

Kennedy said that NASCAR did indeed consider running a doubleheader weekend, but, they decided against it. Gluck did not mention any more specifics that Kennedy said, but the easiest thing to look at is TV ratings. Based on that comment, it seems that NASCAR was trying to run a race during the week, and then run a second race on the weekend at the same track.

Midweek racing was attempted during the pandemic as NASCAR found a way to fit in all 36 races. However, the ratings were generally abysmal, such as the Kansas ratings for a midweek race in July, which was the least-watched NASCAR race since 2001 according to Sports Media Watch. That is likely the reason why NASCAR decided against a Doubleheader weekend, plus, the crowd at the track may not have looked as good for a midweek show.

Is Dirt Racing Dead?

According to Ben Kennedy, NASCAR is not done with dirt racing yet! According to that Gluck tweet, Kennedy said that once or twice per year would be how much NASCAR could run a dirt race. It’s tough to see how a dirt race would fit on the 2024 schedule without taking a date away from another track, and, Bristol Dirt was not loved by everyone in the fanbase.

Dirt racing in NASCAR is controversial to some. Some love it, but some do not. However, many are in the contingent that it should be done at a dirt racing specific venue, and that opens up some interesting possibilities. As far as where NASCAR could go dirt racing, we discussed that on the Daily Downforce!

The 2024 schedule is controversial, but, at least we know some of what NASCAR is trying to do. Will these crazy changes work?

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