Recently, NASCAR has revealed its revamped 2020 schedule. It has been no secret that NASCAR has had trouble drawing fans and more importantly television views to its races. The last few years, fans have cried for a shake up in the schedule. Mile and a half tracks dominated both the series, and the playoffs. Some of those 1.5-mile tracks are iconic, or at least interesting (see the Charlotte Roval), most of them produce stale races.
NASCAR is currently locked into its current track line up until 2021, due to its relationship with sister company International Speedway Corp. This will keep the basic track package the same until deals are renegotiated, but NASCAR has finally listened to the fanbase. This has been a move long in the works, as NASCAR has been hemorrhaging fans for years, with 2018 producing the lowest Nielson ratings and attendance in over 2 decades. NASCAR VP and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell had this to say regarding the new changes: “The fans and the industry as a whole have been vocal about the desire for sweeping changes to the schedule, and the 2020 slate is a reflection of our efforts to execute against that feedback,”.
While not perfect, or exactly what the fans could imagine, the NASCAR schedule will breathe some life back into the regular season and should dynamically alter the playoffs. Most fans are split, but the driver reaction has been mostly positive. There are of course some major changes for the good but a few changes that still leave us scratching our heads. Either way, it will be great for the sport. Let’s break down what NASCAR got right, and what they got wrong.
1. Daytona hosting the regular series finale – I know I will draw some twitter hate for this one, as the typical July 4th weekend is one of the most popular stops on the map for NASCAR fans, but moving the second Daytona weekend back into August will produce a regular season finale like we have never seen before. Daytona is known for its trademark pacing and unpredictability. This one will be good, just trust me.
2. The Playoffs (Mostly) – The playoffs have been radically altered and listen to this line up of cut-off races: the Bristol night race, the Charlotte Roval, and the first night race at Martinsville. If you can think of 3 events that can produce a wilder experience than playoff races at those 3 venues, hit me up. Talladega is thrown in the mix, and most importantly, Darlington has retained its Labor Day throwback night race. The event that has been officially adopted as NASCAR’s vintage nostalgia weekend will be the first race of the playoffs. It won’t get any better for NASCAR fan than that lineup.
3. The West Coast Swing isn’t preceded by Atlanta – Atlanta has proven to be an unpredictable track, and until it is repaved, or NASCAR gets a new Aero Package, it is better to be later in the schedule, as opposed to directly after the Daytona 500. Now we get the late start times out of the way early, and drivers can settle into the new season quicker. Win-win.
1. The Finale at ISM – NASCAR has taken the annual race at Homestead and put it where it belongs, in the middle of the schedule surrounded by superior venues. While this is good, replacing it with ISM in Arizona is not a good move. ISM was recently upgraded for fan experience, and even had the start/finish line moved to produce better finishes. This still wont help. A West Coast finale for a sport whose largest concentration of fans is in the south wont work for anyone. Well, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will love it, but the rest of us will deal with a late start time and mediocre at best racing.
2. A Mother’s Day race at Martinsville – You know how hard its going to be to watch Martinsville, one of the most exciting tracks on the schedule, at Longhorn Steakhouse with you mother? NASCAR should’ve done us all a favor and put a Kansas or Kentucky in this slot.
The Pocono Double Header – This one is my only “ugly” rating for the new schedule. NASCAR will run a 400-mile Pocono race on Saturday, and then another 400-mile Pocono race on the following Sunday. This is strange to say at least. It will give us 2 weeks off to watch the Olympics, but that’s the only upside to this abomination. Imagine watching an SEC football game, and then turning on NFL football Sunday and seeing that exact same game on again. Sure, for the locals it’ll be great, but for the rest of us, it will be the not funny part of Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day”. Come on NASCAR, please be more creative in 2021.