The Times, They Are A Changin'

Next year, NASCAR's television broadcasts will get a minor facelift. Instead of the season being split evenly between FOX and NBC/TNT, there will be the addition of ABC and ESPN to the mix.

So, while the broadcast schedule is being revamped, why not revamp a few other areas of the sport? Seems like a good time to do it.

Track Schedule
Every once in a while, NASCAR moves a race to a new track, or makes small adjustments to the schedule. Maybe they should think about some bigger changes.

The 10-race Chase could be set up to include a wider variety of tracks. Yes, getting to the chase is important, but once a driver makes it to the "playoff" portion of the schedule, shouldn't they have to show that they can be consistent and race well on all track types?

Under the current schedule, there's one short track, and one Super Speedway, but the other eight races are on similar length, mid-sized 1 to 1.5 mile tracks. How about moving one of the road courses to the Chase? How about another short track? How about another Super Speedway, or one of the many 2 mile tracks, or another night race? There are all kinds of tracks that would add a little variety to the Chase, and make a driver be more flexible and show his ability to run well at different tracks in order to win the championship.

NASCAR could also think about spreading out the night races. There are only a few during the season, but at one point, there are three in a row, at Richmond, Darlington, and the All-Star race at Lowe's. Why not schedule them further apart?

Off Week Schedule
Besides moving races around, maybe NASCAR should consider moving a couple of the off-weeks. After all, the first off week comes after only 2 races. Do the drivers and crew really need a week off that early? They've been spending the entire off-season, as short as it is, getting ready and psyched up to race. Then after only two races, they have an idle week. Why?

It's certainly not because they need time to get to the next race. After all, it only takes a few hours to get from California to Las Vegas. Yes, I know, they don't go directly from one track to the next. There are practice sessions, shop work, promotional appearances, and some time spent at home. But you get the point.

Now, one of the idle week's is set up to coincide with Easter, but others seem to be at random times. Here's the current schedule:

There are 2 races, and then a week off. After another 5 races, there is a week off for Easter. This is followed by 4 races, and then the ALL STAR Race, which is a week off for SOME drivers, but not all of them, obviously. Then there are 9 races before a seemingly random week off the last weekend in July, and then an ungodly long stretch of 16 straight races. Those 16 straight races are great for fans, but it's got to be exhausting for the teams. And of course, the Chase is included in those 16 races.

How about moving one of those random off weeks to the week before the Chase starts? Set the playoff races apart by an idle week for everyone to recharge before the final run toward the championship.

Of course there would be some things to work out, but an opening proposal could look something like this:

Start the season on the same date as it currently starts. Run EIGHT races without a break. That would give the teams a week off for Easter, as they do currently. That leaves 18 races before the Chase begins, so they could run a third of those, 6 races, and then the All-Star race. That would put it the week AFTER the Coca-Cola 600 instead of the week before. Next, run 6 more races, give the teams an off week, and run six more. The last off week would come right before the Chase starts.

I'm sure there are some problems with that schedule too, but it would at least make a little more sensible spacing of the idle weeks.

Points System
People have been talking quite a bit about revamping the points system. Some have suggested additional points for winning the race. Some, including me, have suggested bonus points for winning the pole. (I'm sure Ryan Newman would be in favor of that one!) People have come up with all kinds of ways to revamp the points system. Here's another one.

Instead of having every race worth the same number of points, change the number of points available to coincide with the number of miles run.

There are some obvious reasons why it's harder to win a longer race. Engine attrition. Driver stamina. More pit stops for the crew. More luck in staying out of a wreck. And so on and so on. So, if winning a longer race takes more effort, shouldn't it be worth more points?

If NASCAR adapted a more-points-for-more-miles system, it would make the short tracks less "important", which is not necessarily the object, but it would happen. Teams would definitely focus on practice and set-ups for the longer races. The Coca-Cola 600 would become the most important race of the year, and the road course races would become the least. But is that bad?

Maybe it would be a bad thing to consider one race more "important" than another, but face it, some races are more difficult to win, and the winners should be rewarded accordingly.

So, will NASCAR make any of these changes? Probably not. But they're certainly food for thought. Should they make these changes? All I know is that they need to keep up with the times. And as Dylan said, the times, they are a-changin.

Published on April 25, 2006 in