CRANDALL: Is NASCAR in a schedule rut?

Charlotte is dropping its second oval race in favor of its roval. Image by Kinrade/LAT

CRANDALL: Is NASCAR in a schedule rut?

Insights & Analysis

CRANDALL: Is NASCAR in a schedule rut?

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Five years. Approximately 1,825 days.

In that time span United States Presidents can be elected or re-elected. Children are born, learn to walk and talk and start schooling.

Five years in the NASCAR world does not carry the same weight.

When you hear five years and NASCAR in the same breath, you think of the current track agreements. This year is the third of a five-year deal the sanctioning body signed with its tracks that was announced back in late 2015.

For the uninitiated: between 2016 and 2020, the tracks on each of the NASCAR national series schedules are not going to change. The schedule itself might be shifted around, and the tracks can swap or lose dates, but there will be nothing fresh added.

Around and around we go. Only now, the cries to be let off this merry-go-round are getting louder. The time for change has come, and it’s not just fans who are looking for it to happen. In addition to continuous daydreaming on social media, multiple drivers in New Hampshire over the weekend offered their ideas of how to spice things up.

Martin Truex Jr. isn’t opposed to trying dirt racing. He also fond of finding more short tracks. Denny Hamlin brought up going to new venues; something he felt helped NASCAR’s popularity in the 2000s. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also spoke of road course circuits in Canada.

An ideal schedule for Joey Logano would mean going to a racetrack just once. Short tracks are also fun, he said. If dirt is what people want, Logano is all for that, too. Tony Stewart also flat-out said last week that fans should be pressuring NASCAR for additional dirt races.

As the end of the five-year agreement approaches, NASCAR and its tracks need to take a hard look at the schedule and what can be done to make it better. Where else can the sport, realistically, be going that will produce exiting racing and satisfying attendance? Should we be looking at tracks with two dates and asking whether just one is a better option?

Charlotte Motor Speedway is dropping one of its oval races to use the road course. Fontana lost a date back in 2011, which one could argue helped raise its stake on the schedule because now the race has become must-see, with crazy 200 mph and more going into a corner, and four and five-wide action.

I’m willing to bet that if the racing we saw at New Hampshire with multiple grooves and plenty of passing continues, that track will also benefit. These slight modifications are not enough, though. The NASCAR merry-go-round of the current schedule needs to be stopped and sent in a new direction.

“None of this is ever going to happen,” Hamlin reminded us. “Not until these tracks and NASCAR get together and are willing to make changes. No track is going to give up tens of millions of dollars every time the race cars show up at the racetrack, so it’s going to have to take a bold change.

“It’s going to have to take someone way high up saying, ‘We’re making changes and this is what we’re going to do,’ for it to happen, but it definitely won’t happen in the next few years until that contract’s over with.”

Until then, we need to keep talking about it, looking for new ideas and showing how serious we are for something new. Tick, tock.

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