No. 927
December 13, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

@PeterMDeLorenzo

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established Autoextremist.com on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

Follow Autoextremist

 

Fumes


Monday
Sep182017

REMAKING THE NASCAR SCHEDULE IN AN ERA OF REDUCED EXPECTATIONS.

Editor-in-Chief's Note: As expected, the NASCAR homers came out of the woodwork with pitchforks raised over my column last week. For me to have the temerity to suggest - yet again - that NASCAR is in deep trouble and that its downward spiral will continue unless massive, substantive changes are made was too much for the NASCAR apologists to bear, apparently. So the epithets and derogatory vitriol were hurled, and I solidified my place as the most hated man in NASCARLand, and the stock car racing organization's most consistent and vehement critic (a status I cherish by the way). There must be some measure of comfort in blind loyalty to a series that is displaying signs of desperation and decline, because there's no other rational explanation for it. For those too close to NASCAR and for those wishing that NASCAR could go back to the "old days," this just in - it is not going to happen. The world is dramatically different lest people need to be reminded, and for NASCAR to stumble along pretending things will just work out is a dimension of delusional thinking that is simply incomprehensible. All I hear from the powers that be in Daytona Beach are excuses as to why they can't change anything and that besides, "it's all good." Meanwhile, the entire circus is crumbling around them. At some point, the TV networks, who are notorious content whores, will wake up one day and decide that spending money on NASCAR is throwing good money after sad, and then the whole enterprise will implode in a flurry of even more excuses. So, we're leaving the aforementioned column from last week up for another week, in case some people out there didn't see it. And, for the record, even a 29-race schedule is too much. I would eventually like to see a schedule that is no more than 25 races, making sure that the NASCAR season ends on the last weekend of October. And I would cut the race distance to 300 miles on ovals, except for the "premier" events. There's more, but I will save that for another column. -PMD

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. With big-name sponsors abandoning the sport left and right, leaving even the biggest teams scrambling for financial support, and with TV ratings and in-person attendance continuing their inexorable slide (Friday night's Xfinity race in Richmond was beyond embarrassing), it's clear that NASCAR is entering a new phase, one marked by reduced expectations as the sport continues its downward spiral. As NASCAR contracts it's causing a lot of hand-wringing. And make no mistake, despite the glowing platitudes being thrown around in public by NASCAR to the motorsports media covering the sport, the consternation inside two of the participating manufacturers questioning the "why?" of it all is growing. As in, "if the reduced popularity of NASCAR continues, how much longer should we be in it? Or, at the very least, we need to look at reducing our footprint in the sport and exploring other motorsports avenues." Now, some will find it hard to believe that sentiment exists in Detroit, but don't kid yourselves, it's real and it's growing louder by the month.

So, what to do? It's clear that waiting for NASCAR to make meaningful, substantive changes is a fool's errand. As I've stated, oh, at least a thousand times before, the NASCAR brain trust can't even deal with the low-hanging fruit like adopting center locking hubs, which would eliminate the lugnut drill (something the rest of racing adopted 20 years ago); going to dry break refueling and on-board jacking (to make the pit lane safer); eliminating the double visits to the same tracks within weeks of each other, and so on. 

And now that the vaunted "playoffs" are about to begin, NASCAR wants us to ignore all of the aforementioned unpleasantness I've dredged up and instead have us believe that everything is all rosy and wonderful, as we see empty grandstands appear on TV screens on a weekly basis and sponsors drop like flies. Oh well, given all of that, it's a perfect time to revisit NASCAR's 2018 schedule, which the powers that be in Daytona Beach insist is truly breakthrough. I beg to differ, of course, so I am reimagining the 2018 NASCAR schedule for 2019 reflective of the downward spiral, which means fewer races, more road races (the most popular with fans), and reducing double visits to tracks whenever possible. My comments appear in bold where appropriate, and caution: this proposed schedule constitutes a radical rethink.

Feb. 11: Daytona International Speedway (Clash/Daytona 500 Qualifying)
Feb. 15: Daytona International Speedway (Duel)
Feb. 18: Daytona 500 (The Daytona cadence stays the same, even though I think the "Duels" have outlived their usefulness and the Clash is flat-out lame.)
Feb. 25: Atlanta Motor Speedway
March 4: Phoenix Raceway (The Las Vegas Motor Speedway spring race is dropped, moves to one race in the fall.)
March 11: Break
March 18: Break (Auto Club Speedway is dropped)
March 25: Texas Motor Speedway
April 8: Martinsville Speedway (Texas and Martinsville switch dates.)
April 15: Bristol Motor Speedway
April 21: Richmond International Raceway
April 29: Road Atlanta (Talladega Superspeedway spring race dropped in favor of this road race.)
May 6: Dover International Speedway (Only one visit to Dover.)
May 12: Break (The Kansas Speedway spring race is dropped and Kansas is cut to one race in the fall.)
May 19: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Monster Energy All-Star Race)
May 27 : Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 3: Pocono Raceway
June 10: Michigan International Speedway
June 24: Sonoma Raceway
July 1: Chicagoland Speedway
July 7: Daytona International Speedway
July 14: Kentucky Speedway
July 22: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 29 Watkins Glen International (2nd visit to Pocono Raceway dropped.)
Aug. 5: Break
Aug. 12: Bristol Motor Speedway night race (2nd visit to Michigan International Speedway dropped)
Aug. 18: Break
Sept. 2: Darlington Raceway (First race of the NASCAR "playoffs.")
Sept. 9: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (On the IMS road course, instead of the oval.)
Sept. 16: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sept. 22: Richmond International Raceway
Sept. 30: Road America ("America's National Park of Speed" finally gets on the NASCAR calendar.)
Oct. 7: Charlotte Motor Speedway on the roval (2nd visit to Dover International Speedway dropped.)
Oct. 14: Talladega Superspeedway (Using the infield road course and part of the oval.)
Oct. 21: Kansas Speedway
Oct. 28: Martinsville Speedway
Nov. 4: Texas Motor Speedway (The Cup finale would now be in Texas.)
Nov. 11: Phoenix Raceway (2nd visit to Phoenix is dropped.)
Nov. 18: Homestead-Miami Speedway (Dropped from the schedule.)

The highlights? First of all there would now be 29 races with one two-week break and three one-week breaks built into the proposed schedule. The second visits to Pocono, Michigan, Las Vegas, Dover, Kansas, Talladega and Phoenix would be eliminated from the schedule. Four road course races would be added at Road Atlanta, Indianapolis, Road America and Talladega (which means no more restrictor-plate carnage at Talladega, unless of course NASCAR comes up with a better way to race there). The visits to Auto Club Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway would be dropped from the schedule completely. The Bristol Night Race would be the last race of the regular season and the "playoffs" would begin at Darlington. And the last race of the season would be at Texas, with the season ending a full two two weeks earlier from what's scheduled for 2018.

This schedule is designed to take a swing at reducing the oversaturation that's plaguing NASCAR right now. Familiarity breeds contempt, and NASCAR has been operating like it's still at the height of its popularity, which was 2007, for those out there who remember. Too many races and too many repeat visits to the same tracks play a big role in exacerbating the boredom factor with NASCAR, something that the powers that be in Daytona Beach steadfastly refuse to believe or admit. This proposed schedule is also designed to substantially reduce wear and tear on the equipment and more important, to dramatically reduce the wear and tear on the teams, crews, drivers and their families. This streamlined schedule would also make it easier to court sponsors with a more sattractive package of races.

Whenever I reimagine the NASCAR schedule, the hue and cry is overwhelmingly negative, but so be it. Change is anathema to NASCAR and if this kind of radical change sends people into apoplectic fits, that's okay too. NASCAR needs to get real, and this schedule is all about the reality of the downward spiral. 

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.

 

 

Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases here and here. And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia here. -WG

 

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Darlington, South Carolina, September, 1965. Ned Jarrett (No. 11 Bondy Long Richmond Motor Sales Ford) before the Southern 500. Jarrett would win that race, followed by Buck Baker (No. 86 Buck Baker Plymouth) and Darel Dieringer (No. 16 Bud Moore Engineering Mercury). Jarrett won 50 races and 35 poles in NASCAR. He also won the NASCAR Grand National Championship in 1961 and 1965 and was a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee in 2011.