Newman’s Thoughts

Ryan Newman on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  [John Wiedemann Photo]

Too busy to go off to a NASCAR race and spend the whole weekend traveling and staying overnight? Too much down time as the action gets stretched out over three days?  What if the race rains out on Sunday and you’ve got to be back to work Monday morning?

Ryan Newman heads to his car to qualify at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  [Father Dale Gruba photo]

Ryan Newman heads to his car to qualify at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. [Father Dale Gruba photo]

At a press conference held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Brickyard race week, Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman gave his ideas on what NASCAR could do to change some scheduling issues and make the calendar more user friendly for fans and race teams.

Ryan Newman: “If I was NASCAR, how would I change the schedule?  My answer to that would be not giving any—not being partial to any ISC or SMI tracks. I’d turn some of those tracks into Wednesday night races, and the other ones would be Saturday night or sometimes Sunday afternoon when it made sense. I’d give us a little bit more off weekends.

“We can still run 36 or 38 races, but we need to be at the racetrack, especially for the Daytona and Talladega for three, sometimes four days with the inspection process. So I think just realigning it and giving us the opportunity to be on TV and be our own special event on Wednesday night, especially in football season, would be good for our sport.”

This sort of tweaking of the schedule and thinking outside the box has been going on ever since NASCR founder Big Bill France was visionary enough in NASCAR’s early days to race on dirt tracks, road courses, paved ovals and high-banked superspeedways-sometimes on weekdays and, at times, both daytime and night.

Television schedules and sponsor requirements weren’t the driving force then that they have become today. Promoters often scheduled races around holidays, local events and the availability of race tracks. In 1967, Richard Petty won 27 of 48 races and NASCAR’s schedule often included a tour of the northeast or the west coast, with races four nights a week. At times they had events running in two areas of the country on the same date.

Eldora Speedway, and it’s guardian for future generations of race fans, owner/operator Tony Stewart, has stepped outside of the box recently with two wildly successful NASCAR Camping World Truck Series promotions on its half-mile dirt track.

In the minds of some, if the trucks did well there, wouldn’t Nationwide or Sprint Cup races do even better? Would they? Could Sprint Cup even fit the teams’ 40+ haulers and drivers’ coaches onto the property? Is the race a novelty or is Wednesday Night at Eldora the new Monday Night Football?

NEWMAN: “Wednesday night shows and how would I foresee doing that? I think it all depends on what the day is like. If you go to a place like Pocono and it rains three-quarters of that day, it changes everything and you have obviously Thursday to work with. Situations like that, you’d have crew guys come in on Tuesday evening, Tuesday afternoon, tech the cars and whatever window it is, let the guys go back and have a decent dinner with their team, and then come and start practice the next morning, qualify and race. You’ve got people in the grandstands for an entire day of activities and they can sell hot dogs and all the other things that way. I’m no businessman, but I know from our scheduling standpoint that there’s a lot of credibility to have some weekday races, especially when you consider who we’re up against in the football season.”

So, what about jobs, school, distances to travel mid-week? TV in prime time? Race fans traveling a long way to see a race? It’s not a home team crowd as are football and baseball. Who would come? Who could come? Would fans come in the middle of a week?

Would dirt tracks for a Cup race be possible? Should it be an exhibition race or count toward the championship?

There are many good ideas, but even more questions. We may need to know those answers sooner rather than later.


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