|DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA
|FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER
|WINNERS NOT ADDING UP
|THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL
|NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD
|WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER
NEW CUP SCHEDULE IS A WINNER
When I first got a look at the new 2020 Monster Energy Cup Series schedule, the first word that came to my mind was "wow". Having been around this sport since the early
They certainly spiced things up, creating a dynamic new schedule that promises to be another transformational step in bringing our sport back to prominence. We have a set of new tracks for the Playoff and, in Phoenix, a new championship weekend destination. Not to mention weekend
Fans can take satisfaction NASCAR listened to them and is delivering on their promise to give the folks in the grandstands what they've asked for. They also provided what their TV networks, Fox and NBC, and radio partners, PRN and MRN, needed to create more excitement and grow their audiences. There are more than a few track presidents with big smiles too.
"I think just in terms of the
So, where do I start? I guess at the beginning.
As always, we start with the Daytona 500, but instead of going to Atlanta in week two, we immediately jump into the three-race west coast swing of Las Vegas, Fontana
Homestead-Miami Speedway goes from the season-finale to number six in the batting order on March 22nd. No question they were the big loser with this new schedule. While it was a fantastic track to crown champions, the Miami market never really embraced NASCAR. It always felt a little strange ending the year where they just didn't care.
Races seven to 11 fall in line at Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, and Dover. That leads up to Mother's Day weekend and instead of being in Kansas, we'll race under the lights on a Saturday night at Martinsville Speedway. That's a big move for the oldest track on the circuit. We just raced there last weekend and we had great weather this time around, but a year ago snow brought us back on a Monday, a danger we won't ever face in May.
That's followed by two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600. Kansas will fall in with the season's 15th race on May 31st trailed by Michigan, Sonoma, and Chicagoland. Pocono pops up next. Instead of running the "Tricky Triangle" twice less than two months apart, Pocono will run two Cup races on the same weekend June 27th and 28th. Putting the Xfinity and Gander Outdoor Truck Series in town at the same time will give fans all the racing they can handle over a three-day period.
That leads to the July 4th weekend where Daytona has been the destination since 1959. Indianapolis will now take over that slot. It will be hotter than blue blazes that time of year in Indiana, but it's been hotter than Hades in August too so that's a wash.
Next, we'll do our usual back to back at Kentucky and New Hampshire. Then, what's been unheard of in our sport, a two-week summer vacation while NBC is occupied with the Summer Olympics. NASCAR took this step so races wouldn't have been pushed over temporarily to another cable channel, which would have caused confusion and a lot of fans would have certainly griped about it. This something I hope will be a keeper in years to come because it will be a much-needed break for the sport and a breather that could build more enthusiasm for the end of the regular season and the beginning of the Playoff.
That break will last from July 19th to the August 9th date at Michigan, which is followed by Watkins Glen, and Dover. The 26th and final race of the regular season
Then, it's time for the Playoff where fans have hollered for new tracks, preferably more short tracks, and NASCAR delivered again.
A week after Daytona, on Labor Day weekend, the Playoffs will kick off at Darlington for the first time and what a place to do that. Throw in some throwback paint schemes and its winner-winner chicken dinner for the Bojangles Southern 500. To make round one even tastier we wrap up with two short track races at Richmond and Bristol. Just picture the Saturday night shootout at Bristol as a cut off
Round two of the Playoff has another set of totally different tracks in Las Vegas, Talladega and the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Given the unpredictability of Talladega, we could see another rowdy road race decide which eight drivers are left standing.
As to how we decide the "Championship Four", we'll do that at Kansas, Texas, and Martinsville. If you thought the last two years the fall race at Martinsville dripped with drama and hard feelings you ain't seen nothing yet. Let's take it from the second to last race to the next to last. Let's make it a driver's final chance to make it to the championship round. Let's just pour gasoline on the ground and drop a match. The fans might burn the grandstands down after this one.
It all wraps up a week later on November 8th on Phoenix's ISM Raceway. As I said earlier, I'm glad the championship weekend is no longer hosted by Homestead-Miami, and NASCAR absolutely needed to make a change. I'm not going to lie though I have some reservations ending the year at Phoenix,
Whew…there you have it, so many changes my brain's beeping an information overload warning. Yet, as I turn it off, I just keep mulling over how this is such a huge gamble for NASCAR to take. I'd like to think the payoff will be gigantic as well as we try to turn this Titanic around.