Midweek NASCAR Cup racing bad idea
Every so often, the topic of a midweek NASCAR premier series race presents itself for debate. The subject has popped up again, thanks to a recent article from Sports Business Journal, citing a comment made by an NBC exec.
“We’re having conversations with them (NASCAR) about possible midweek races,” NBC Sport’s Jon Miller said. “We like the idea of road racing and think it’s pretty exciting, so we’re working with them on those fronts. That’s what’s great about dealing with NASCAR. We can sit in a room, throw out some ideas and have them take them back and consider that inside their walls.”
For fans of the idea, don’t hold your breath, folks. I’m not counting on this one. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France sure doesn’t seem enthused by the idea, or at least he didn’t Monday when he spoke with Dave Moody of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. And Monday wasn’t the first time France has discussed the idea.
“Don’t see that (midweek racing),” France told FOX Sports 1 back in June.
Love him or hate him, fans seem to have strong opinions of France and some of the decisions he’s made since taking over the helm of NASCAR. When it comes to NASCAR fandom, the most vocal opinion is that of loathing. I don’t agree with everything France says or does, but I think he’s right on this one.
For the record, I think a midweek Sprint Cup race is a bad idea, for several reasons.
I get why Miller feels the way he does. He’s a TV guy. And for TV, the idea of midweek racing is probably a good one. But, for NASCAR as a whole, I see the idea of a midweek, stand-alone, points-paying Cup race as a disaster in the making. Granted, it worked years ago on antiquated tracks that profited from a few thousand fans in the grandstands. But we’re talking today, here.
What about the tracks? They make the bulk of their money from race attendance. Sure they get some money from the TV deal, but most of their money comes from ticket sales, concessions, etc. You think attendance is bad now, just wait until we try to have a midweek race — a one-day show.
Sure, midweek games/events work in other sports, but this is one of those cases in which to comparison doesn’t work. The bulk of attendance for other professional sports events are locals are at least near-locals. I don’t know of many people going on a five-plus-hour-road-trip to the Wednesday or Thursday night NBA game. Who wants to drive five or six hours to see a two or three hour ballgame, and then, turn right around and drive back home?
NASCAR, at least today’s NASCAR, is a weekend affair. Folks travel from near and far and made a weekend of it. They make hotel reservations or camp at the track and often take in two, sometimes three, races.
But the midweek race idea being debated is one of a midweek stand-alone race for the Cup Series — a one-day show.
Then, there are the teams to consider. What about the race a few days prior or a few days after this proposed midweek race? Fans may not attend consecutive races, but, of course, these race teams do. Are the weekend before and the weekend after this hypothetical midweek race going to be off weekends?
In response to that argument, proponents of the midweek race idea propose running the midweek race between two races in the same geographical area. I’m not big on that idea. That’s the one issue I have with the current West Coast Swing, but at least the races are spread out, with a week between each. Even with races spread out by a week apiece, getting cars and equipment from one race to the next during that three-race swing on the left coast seems to be somewhat of a struggle for several teams.
Okay, so put these close races near Charlotte, close to the race teams’ shops. The problem I have with that — the tracks would be poaching the same fanbase in a short period of time. The East Coast tracks proposed for a clump of races including a midweek one are closer together, geographically, than the tracks on the West Coast Swing. Sure, they may already be fishing the same fanbase, already, to some extent, but at least the races are spread out more to give fans time to save up between races. Many fans couldn’t afford to attend two Sprint Cup races just a handful of days a part. I see a lot of fans picking one track or the other and, as a result, both tracks would suffer.
The best idea I’ve heard came from a fan who called in during SirusXM Speedway on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday afternoon. Said fan, and I don’t remember his name or location, suggested running a short-track Cup race at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis the Wednesday leading into the Brickyard 400 at the big track across down.
That would require a rescheduling of the Eldora Speedway NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, but that aside, I’m not sure that’s a great idea, either.
While the idea was the best I’ve heard, I’m still not onboard with it.
Attendance is already much lower than desired for the Brickyard. Let’s face it, the NASCAR racing is crappy there, but that’s beside the point. If fans have the optiion of seeing the Cup guys at ORP four days earlier, a lot of them are probably going to say, “screw the Brickyard.” Think attendance is bad at the Brickyard now? Try running the same drivers/cars a few days earlier and watch that Brickyard 400 attendance bottom out.
NASCAR may have its problems; attendance may be down and so is TV viewership. But I sure don’t think a midweek race is the answer.