This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action after a weekend off, heading west to Sonoma, Calif., for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. It’s the first of two road courses on the yearly Sprint Cup schedule.
With NASCAR’s Cup circuit embarking on its first road course race of the season, the other coming Aug. 9 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, the debate has been resparked on whether or not there should be a road course in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship post-season.
In that debate, I fall on the side of, “Yes, there should be a road course race in the Chase.”
The 26 regular-season races to matter; heck, they determine who gets into the Chase, but those 10 Chases are weighted more heavily, as they should be. As a championship-determining post-season, I think those 10 races should be reflective of the schedule as a whole. What I’m saying here is that there should be at least one of every format of race track that appears in the regular season in the Chase. Hence, there should be a road course in the Chase. Besides, should the series champion be the best performer over the course (pardon the pun, “course as in road course”) of the season, across all types of tracks.
I admit I probably wouldn’t have felt the same way years ago, had the Chase championship format been around back in the day. When I started following the sport in the late 1990s, I wasn’t a fan of road courses. Of course, a lot of teams and drivers didn’t seem to put a lot of stock in them back then, either. I venture to say that at least a few teams seemed to view road courses as a couple of undesirable chores each season that they were okay with merely surviving until returning to regular racing the next weekend. I guess I just adopted that mindset, modified for fans.
Competitors have come around, though, and so have I. I’m not saying that road courses are my absolute favorite races on the schedule, but I don’t hate them, either. Love them or hate them, though, can’t we at least agree that the 10 Chase races be a mini version of the 26-race regular season, which my friends, includes a couple of road course races.
I’m not saying that one of the two road courses should be moved to the Chase. I think a third road course race should be added. Whether a second Sonoma or second race at the Glen be added, I don’t know. Maybe a third road course track could be added to the schedule. Road America or Virginia International Raceway, maybe?
Of course, adding a road course brings another question to be answered. What race track should lose a race? I’m not sure of the answer to that question. I’d lean toward a mile-and-a-half, though. Maybe mile-and-a-halves are over-represented. Martinsville (Va.) Speedway is the only short track with a Chase race, while Talladega (Ala.) is the lone superspeedway/restrictor plate track on the schedule, so they need to stay. I think the best solution would be taking a race from a two-race mile-and-a-half track.
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