NASCAR should add road course to Chase when opportunity arises
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ran its first road course of the year Sunday with the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, and if you ask me, it was, perhaps, one of the best races of the season, so far, 16 races into the 2016 Sprint Cup season.
Sure the race had a feel-good ending with Tony Stewart claiming his first win in three years, in his final season, and taking the first step of Chase for the Sprint Cup eligibility while simultaneously getting oh-so-close to his other task of getting into the top-30 of the championship points standings. Stewart’ win aside, Sunday’s race was a good one, at least in my opinion.
Anyway, anytime the Sprint Cup circuit makes one of its two yearly stops at a road course, one of the popular topics up for debate always seems to be whether or not there should be a road course in the Chase. To that question, my answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
A few years ago, my answer would have been quite different. You see, I used to be one of those NASCAR fans not so enamored by NASCAR road-course racing. Maybe that had something to do with many of the competitors, themselves, seemingly feeling the same way. For several drivers back in the day, the road course stops just seemed like something to get through on the way to next week’s race. And, as a result, the racing just wasn’t all that good. Back then, NASCAR stock, or at least the drivers of them, pretty much just looked like fishes out of water trying to turn right and left.
That’s all changed, though. The NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers’ fraternity, as a whole, seems to take this road course racing things more seriously. Whether or not the Chase “win and your in” format has something to do with it, I don’t know; that’s something that could definitely be up for debate. Nonetheless, NASCAR road racing has vastly improved the last few years, and I’m sure happy to see it.
With drivers and race teams taking road course racing more seriously, and therefore, improving the quality of it, I think there should be a road course race in the Chase. After all, shouldn’t the 10-race Chase reflect the regular season? As in, shouldn’t the Chase be like a condensed version of the regular season as far as scheduling goes? I think so. And that would include a road course race.
I get that changing the current schedule is complicated. After all, what race track wants to give up one of its dates? I’m guessing not a single one of them. Then, there’s also weather trends to consider. We are talking the fall of the year, here, when it comes to the Chase. Weather that time of the year often isn’t conducive to racing in several parts of the country.
“We would be for it, but the reality is, it is very hard to get the schedule to match up,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian Fance said Sunday on “Race Day” on FOX Sports 1 prior to Sunday’s Sonoma race.
I’m guessing a move of Watkins Glen in New York to the Chase wouldn’t be such a great idea. After all, we’re talking about Upstate New York late in the year. Doesn’t sound like a ver good idea, now, does it? The Sonoma could always be moved, I guess. But, then again, that would leave only one road-course race in the 26-race regular season.
I don’t see a race date being added. Teams already run 36 points-paying races a year. Add in the exhibition races like the Unlimited and the All-Star Race, and the docket’s pretty full. I don’t see a date being added to the schedule, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to see that. So, if a third road course is added to put one in the Chase, somebody would have to lose a race, either by their choice or NASCAR’s. I don’t see that happening any time soon, either, given the multi-year deals NASCAR has with the tracks. I’m unsure whether those deals guarantee two races for tracks that already have two dates. Nonetheless, I just don’t see it. Besides, what’s to say that a road course not currently hosting the Sprint Cup Series even wants a Sprint Cup date?
But whenever the opportunity does present itself to add a road course to the Chase, specifically on a road course with a layout that would lend itself to quality stock car racing, I definitely think NASCAR should jump on the opportunity. At least I hope the sanctioning body does.
And to think, just a few years ago, I would have been in favor of completely eliminating road courses from the schedule. I guess I’m a girl reserving my right to change my mind.