A No-France NASCAR? A No-NASCAR Racing Circuit?
What Does the Future Hold for Us Fans?
I’m gazing at the clouds and seeing the shape of stock car racing’s future in their shapes. But the shapes keep changing (clouds do that).
That big cloud over there looks like NASCAR being sold by the France family to International Speedway Corporation (the France family running a public corporation instead of a private one), or maybe… no, I think it’s NASCAR being bought by Speedway Motorsports… no, it’s an association of car owners with that Kauffman guy leading the way.
Whichever it is, that cloud seems to be coming apart quickly. I guess people with a vested interest in one part of the whole sometimes have trouble running the whole successfully. At least that’s the way the clouds look to me.
Whatever happens, I just hope the sport doesn’t end up looking like this.
But look at that over there; an even bigger cloud that seems to be overtaking the big cloud I see as NASCAR, but then they split off in different ways and end up even smaller than when they started. Now I see… that’s the one where some outside investors buy NASCAR and decide this unruly mess of teams and owners, tracks and owners, corporate interests, drivers and – oh, yes – FANS can be run successfully the way you run a bank, insurance company or dollar store. That doesn’t turn out well, either, which is why the clouds end up so much smaller.
These clouds kind of illustrate how racing is hard to “do” right if you don’t understand its dynamics the way only someone does who’s been a part of it for a long time. No offense to those people who came into the sport from the NBA or other sports backgrounds, but their arrival did seem to correspond to NASCAR’s ascent becoming its descent.
I guess everybody has an idea about how to put posteriors back in all those empty seats. Unfortunately, nobody’s had the RIGHT IDEA, yet.
Hey, over there toward the horizon, do you see where all those clouds of various shapes are all starting to mix together? It looks like that might become a single, big cloud… at least for a while.
Let me read this scenario into that cloud formation: NASCAR basically self-destructs, because its new owners don’t know squat about making all the parts work together. International Speedway Corporation is sold off in pieces to “increase shareholder value” after one race too many in front of nearly empty stands. Speedway Motorsports hangs on by a thread and starts trying to make deals with enough car owners to develop a new circuit, but the former ISC tracks and the other “independents” (Indy, Pocono, Dover) scramble to set up schedules using various sanctioning bodies (including what’s left of NASCAR), holding a larger number of events each year because none has the economic impact of a Cup race in its prime.
Friends, clouds to blue sky; that just might be where we’re headed.
With that scenario in mind, here’s my possible 2021 schedule for Richmond:
Saturday, March 20 – Late Model Spring Festival – Races for local weekly classes, part of a seasonal series that also includes Martinsville and maybe Bristol and/or Nashville and/or a new paved short track at Charlotte.
Saturday, May 8 – Major Cup-style race co-sanctioned by PASS, CARS, ACT and maybe SSS and/or IMCA. Looks like a Cup weekend but with lots more entries and lower expenses all around.
There will still be races for stock-ish cars, but who’ll run the shows remains to be determined.
Saturday, June 26 – Open-Wheel Doubleheader featuring Modifieds from the STSS (Brett Deyo expanded into pavement mods when NASCAR began to implode) and the USAC Silver Crown cars (or maybe super-modifieds or a new low-buck series for Indy-type cars).
Wednesday, July 20 – Local Late Models race as part of a mid-summer mid-week series involving the same tracks as the Spring Festival.
Saturday, August 14 – Either a doubleheader featuring a new sanctioning body’s pickup truck series and a bobtail big-rig race or a “CrashFest” with Junk Car Demo Race, Monster Trucks, Figure-8s and a Thrill Show.
Why not? Tech is probably easier, because I’ll bet they don’t use templates or laser measurements on these babies.
Saturday, September 11 – The downsized NASCAR Cup Series makes its annual appearance at RIR (OOPS – forgot that it’s just “RR” now, although the new owners might change that), perhaps with a support class.
Saturday, October 9 – Local Late Model Fall Festival with same format (and same participating tracks) as in the spring.
Still to be Scheduled: Electric car races and drones. Construction of the road course will result in additions to the schedule for 2022.
Of course, if all of that was going to work exactly like I envision it, I’d be Humpy Wheeler’s junior (by a few years) partner and would be counting the money instead of counting the hours before I start prepping for a colonoscopy. But even Humpy bombed on occasion, and the beauty of the above schedule is that it has enough events that one or two can fail and be replaced without sending the whole enterprise down the tubes.
And as we move forward, different sanctioning bodies, tracks and individuals will come up with better ideas that eventually will become the norm for the sport – at least until the next even better idea pushes them aside. That’s the way it can work.
You find the best path to success by being willing to try anything.
It used to be that way, in fact. Look back into the records, and you’ll see several tracks (like Bristol, for example) that ran major ARCA races but dropped them because NASCAR did better. Pocono had a 500-miler for USAC stocks; Daytona ran an Indy-car race (as did several others), and as we saw in a recent photo I used, Martinsville ran an event for sports cars on an oval.
Ideas come and ideas go, and the best ones stick around. We can start that process over and come out with a better incarnation of racing than what we have now. This I believe.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
As noted above, tracks used to run events other than Cup weekends before the latter became a temporarily great way to put all your eggs in one basket. I’ve seen Silver Crowns, Modifieds, Late Models and other attractions at Richmond between Cup weekends; in fact, Paul Sawyer ran mid-week races a couple of times a year back when all he had there was the old fairgrounds dirt track.
This year Richmond will try again with late model racing in October, and I plan to be there. I dearly hope Bristol’s short track championship events work this weekend, too.
Somehow, we all managed to convince ourselves that all we needed, motorsports-wise, was NASCAR Cup racing. How wrong we were. NASCAR’s current weakness may well give us a chance to recapture the variety of this sport, which just may be what we and it need today.