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Saturday, August 21, 2010

2011 NASCAR Schedule: Reactions

With the release of the 2011 NASCAR Schedule on Wednesday August 18th there has been much discussion over if the new schedule is better or worse than the last ten years has been. I think it depends on whose point of view one is looking from on whether the 2011 schedule is an improvement over 2010 or just something new.

Two weeks before the official release of the schedule NASCAR dropped the major changes on the fans in bits and pieces. Atlanta lost the spring race, Fontana lost the spring race, Kentucky and Kansas were joining the Cup Schedule, Chicago gained a race and became the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Viewpoints from fans were mixed; some were disappointed over the loss of Atlanta whereas many were ecstatic that Kansas was picking up a second Cup race. The reaction from fans and media regarding Kentucky has been mixed, as has the reaction to the loss of the first Fontana date and the realigning of the Texas date.

One person who voiced his opinion about Kentucky Speedway joining the Cup Series during his Thursday night Live Online Chat is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Earnhardt said that he knows there are a lot of NASCAR fans in that part of the country. He also said that he went to Kentucky Speedway before the official announcement was made to do some unofficial testing and the track was a lot of fun to run.

In regard to Texas getting a night race, NASCAR fan Michelle says “I love it! Texas is my home track and we get a night race!!” Another fan gives the opinion that he is concerned regarding the temperatures during a November night race in Fort Worth. A valid concern, it seems, since the average high on November 6 at Texas Motor Speedway is 70 degrees and the average low is 44 degrees. This means that by the end of the race, temperatures could be hovering in the mid-fifties. On the upside, Texas Motor Speedway can expect sales of sweatshirts and jackets to improve.

Chicago appears to be another source of disagreement among fans. One fan from Michigan says she is glad that Chicago made the Chase. Jim, a NASCAR fan from northern Indiana says that he thinks NASCAR will have difficulty to get the desired level of media coverage in Chicago for the September 18, 2011 Cup race if the NFL's Chicago Bears are also playing that day.

On the corresponding date during this 2010 NFL season Chicago plays at Dallas. If the 2011 NFL Schedule doesn't change it looks like the first September race at Chicago will be taking place the same day as a home Chicago Bears game. Having a NASCAR race in Chicago on the same day as a NFL football games seems risky, at best. Lodging will be hard to come by, traffic could be horrendous, and getting media coverage for the event may be tough.

Local attendance to the NASCAR race when there is a home Chicago Bears game the same day is going to be tough to get. Chicago residents tend to be very supportive of their NFL team. The Chicago Bears, on average drew 62,650 fans to each home game. For the record, that is almost a sold out crowd at every home game. Chicagoland holds 75,000...whether Chicago is NASCAR's second largest market or not, NASCAR organizational leaders may soon remember why Chicago has not had a fall race.

One definite positive was mentioned by Steve O'Donnell of NASCAR during an on-camera interview. O'Donnell said that the three opening races of the season are all unique. Opening the season with Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas take drivers from a 2.5 mile Super Speedway to the short-track racing style on the one mile tri-oval at Phoenix followed by a fast 1.5 mile D-oval at Las Vegas. I agree that the opening three races in 2011 are going to be fun to watch.

One thing that Tiffany, a NASCAR fan from Michigan was disappointed with is that there is no road course in the Chase to the Sprint Cup. Several others have echoed that sentiment and wish for the addition of a road course to the last ten races of the season. I am not a big fan of road courses but understand that it would be good for the Chase to have at least one example of every type of course included in the circuit. Having a Super Speedway, a Mid-Length Track, a Short Track, and a Road Course would result in a Champion at the end of the season who is good on each variety of track.

One much talked about item during the final wait for the 2011 NASCAR Schedule release was whether the final race of the season would remain at Homestead. There was much speculation that the finale would move to Las Vegas to make it easier for teams, media, and fans to attend the Awards Banquet following the last race of the season.

When the schedule came out on Wednesday Homestead was indeed still the season finale. While I cannot imagine the season finale not being at Homestead, other fans do not agree. Don from Missouri says he would like a “bigger” venue for the final race of the Chase; He suggests Daytona or Las Vegas. As long as Homestead is owned by ISC and Las Vegas is owned by SMI, the general consensus is that there is no way Las Vegas will get the season finale. ISC has 19 of 36 races in the 2010 season. ISC is unlikely to part with the final race of the season.
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