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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rescheduling NASCAR: Why it has to be a Three-Way Trade

News was released this morning that Atlanta's March race is no more. NASCAR has pulled the spring race from Atlanta Motor Speedway leaving a gap between the Las Vegas and Bristol races. Kentucky Speedway would be the obvious choice, since news was leaked on August 1st that the 1.5 mile oval would be getting a Cup Race on the 2011 schedule. If you visit the web site you even get an intro screen stating "We have big news coming in 5 days" over a shadow of the Sprint Series Cup Racing logo.

The problem with Kentucky fitting into that slot is that the weather is a factor in early season racing in that area. On March 7, 2010 (the day of the 2010 running of the Kobalt Tools 500 in Atlanta) the high temperature was just 55 degrees and the low registered at 38 degrees. The average high for that day in Sparta Kentucky is 51 degrees. On that same day in 2008 the temperature never got above 33 degrees at the speedway. Kentucky Speedway is not going to work for the March  race slot.

The question is where can a race be comfortably run in March that won't cause a complete mess of the spring schedule with races at the same venue ending up too close together? Talladega could be a good pick for this date. The average high on March 7th is similar to that in Fort Worth at an average 64 degrees but over the last five years the lowest high temperature has been 55 degrees. Three of the last five years showed high temperatures above 65 degrees and two of those three were above 70 degrees. Giving Talladega the second race in March would make the fourth weekend in April open for Kentucky Speedway. Average highs in the fourth week of April in Sparta Kentucky show as 68 degrees. Over the past five years the high temperature at Kentucky Speedway has been 70 degrees or above all five years. Further supporting that Talladega will be the recipient of the date trade to accommodate weather issues with Kentucky in March is that if a visitor to the web site clicks the link for the Aaron's 499 Weekend in 2011 each weekend entry is started with "Date Tentative and Subject to Change".

I checked a couple of other track sites and found that the only other track web site that makes mention of dates changing for 2011 is In their Season Ticket Renewal booklet it states "PIR's 2011 Subway Fresh Fit 600 race date will likely be different from the 2010 race date." Putting Kentucky Speedway in this 2nd week of April slot would give average high temperature around 63 degrees. The five year average is 65 degrees with a five year high of 74 and a low of 55. Giving Phoenix the second weekend in March would give fans high temperatures in the low to mid 70's. Phoenix would be better in the March 7th slot than would Talladega but having Kentucky in the second weekend in April instead of the last weekend of the month could mean more of a chance of uncomfortably cool weather.

There is also the possibility of a three-way switch. Kentucky goes to the 4th weekend in April, Phoenix goes to the second week in March, and Talladega gets the 2nd weekend in April. 'Dega's average highs in the second week of April are in the low to mid-70s. Phoenix high temperatures in early March are in the low to mid-70s. In Kentucky at the end of April the highs are in the upper 60s. Perfect race weather for all three dates. This is my pick for what is going to come out next week when NASCAR announces the 2011 schedule. Phoenix to the 2nd weekend in March, Talladega in the 2nd weekend in April, and Kentucky at the end of April is the option that makes the most sense weather-wise and disrupts the current spring schedule as little as possible.
Proximity comes into play in this scenario, as well. This schedule would have Phoenix following Las Vegas; teams have been known to complain about the amount of travel required of the haulers from Phoenix to Atlanta in the past. This also puts Talladega between Martinsville and Texas, conveniently enough Talladega is between the two on the map, too. After Texas, teams would go back over to Kentucky on their way to Richmond for the following weekend. This is a pretty easy fix to help the current spring schedule work better for all team members, media, and for fans in planning travel. What other changes and rearranging might NASCAR have in store for 2011? Check next week on August 10th to check for the full 2011 Sprint Cup Schedule!

All weather data collected from
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