Steve O’Donnell says NASCAR maintains their relationship with the short tracks: “We get it.”
NASCAR has two races in the state of California. The first one is this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. The other is at the road course of Sonoma Raceway. These dates are very important to the tour.
Why? The 2016 census estimates California’s population at 39.25 million, roughly 10% of the U.S. population. That’s a very large audience that’s important for NASCAR to tap into.
How important is it for NASCAR to have a presence in Southern California?
“Well, it’s really important. Not only for what’s going to happen on Saturday and Sunday from California,” EVP, Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell explains to the Morning Drive via Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
“But, you look at Kevin Harvick going out and racing Thursday night at Kern County. And a lot of our short tracks play a huge role in the development of our drivers.”
“Where has our current crop of drivers come from? A lot of them have come from our touring series. The opener at Kern County will be big. We’ve got the modifieds opening up at Myrtle Beach.”
“When we look at going out to California, it’s kind of a holistic approach. Yes, you can go see the Monster Energy Series and the Xfinity Series. But, if you look around the calendar, once we go back east a lot of short tracks with our K&N Series taking place. Then our weekly events where you can see the future stars.”
“That’s where Kevin Harvick came from. He’s going back to his roots which we applaud. And he’s also a big supporter of that series.”
The Bakersfield 175 presented by NAPA Auto Parts will throw the green flag on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule. Kevin Harvick, after winning the previous three straight MENCS races will complete in the short track racing event.
Kern County Raceway is a somewhat new racing complex. The track is a 1/2 mile asphalt oval located in Bakersfield, California. Which also happen to be the hometown of Kevin Harvick.
The last time Kevin Harvick entered a NASCAR Pro Series event was at Sonoma Raceway in 2017. He went to victory lane.
Yesterday, Kevin Harvick expressed his concerns for a disconnect between the premier series of NASCAR and grassroots racing. He insisted that the hardcore fans have gone to the short tracks and that they’re pissed off at NASCAR.
“I spent a lot of time at NASCAR in my career, at the short tracks,” Steve O’Donnell continued. “I applaud the effort in terms of what all the race tracks are doing. One of the things I’m most proud of at NASCAR, is our feeder system. The ability to have legitimate feeder systems up through the ladder.”
“That’s something we gotta continue to focus on. We get it, it’s important to keep that going. To do that, we’ve gotta have sponsor support. Hopefully, we can continue to get that.”