Bold ideas are surfacing in NASCAR land: Are the Roval and NASCAR dirt tracks just pushing things too far?
There’s no question that NASCAR has been looking for debris and hoping for a restart. They went in the wrong direction for many years. We all know that. The attendance numbers are just the proof of it.
But, they are bringing sweeping changes at a rapid a pace in an effort to correct the wrong turn. At the core of the problem, the tracks themselves.
That would appear to be an easy fix. It’s not.
Tracks are locked into long extended contracts and NASCAR can’t do anything about it. Unless, they decide to change the tracks regardless of signatures. Which they haven’t done, because they’d have to dedicate an entire floor of the International Motorsports Center to fight off all the lawsuits from track operators.
Until 2020, adding flavor to the stale NASCAR schedule rests solely on the tracks owners. ISC and SMI (the companies that own most NASCAR tracks) are free to do whatever they want with the dates they hold. If SMI wants to take a race from one of their current complexes and move it to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville they could. (And they’re looking into that.)
Nothing says stale quite like going to the 1.5 mile of Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third time this year (the only track other than Daytona with 3 events.)
SMI has taken it upon themselves to fix the stale track. They now have three unique events at the track. First, they brought the shiny new restrictor plate package for the All-Star race in May.
Now, they’ve added loops through the infield. Don’t get me wrong. I think the shit show this weekend is going to be great. I have extreme anticipation of being highly entertained, for all the wrong reasons as a race fan.
An oval and a road course, a mashup race track with compromises at every corner. The Roval, it’s bold but it’s also borderline lazy.
NASCAR now has a Roval. There’s also talks of a NASCAR Cup Series dirt race. Are these ideas too far?
“No. I think that new venues always add excitement. That’s what really, in my opinion, boomed the popularity in the 2000’s was going to these new race tracks,” Denny Hamlin commented.
“Kentucky was awesome, for the first time. Then it just kinda fizzled out. It’s still the same old Kentucky that it’s always been.”
“I think there are really some great race tracks. If you want to talk about road courses… There’s amazing tracks just North of the border in Canada that are awesome. Montreal and tracks that are made for road course racing.”
“The Roval’s a little bit different of a beast because I don’t know how much architect went into coming up with passing zones, the lay of the land and how blind it is in some corners.”
“Obviously, we know that attrition will be at a maximum in that type of race. But, you just have to be on the good side of it. So, it’s certainly a wildcard race. And maybe that’s what the fans want. If it is then we’ll do that every week.”
“I definitely like the idea of going to new venues.”
“Sonoma… We’ve all learned how to drive it. It’s stale from a driver’s aspect. There’s not much else we can work on. We know every little corner and crack on the race track.”
“When we go somewhere new you really see a wide spread of guys that figure it out early. Then, guys that struggle.”
Do you see a situation where you guys would race at Circuit of the Americas and Texas Motor Speedway?
“I’d love to. But, honestly… None of this is ever going to happen. Not until all these tracks and NASCAR get together and are willing to make changes,” Denny Hamlin responds with the truth.
“They have contracts. No track is going to give up tens of millions of dollars every time the race cars show up at the race track.”
“It’s going to have to take a bold change. It’s going to have to take someone way high up saying, ‘We’re making changes and this is what we’re gonna do.’ ”
“But, it definitely won’t happen in the next few years. Until that contract’s over with.”
In this specific situation, it’s truly never going to happen. The only way it could would be if several lines were crossed out when it comes time to make a new contract.
COTA actually stated they were interested in hosting a NASCAR race. The Texas Motor Speedway president, Eddie Gossage stepped on his airhorn and told his neighbors, ‘You’re 20 years to late.” And that’s a direct quote.
For 2019, we might be seeing a bit of a response to that comment from TMS. COTA and F1 have moved their F1 date to the same weekend that NASCAR is at Texas.
Track contracts are detailed. In this case, you’re talking about two tracks in the state of Texas. According to the contracts, tracks aren’t able to operate within a certain distance.
So, if NASCAR wanted to add a new track, it has to be at least XXX (I don’t know how many) miles in any direction opposite of Texas Motor Speedway.
But, As I said, NASCAR is still working on it. Mostly, these possible changes are being discussed for 2020. Those conversations are ongoing but they aren’t likely to happen in 2019. Instead, they have a bandage option for the 1.5-mile tracks, the new restrictor plate package.
“I’m a part of those discussions. But, they see things from higher elevation. They can see the bigger picture. More so than what drivers can.”
“We hear from the fans probably more so than NASCAR does because of direct fan interaction. They see the bigger picture and what’s best for them.”
“Without these longterm track contract they probably would like to go other places and get cities involved in bidding for the races there. Certainly, it adds economic benefits to those cities when we’re in town.”
“But, that’s something that will hopefully be changed somewhere in the future. Right now, you’re handcuffed with what we have. NASCAR and especially ISC is doing a great job of upgrading their facilities at a handful of race tracks.”
“To me, that’s the number one priority.”
How is the current leadership of NASCAR?
“I think it’s ok. It’s as good as it’s been,” Denny Hamlin stated.
“I’ve been to some meetings with Ben Kennedy, quite a bit. He’s definitely excited about his role. He’s very involved with gathering information. He’s kinda gonna be the next guy in line, I guess.”
“That’s a good thing. He’s a racer. He understands things. I’m looking forward to really working with him for a long time.”