Here’s a look behind the scenes of the 2021 NASCAR event shakeup; Frustration from former NASCAR team owner
TV wanted a NASCAR dirt race; Team owners had to vote in favor of the Bristol Dirt Race because the alternatives were worse
A Bristol dirt race is now on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule for 2021. It’s a move that appeared to come out of nowhere.
Bristol Motor Speedway was once one of the hardest tickets to get it NASCAR. The half-mile track in Bristol, TN built seats everywhere they could, packing as many race fans as possible into the stadium. Despite that, they still had a ticket waiting list. It was a must-see track.
Those days are long gone. Now, Bristol has two NASCAR race weekends, both of which have seen dismal crowd attendance.
The Bristol Dirt Race is designed to bring some excitement back to the track, a reinvention of the brand. At the same time, the die-hard asphalt lovers will attend the night race, instead of splitting the crowd between the previous two asphalt events at the track. A whole new crop of fans will attend the dirt race in the Spring.
But, a dirt race for the Cup Series is a bold choice. Surprisingly, it’s a move that the team owners voted on. It’s just that the other options were so expensive that the dirt race was almost forced.
Bob Leavine is now a former NASCAR team owner. He closed down Leavine-Family Racing at the end of the 2020 season. Leavine explains the inner working of NASCAR forcing a dirt race for 2021…
Related: Bristol Dirt – Here’s how the NASCAR dirt race came to be
Bob Leavine is frustrated with NASCAR being controlled by TV
“I’ll tell you how TV controlled the Bristol dirt race at some point. Well played NASCAR,” says Bob Leavine who explained further below.
“TV doesn’t dictate to the NFL the way they do to NASCAR. I’ll give you some startling examples.”
“The NFL is owned and controlled by the owners, single source of power. NASCAR is just a sanctioning body, they own nothing except the rules. And with their viewership decreasing that gives them no power to negotiate with TV.”
TV revenue is a huge part of the sport. It funds the year-end championship payout in addition to track sanctioning agreements.
“Problematic is that NASCAR never admits there is a problem, numbers are good , we are good. Like an addict you have to admit your problem before you can address the problem.”
Bob Leavine talks the Bristol Dirt Race; Owner voting
“The [car] owners were given a choice between voting for the dirt race or vote for doing away with the short weekend’s that we were originally told would continue in 2021. Teams were coerced into voting for the dirt race or pay hundreds-of thousands of dollars more.”
For 2020, most NASCAR events were cut to single-day shows. In many cases, it eliminated the need to place an entire road crew in a hotel room, at all. The teams were able to save a ton of money with the new single day formats.
“NASCAR knew that the owners can’t afford to spend more money so they were forced to vote as NASCAR wanted because NASCAR had promised the network they would get a Bristol, dirt race.”
According to Bob Leavine, the proposed suggestion would have brought longer weekends for 28 of the 36 weekends. Instead, of doing that, the owners voted in favor of the dirt race. Per Leavine, we can expect 28 single-day shows in 2021.
Related: Kyle Larson on NASCAR’s upcoming dirt race: “I think it’s still 500 laps. So, that’s pretty crazy.”