One of the hottest topics every year among NASCAR fans tends to be whether or not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule should be tinkered with, left alone or even massively overhauled.
Former Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski -- never shy to express his strong opinions, especially when it comes to the state of the sport -- published a blog on his website offering up a well-thought-out draft of what his "dream schedule" would look like.
The Team Penske driver acknowledges from the get-go that he's not trying to make waves and understands why the schedule is set the way it is --
"Before I get into it, I want to make it clear: I understand that there are many reasons why the schedule is the way it is currently. I’m not trying to disrespect any of the parties who are part of our sport’s great traditions, or the work of NASCAR’s head scheduler, who everyone agrees has the toughest job in the world, with an army of people to please."
-- but his ideas are still intriguing.
Here are some excerpts from his blog, which you can read here.
"What I do like is the idea of going straight from Daytona to the West Coast, and staying there for a while. We’d hit California, Phoenix and Sonoma in that order. … It would also be good for the people the travel the NASCAR circuit. They could come along with us for the West Coast tour. We’d be like the Grateful Dead, with people following us everywhere we went.
"Martinsville and Bristol typically get rained on, and it's usually cold out, which makes it tough on fans who want to sit in the bleachers. Move them back just a couple of weeks and it would make all the difference in the world.
Up to this point, his proposed changes were pretty pedestrian, but here's where Keselowski begins to really think outside the box.
"We race twice a week. We start hitting double headers at some of these marquee places that are not that far from each other on the map, and we do it for three weeks in a row. Michigan and Pocono. (Okay, they’re not that close, but roll with me here.) Iowa and Kansas. Dover and Loudon.
"During that stretch, everything moves to a two-day show. You practice and qualify on one day, and race on the next. Teams that are running really well would get on a roll. Teams that are running poorly would risk falling into a slump."
He also addresses another hot topic around the sport -- Sprint Cup regulars routinely racing in the Nationwide Series.
"I want to take a quick moment to point out an added benefit of doing two Cup races a week -- it would discourage Cup drivers from driving in the Nationwide as much. To me, that’s a good thing. Right now, Cup drivers have financial incentives to drive in the Nationwide Series. Personally, I also like the added opportunities to keep my skills sharp. But if you’re driving double headers, it’s Cup racing, all the time.
Under Keselowski's proposed schedule, the double-headers would shorten the NASCAR season, which could be beneficial for a few reasons.
"Ending the season earlier would be a good thing for teams that are having an off year. In other sports, if you’re a bad team, you’re done by the playoffs. In NASCAR, you’re driving the whole season no matter what. For a struggling team, the second half of the year can feel like a death march that just keeps dragging on.
"Ending the year earlier would keep us from competing directly with football."
Keselowski also changes the date, format and location of the All-Star Race, with a tempting prize for the winner.
"The All-Star Race, in my schedule, comes at the end of the season, two weeks before the last and championship race. It changes venues every year, giving different parts of the country a chance to be the focal point of NASCAR for a week. If you’re a championship team and you want to take a week off, you don’t have to compete.
"But here’s the kicker. The team that wins the All-Star Race race automatically qualifies on the pole for the final championship race. So if you’re in the Chase and in the hunt for title, you’d have a lot of motivation to run the All-Star Race."
Oh, and the championship race?
"From there, we’re on to the championship, which will take place in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a huge market for NASCAR. We get a lot of fans who go out there, and at season’s end, we hold our annual banquet there. This way, we kill two birds with one stone, wrapping up the season in a great market, and then following that up with Champions Week. It encourages fans and sponsors to come out to Vegas for the final race, and becomes a week long party for the whole sport.
"I think that would be awesome."