News & Media

Earnhardt likes idea of shortening Cup schedule

June 02, 2012, Mark Aumann,

DOVER, Del. -- Series' most popular driver understands reducing races not likely to happen

Dale Earnhardt Jr. may not have a degree in economics. But he certainly understands the concept of supply and demand.

Add Earnhardt to the growing throng who believes the Sprint Cup season is too long. But Junior knows there's no chance of seeing radical changes to the current schedule, at least in the foreseeable future.

"I think that shortening the season would be a good thing, and would definitely sort of change some things for the better," Earnhardt said Friday at Dover International Speedway. "But I just don't think that's even a possibility, more of a daydream than anything else. It will never be a reality, I don't believe."

With preseason testing beginning in January and the awards banquet falling the week after Thanksgiving, NASCAR's season is the longest of any major American sport. But it wasn't always this way.

Bill France decided to reduce the Cup schedule from 48 to 31 races in 1972, eliminating all tracks under a half-mile in length -- and kicking off what's now known as the Modern Era of NASCAR. And the schedule fluctuated between 28 and 31 races for 25 years.

About that time, a number of new tracks were in the process of being built and wanting dates on the Cup schedule. With demand -- and the fanbase -- increasing, the schedule expanded to 36 races, plus two non-points paying events, by 2001.

But there's really no easy to undo what's been done to this point, Earnhardt said, especially when the two major factors involve economics and politics.

"I would think that shortening up the schedule is probably the last thing I would expect to happen," Earnhardt said. "I can imagine a lot of crazy things happening before that would. There's just too much money involved. There's too much money moving around and changing hands for a half of dozen dates to be cut from the schedule."