NASCAR President optimistic on more short tracks, mid-week races
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NASCAR President Steve Phelps hears the talk around mid-week races and more short-track events. He’s open to both of them.
“Right now, we’re kind of caucusing the industry, getting different data points,” Phelps told NASCAR Digital Media in a sitdown earlier this month. “So, what would fans like to see? What would our broadcast partners like to see? What would our race tracks look like, what would they like to see? Our teams, where would be the best racing? … There are dollar and cents things there as well that we have to take into consideration.
“But with that said, we have all kinds of things that are on the table. And those things might be trying to condense the season, pull the season back … could you look at doing a mid-week event? And then other things that we hear from fans a lot (are) more short tracks, more road courses. Fewer races at two tracks.
“So, there’s a lot that’s going to go into it, and I think there will be some changes that we will make for 2020. I think there will be further changes as we head into the future in 2021 and beyond.”
As a Burlington, Vermont, native who grew up attending local races, Phelps understands the fans’ desire for the elements of grassroots racing that built NASCAR. The key, he said, is to be cautious with how the sanctioning body approaches changes, likening it to the “less is more” theory.
He used the recent thriller at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course and dramatic ending at Martinsville Speedway with Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. to illustrate his point.
“I, and many others, had great anticipation for the Roval. It didn’t disappoint,” Phelps said. “I’m excited it’s back on the (2019) schedule. The Martinsville finish — unless you’re Martin Truex and his fan base — it was a fantastic race with an incredible finish that kind of personifies our type of racing.
“With that said, we have to be cautious that, in 2020 or 2021, all the tracks that have a road course inside of them, (saying) ‘Hey, let’s do all rovals all the time with those tracks.’ There’s a special-ness that came with the Roval, right? There’s a special-ness that comes with not always doing short tracks. There’s a specialness that comes when you go to Sonoma, when you go to Watkins Glen.
“I’m not suggesting we’re not going to have more of them, I actually think we will. … When we first raced at Eldora, everyone was like, ‘Oh my God. It’s dirt all the time, let’s go.’ And I think that there’s a special-ness to Eldora. So, I think we just have to be cautious that in some cases, more is actually not more. And sometimes the special-ness of it is something that we have to embrace. … That’s what makes our racing so great. Every time you go to a race track, it’s going to be different.”
The Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway to which Phelps alluded is one of the few mid-week events on the schedule. There currently are no Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series or Xfinity Series races held from Monday-Thursday.
Mid-week racing is an area that Phelps is exploring for the future (as the 2019 schedule is already set), calling it a “great option” for the right race tracks.
“We need to be smart with when we’re racing,” he said. “We need to maximize the schedule from not only a fan perspective at the race track, but a fan perspective that’s watching. … Something special like a Wednesday night race or a Thursday night race, we think has some value.”