The White Zone: NASCAR schedule thoughts

We know where NASCAR will go in 2022.

NASCAR released the 2022 schedule for the Cup Series, Wednesday. The changes include the usual shuffling of dates, especially playoff dates, a new track and the loss of another track’s second date. They matched the changes Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic first reported, Tuesday.

But y’all came for my hot takes on this. So here’s what I consider good, bad and HELL NO about the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

The White Zone: Thoughts on 2022 NASCAR schedule

The good

The Clash moves to L.A.

As Bianchi reported, last week, NASCAR officially announced, Tuesday, that it’s moving The Clash from Daytona International Speedway to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Now I understand people’s consternation on this. Taking an exhibition race from a venue that builds up to the Daytona 500 to a city in which NASCAR’s tried to make in-roads for decades now is a big gamble.

With that said, however, NASCAR desperately needs to expand its audience. It’s experienced a staggering viewership drop, since 2014, much of it self-inflicted. Given its deep foothold in the Southeastern United States, it makes sense to take The Clash to other areas of the country.

Furthermore, where else are you going to take The Clash in early February? The only places that make sense are Florida and Southern California. Now re-read the last sentence of the paragraph above.

Worst case scenario: It flops and NASCAR takes it back to Daytona. Best case scenario: It hits jackpot and NASCAR gains a foothold in America’s second-largest television market.

Homestead returns to the playoffs

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – NOVEMBER 17: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17, 2019, in Homestead, Florida. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

After two years in an early season slot, Homestead-Miami Speedway returns to the playoffs.

Though most of us prefer it be the site of the championship race, again, it slots into the penultimate round of the playoffs, along with Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With tire falloff and multiple racing grooves, Homestead’sย a track that both drivers and fans universally love.

Moreover, it shuffles Texas Motor Speedway, a very maligned track, and Kansas Speedway, which is hit and miss, out of the Round of 8.

COTA returns

AUSTIN, Texas – MAY 23: A general view of cars on track during the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on May 23, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Thankfully, NASCAR ignored those who wanted Circuit of the Americas thrown off the schedule, after rain threw a bucket of cold water on its maiden Cup Series race.

Even with the rain, NASCAR demonstrated it’s suited for the Cup Series. It’s got a good mix of low, medium and high speed turns, multiple passing points and elevation change that makes for an excellent road course.

Furthermore, it’s a world-class facility (built for Formula 1, after all) and it’s located in a great market, Austin, Texas.

Circuit of the Americas and Austin, Texas, are exactly what NASCAR needs, going forward.

Quick mention of good

NASCAR and IndyCar continue the double-header at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It benefits both leagues to act in mutual cooperation.

The White Zone: Thoughts on 2022 NASCAR schedule

The bad

Bristol dirt at night

BRISTOL, Tenn. – MARCH 29: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 29, 2021, in Bristol, Tennessee. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

I don’t like having both Bristol races at night.

Selfishly, I liked having a day race. Where I covered the race, wrote about it, drove 90 minutes back home to Knoxville, Tennessee, and still have time to hit a bar.

Non-selfish reason: No track needs two night races. Especially when one of them is called THE NIGHT RACE! I wasn’t a fan of Richmond Raceway doing it, and I don’t like Bristol doing it.

There’s also the “it falls on Easter” elephant in the room. As an atheist, racing on Easter doesn’t bother me. With Bristol practically in the Bible-belt, however, the attendance woes might continue.

Yes, I understand the visibility problems that plagued the Food City Dirt Race, this season. But the visibility can get bad, even at night.

Of course, I can’t completely deny my bias for day racing contributes to this. Moreover, this is a “bad” that I’ll probably forget completely about, once race day rolls around.

I’ll miss having a day race at my home track, however.

The White Zone: Thoughts on 2022 NASCAR schedule

The HELL NO

One off-weekend

LONG POND, Pa. – JUNE 26: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, drives with a flat tire on the final turn of the NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Organics CBD 325 at Pocono Raceway on June 26, 2021, in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

To start the season, NASCAR travels out west to Los Angeles. Two weeks later, it officially starts the season with the Daytona 500. Afterwards, teams rush back to Charlotte, North Carolina, and hit the road, again, for a three-week trek out west.

All of that happens in just a six-week span.

Furthermore, with no Easter break, next season, the Cup Series has just one off-weekend, after a trip to Sonoma Raceway. We don’t even get the two-week break, like this season.

Thirty-six races in a 38-week stretch.

Even for NASCAR, this is overkill.

The season is too long as is. Yet rather than build in breaks and double-headers to shorten it, the heads in Daytona decide to keep at this insane, grinding slog that almost no other racing series in the world has.

It’s a ridiculous thing to ask drivers and teams to do this kind of marathon. Moreover, how can we expect new fans to tune in, whilst asking them to commit 38 weeks of their lives to this traveling act?

Also, if we’re still doing mostly 3 p.m. starts, then you’re asking fans to devote their entire day to NASCAR for 38 weeks of the season.

When NASCAR cut two weeks off the backend of the schedule in 2020, I thought it was a sign of maybe cutting the overly long schedule down the road.

I was a fool to think that would happen.

The White Zone: Thoughts on 2022 NASCAR schedule

Final thoughts

Overall, the schedule looks solid. I like most of the reshuffling done and the addition of Gateway. I dislike the one off-weekend, but we’ve been fighting that battle for years now.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

TOP IMAGE: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images


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