NASCAR Mailbag: This Schedule Change Would Do More Harm Than Good for Cup Series Teams

I read your article where Chase Elliott talked about shortening the Cup Series season to avoid so many weekends of competing with the NFL for attention. Shortening the season to 30 or 32 races helps solve that, right? (From G.M. via Yahoo.com)

I think we’re looking at the standard 36 points races plus the Busch Light Clash and the All-Star Race for years to come.

Everyone tries to stay out of the way of the NFL on Sundays, and for good reason. Interest in the league dwarfs that in everything else. Even the NBA, which commands more attention than any of the other team sports, steers clear and waits until after the Super Bowl to boost the number of Sunday games by 50%.

There’s no way for NASCAR to completely avoid the NFL and still adhere to a nine-month season. In fact, shortening the schedule creates more problems than it solves. The TV networks need quality live programming on weekends, so Fox and NBC pay much more per race (even after the sport allocates some of that revenue to the Xfinity and trucks series) than NASCAR can take in through ticket revenue and merchandising on race day. Fewer races translate to less TV money and less money overall.

Chase Elliott watches the action during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race on May 21, 2022, at Texas Motor Speedway. | George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Chase Elliott watches the action during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race on May 21, 2022, at Texas Motor Speedway. | George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Equally important, sponsors plaster their logos and marketing messages on cars to be seen on TV, which provides a substantially larger audience than the grandstands do. Reducing the number of races would hit teams hard in that department.

If NASCAR wants to stay at 36 races but not go head-to-head with football as often, mid-week racing is one of the few options, though not a good one. Races would need to be scheduled at night, which immediately affects mid-week attendance.

Also, jamming races into the middle of the week creates stretches of three races in eight days. Doing that even twice a season presents a hardship for teams, especially the small ones. Imagine a one- or two-car team wrecking a primary car in qualifying and damaging the backup in the race on Sunday. They could get another backup onto the hauler Monday morning and ship the damaged cars home. But God forbid they wreck another car on Wednesday and then need to qualify again on Saturday afternoon.

Calling Ty Gibbs a rookie next year will be a joke. If he runs the remainder of the Cup schedule this year, he’ll have nearly half a season under his belt. (From P.E. via Gmail.com)

Ty Gibbs looks on during activities before the NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 300 on Sept. 16, 2022 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Ty Gibbs looks on during activities before the NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 300 on Sept. 16, 2022 at Bristol Motor Speedway. | Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Don’t get bent out of shape about the Rookie of the Year award. As matters stand now, the honor will come down to Gibbs or Noah Gragson, and Gragson will be making his 13th start on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The award is meaningless, just another trophy to hand out at the banquet.

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Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected]

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