Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway continues to campaign for a NASCAR weekend, though Nashville Superspeedway is back on the schedule and barely 30 minutes away. Does it matter whether two venues are so geographically close to each other?
Hatches Glover: There are certain areas where this wouldn’t work, but Nashville is one of the greatest opportunities to jump on such an enterprise. Nashville has been one of the top television markets in recent years, though there wasn’t a NASCAR Cup Series race before 2021. Then we saw NASCAR move the awards banquet to Nashville, which gave the sport an exciting, traditional feel. After that weekend, it seemed time to focus more on Nashville. Aside from North Caroline, the area is one of the best for racing fans and a NASCAR complexion. There is a feeling of going back to the roots of NASCAR, and that would be even more remarkable if there were cup dates on two tracks.
Josh Roller: I have no problem with two tracks being geographically close and having the same schedule. If both the Nashville Superspeedway and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can produce good races, put both of them on the schedule. Hopefully any racing fan in Nashville would think the same way, because you would not only have two NASCAR weekends, but two NASCAR weekends on completely different tracks. It’s very similar to what fans from the Charlotte area have, with Charlotte Motor Speedway running one race on the Oval and one on the ROVAL.
Jared Haas: If they had the same track layout, yes, but they are two different tracks. The Nashville market would be one of the larger markets for NASCAR. Unless the market is too big or too far away like Chicago, it wouldn’t make sense to have these railways. Markets like Nashville and North Carolina, which have a large NASCAR following, can have two races that are close together and that don’t involve too much racing.
Markus Kristl: It’s a big market without a professional baseball team, which makes it ideal for summer races. As long as the two events are at least two months apart, it can be successful.
The ratings for the All-Star Race 2021 were significantly higher than in the previous year and the best since 2017. Is that due to the venue, the weekday, the vehicle package or something completely different?
Kristl: It is the day of the week. It was a summer Sunday night race, a rarity in motorsport. His only competition was baseball. Nested format or not, this could be what NASCAR could use for the All-Star racing in the future.
Haas: There have been many changes in the right direction. The horsepower package helped overtake to the top as the cars could drive side by side. The NASCAR package for the past few years has focused on the reboot product for the first few rounds and then the rounds after the reboot. The leader of the race didn’t stand out from the rest while the inverts kept the drivers honest. The biggest thing is that all-star races, especially last year, felt like an R&D session rather than a race of the best drivers on the track. The main reason the All-Star Race lost its lore is because it was the only gimmick race of the year. For next year’s All-Star Race, less segment confusion will help racing fans get more involved but keep the reversal of the field.
Role: My stomach says it’s because it was Sunday night as opposed to Saturday night. Texas Motor Speedway has not had any memorable races since it was reconfigured; I doubt the track attracted fans to watch TV. The package isn’t popular with fans, so that’s likely a bust. The only other thing that it could be is that the success of Hendrick Motorsports at the time, especially Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, is attracting the people who watch them. But I still believe that it was the Saturday-Sunday switch that raised the ratings, even though it was on FOX Sports 1 instead of FOX.
Glove: The day of the week might have something to do with it. NASCAR previously stated that Sunday’s ratings were better than Saturday night’s ratings. It doesn’t change my mind that we need more Saturday night showdowns, but that might have something to do with it. And you have to give it to Eddie Gossage and Texas. They do a great job promoting the race and with the format and the car package they were able to reach fans whether they liked the idea or not.
A CBS Sports manager said there is “No room in the inn” when asked whether the network would like to expand its motorsport coverage. Is there anyone else that would fit well?
Haas: Aside from ESPN changing the heart of NASCAR, NASCAR is unlikely to switch to any other channel. CBS would have been the most likely target for another racing broadcaster, and Outdoor Channel doesn’t necessarily call out to broadcast a motorsport race in the near future.
Role: Realistically, ESPN is the only other option for NASCAR right now. CBS has several other commitments that would cause problems for the Cup. The problem I have with ESPN is that I’m afraid that not enough races will be broadcast on ABC. In all negotiations, the majority of the Cup races must be broadcast on network television, and it doesn’t matter who the network is.
Glove: One network the sport could return to is Turner Broadcasting. I’ve always enjoyed racing on TNT and seeing some exciting phone calls there. Turner Sports hosts NBA, MLB, Golf, and March Madness. The adrenaline and feel of NASCAR are unique enough to benefit the network in my opinion. Also, Turner is headquartered in Atlanta, a resemblance between the south and NASCAR’s roots. It would be good if the sport returned to ESPN too, but I’m not sure how likely that is. When we get commenters like Alan Bestwick back, just do it.
Kristl: No. To be honest, the Camping World Truck Series on the FS1 offers consistency, which is a good thing. FOX and FS1 can handle the Cup and Xfinity series. With the NBC Sports Network imminent closure, the Xfinity series can either be on the USA Network, which has space for sports, or on NBC. Since NBC handles the cup playoffs, they should be on NBC. But two networks that jointly host the national series, possibly in combination with NASCAR’s YouTube page for pre- and post-race coverage, should be able to handle all of these events.
John Hunter Nemechek has reinvigorated his Truck Series career this season, winning four times in 11 races. Will his success spark a trend towards relegation in the series hierarchy to a better ride, and if so, which Cup rider could hop on the bandwagon in 2022?
Role: John Hunter Nemechek’s decision to go to the Truck Series this season has become one of my favorites. Nemechek has had a tough time the last two seasons and the decisions he made were not what he or anyone expected. Will it trigger a trend anyway? I doubt it because there are only about 10 to 12 solid rides in the Truck Series, and most are filled with aspiring drivers or series lifeers. After looking at the cup list, all drivers fall into the categories of belonging to cup or trucks. However, if Ryan Newman can’t find a suitable Cup ride for 2022, he would be a good fit for the Truck Series. He has really fought in the last few seasons, but has not won since 2017 and only four times in the last 10 seasons. Newman could have a similar final chapter in his career to Elliott Sadler’s when the Cup rides were no longer available and he decided to make the Xfinity Series his home.
Glove: Absolutely. It’s pretty incredible that when he called the fan base, they had mixed views on the matter. Now, Nemechek has torn it up on the track and put himself in a good position for a much better ride than in 2020 at Front Row Motorsports. One driver I notice who might be taking the same route was the recipient of the vacant seat Nemechek had left, and that is Anthony Alfredo. Alfredo had a total of 32 starts between the Xfinity and the Truck series with 11 top 10 placements. One of the main reasons he likely took this ride was because it was one of the best options available. If he could get back to the Xfinity or even the Truck series in a competitive drive, Nemechek has shown that it can go a long way. Would you rather fight for the top 30 positions every weekend or do you want to fight for victories every week?
Kristl: Whether it is trending or not, it should. The two names that come to mind next to Alfredo are Ryan Preece and Quin Houff. Preece is a free agent represented by Kevin Harvick, Inc. If he has stability and the chance to win races, his relegation could be an advantage for him. Houff has been pathetic since moving to the Cup series. He should definitely get off to prove that he is indeed a capable NASCAR driver.
Haas: The trend to return to the lower series was mainly made by aging veterans like Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson, and Ron Hornaday Jr. The older drivers stay in higher series instead of relegating to lower series. Lately experienced rookies who are in their mid-twenties and have driven in the upper class for several years, like Nemechek, have dared to relegate. Alfredo would benefit from being relegated to the bottom row. Alfredo had fewer full-time seasons in NASCAR in his rookie season in the Cup and one worst average finishing position than Nemechek’s rookie season.