NASCAR Tweaks '14 Sprint Cup Schedule, But Major Moves Likely On Hold Until '15
NASCAR yesterday released the '14 Sprint Cup Series schedule, making four changes from this year. It moved Texas Motor Speedway’s spring race from Saturday to Sunday (April 6); Darlington Raceway will hold its race April 12, a month earlier than usual; Kansas Speedway will hold a night race on May 10; and Martinsville Speedway will hold its spring race on March 30, a week earlier than usual. NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said that the sport will look at making other changes to its schedule in '15 when it begins its new TV agreements with Fox and NBC. However, O’Donnell added that the sport wants to keep the schedule as consistent as possible because that is what fans prefer. He said, “I don't think we're interested in reducing the number of races we have. There's always things we could look at in terms of when we race. There's been talks of could you ever race a Monday night or midweek. That's something that we've had dialogue about." Meanwhile, in an effort to reduce rain delays, NASCAR will bring its Air Titan track drying system to every Sprint Cup race in '14. NASCAR created the system this year and claimed it would reduce the time it took to dry tracks after rain. It charged tracks more than $100,000 to use it in order to offset the costs associated with transporting it, but many declined to pay for it. O’Donnell declined to say who will cover the costs of the system next year, but sources familiar with the sanctioning body’s plans said some of those costs would be covered by NASCAR and some by the tracks through increased sanction agreement fees (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).
DELAYING THE SHAKEUP: USA TODAY's Jeff Gluck notes there had been talk about "major changes" for the '14 schedule, but '15 -- when NBC joins with current partner Fox to replace ESPN and TNT as NASCAR broadcasters -- "seems like a better opportunity for a shakeup." O'Donnell said, "As ... all the television partners come in and make a really big bet on NASCAR, we're going to do the right thing and put events in the most successful position we believe they should be in." But he said that those changes "might not include more short tracks, a road course in the Chase or fewer races on the schedule." O'Donnell said that NASCAR is "pleased with its current variety of tracks and is comfortable with a 36-race schedule" (USA TODAY, 10/16). SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass noted with NBC doing the final 20 Cup races in '15, it "likely would want a marquee event to kick off its schedule." The way it is now, that "would be Kentucky ... probably one that NBC would prefer not be where it celebrates its return to Cup racing for the first time" since '06. With Ford's 10-year deal to sponsor the season-ending event at Homestead-Miami Speedway expiring after '14, NASCAR "could more easily move that race." ISC also "controls the opening Chase for the Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway, where NASCAR fights significant competition in the market in mid-September" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/15).