Tuesday, July 17, 2018

COMMENTARY: Stewart's Proposal Is Worth The Risk

Tony Stewart says his Eldora Speedway dirt track is ready, willing and able to host the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with the possibility of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series somewhere further down the road.

The Rossburg, Ohio oval hosts NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series tomorrow night, in the sixth annual renewal of the Eldora Dirt Derby, and the sport’s collective attention will be firmly focused on the Trucks; arguably for the only time all season. NASCAR Trucks on the Eldora dirt has become a “can’t miss” affair over the last six seasons, with race fans braving a short night of sleep in order to witness a unique, one-of-a-kind event that happens just once each season.

Stewart thinks he can work the same kind of major on the Xfinity and Monster Energy Tours.

"Maybe one of these days, we'll get an Xfinity or Cup race here," said Stewart on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Tradin’ Paint Tuesday. "We've proven we can run the vehicles here. And the Truck drivers that have never been here before can get around really well.

“If a Truck can get around here, a Cup or Xfinity car can do it too. Who knows? I never thought we would ever have a Camping World Truck Series (race), so maybe the dream will start to get Xfinity and Cup here, too."

Stewart encouraged fans to get behind the idea, saying, “"Start to think about putting pressure on NASCAR. I think we need to get an Xfinity race here. And if it were successful, maybe we could get a Cup race at Eldora.

“I think that's something everyone wants to see. So, I think we need to pressure NASCAR to get an Xfinity race here, as well."

Stewart wants Xfinity/Cup racing at Eldora
The idea is an interesting one for a sport desperately in need of new ideas, new events and a new way of doing things. There’s not much new in NASCAR Land these days, unless you count the weekly 8x10 sheet of rules adjustments; something that fans long ago announced their distaste for. In recent years, NASCAR’s idea of “shuffling the deck” has been to run the same old races in the same old places, with only minor changes in date.

Unfortunately, a trip to Great Aunt Enid’s house is as painful in August as it is in May. Same plastic-laminated sofa, same slobbery kiss on the cheek, same stultifyingly dull stories about wayward second-cousins you’ve never met, and never will.

It’s time to ditch Great Aunt Enid, head for the amusement park and strap into that new, gravity defying roller coaster.

Xfinity and Cup Series racing at Eldora – or any other short track, for that matter – could be just what the doctor ordered for a sport fighting to maintain the attention of its fan base. It’s different, it’s unique and it’s never been done before; something that absolutely cannot be said for any other event on the 2018 NASCAR calendar, with the exception of September’s debut of the new Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Much like its Truck Series counterpart, an NXS or MENCS race at Eldora would spotlight driver skill over technology, offering a much-needed break from the incessant aerodynamic, Optical Scanning Station and body-tolerance talk that dominates the sport today.

A .015-inch difference in the flare of a fender means virtually nothing at Eldora, and a trip to the wind tunnel is no more valuable than a trip the local Dairy Queen. Snuggle your right-rear tire up against the cushion, mash the gas and turn right to go left.

May the best man win.

There are at least three potential drawbacks standing in the way of NXS or MENCS racing at Eldora Speedway.

The first is a simple matter of financing. With a current seating capacity of just 20-25,000, Stewart will find it virtually impossible to turn a profit on a NASCAR premier series event. Even with the addition of substantial temporary seating, NASCAR will have the dramatically slash its sanction fee to make an Xfinity or Cup Series race work financially. Teams will likely also have to race for a reduced purse

Even if Stewart finds a way to double his track’s capacity, the Rossburg half-mile will struggle to accommodate a Cup-sized crowd.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

“Sold out” NASCAR races are few and far between these days; a far cry from the time when tickets to the Bristol Night Race were fought over in Divorce Court and awarded to family members in wills. Having a date on the NASCAR calendar where demand dramatically outstrips supply and the term “get your tickets early” once again applies can only be good for the public’s perception of the sport.

If there are more race fans than seats for them to fill, so much the better.

Of additional concern is the impact of an NXS or MENCS race on the current Truck Series date. The Eldora Dirt Derby is unquestionably the most anticipated race on the NCWTS schedule. The Cup Series has premier events like the Daytona 500, Southern 500 and Coca-Cola 600, while the Xfinity Tour takes center stage during its annual Dash 4 Cash Series.

The Truck troops have Eldora, and only Eldora.  

Expanding the track’s NASCAR schedule should only occur if it does not diminish the standing of the existing Truck Series event.

And finally, there is the question of where an Eldora Cup race would come from. With 36 point-counting events and two exhibitions already on the schedule, NASCAR currently has the second-longest season of any professional sport, trailing only golf. Adding a 39th race is virtually unthinkable, meaning that in order for Eldora to secure a spot on the MENCS calendar, some other track will have to relinquish theirs.

It’s difficult to imagine International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports Inc., Dover Motorsports, Hulman & Co. (owners of Indianapolis Motor Speedway) or Pocono Raceway’s Mattioli Family handing over a multi-million dollar MENCS race date to Eldora, out of the goodness of their hearts. In order for Eldora to secure a spot on the Cup Series schedule, NASCAR will almost certainly have to take a race from another track, against its will.

That is something the sanctioning body has been unwilling to do in the past.

There is little question that NASCAR needs a serious dose of new, different and exciting. Racing at Eldora would be all three.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spoke for many today when he tweeted, “Hey @TonyStewart, this @XfinityRacing owner would love to have a race @EldoraSpeedway on the schedule. What say you @NASCAR? Let’s do this already!"

The Earnhardt Seal of Approval will almost certainly solidify the opinion of NASCAR fans, who have increasingly become fed up with the same old, same old,
Is the idea of NXS or MENCS racing at Eldora risky? You bet.
There is always a risk in trying something new. Maybe that new gravity defying roller coaster will have us all hurling up our lunch by the end of the day.
But hey, at least we tried.

No comments:

Post a Comment