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Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Analysis: NASCAR’s packed schedule leaves little wiggle room

March 31, 2005

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After two open dates in the season's first six weeks, the next scheduled off weekend for the Nextel Cup Series is July 31 -- and that's the season's last one.

That's 33 events in 34 weeks -- 17 races in a row followed by that single break and then 16 more through season's end.

NASCAR's private jet and motor home set can certainly handle that, while the guys on the crews and back at the shop, the ones who work 52 weeks a year anyway whether they're at a track or not, will cope as best they can.

Still that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to cram in so much racing, leaving so little wiggle room in a schedule.

Let NASCAR have a weather weekend like the PGA Tour had at the Tournament Players Championship, and that easily will be proved.

But what's the answer?

One of the great scheduling taboos is being broken this year, with Darlington's lone race scheduled for May 7, the Saturday before Mother's Day.

The reason that weekend traditionally has been left open dates back to the ridiculously low turnout for the 1986 running of the circuit's all-star event, held that year on Mother's Day at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It is sometimes said that it might have been quicker to introduce the crowd to the drivers that day, rather than the other day around.

But does that mean that now, nearly 20 years later, a Mother's Day weekend race won't work? After all, the circuit certainly has no tradition of leaving Father's Day open.

Darlington Raceway officials actually are quite pleased with the reception their race is getting from the ticket-buying public this year.

Easter Sunday, certainly, is a different thing altogether. Mother's Day is a secular holiday, while Easter is one of the two most important dates on the Christian calendar.

But couldn't a Nextel Cup race be held on Saturday during Easter weekend?

What's the perfect place to run a race the day before Easter? California Speedway.

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