Smith: Breaking Down The 2020 NASCAR Schedule

NASCAR unveiled the highly publicized 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule on Tuesday. While I initially was skeptical on some of the changes that were rumored to occur, now that I have taken some time to read through the entire 36 race slate and break down the reasons to why the switches, I’m actually okay with it.

Granted, there are some things I don’t like, but overall, it’s not as bad as I thought.

Here are my takes.

Shortening The Season The Right Direction

While I don’t like that we still have 36 races, I do like that we’re ending the season a few weeks earlier than in the past. There’s no reason to end the weekend before Thanksgiving anymore. So, any way to shorten it is a win in my book.

This year, the season ends on Nov. 17. Next year, we end on Nov. 8.

But, 36 races are far too many.

I don’t think some tracks need two dates. Texas, Dover, Michigan, Kansas, Las Vegas, Richmond and Pocono in my mind should only get one date each. That cuts the schedule down by six weeks, seven if Pocono wasn’t run twice in the same weekend.

But, this is a giant step in the right direction. Now, past 2020, lets work on shaving off more races.

I get why some changes weren’t made due to contracts already in place, but once those are up, time to hit the old chopping block.

Pocono Doubleheader?

I get why they did this, but seeing two of the same races at Pocono in one weekend isn’t needed. Spare me the run the road course on one of the events too. Nothing against Pocono in general, but this track would serve best with just one date. It’s the same race literally twice and that race is usually pretty boring. Visiting Pocono once is enough.

Dover Loses Playoff Race

Since the Chase started in 2004, Dover has always hosted a playoff race. Now, they lost it. The fall Dover race moves up from mid fall to Aug. 23. While this isn’t a huge story, it’s definitely one of note. I for one, am okay with it.

Indy In July Questionable Move For More Than 1 Reason

I live in Indy so I’m glad the Brickyard is coming back. But, I don’t like the move back to July. I get the Fourth of July weekend thinking, but the whole reason this race was moved to September in the first place was to move it into a more favorable range of temperatures. Going back to July isn’t necessarily going to work no matter what the date is unless you add lights and that isn’t happening any time in the near future.

See, the temperatures will still soar into the high 80s or low 90s, just like it does in Daytona. While Indy doesn’t produce those pesky daily afternoon storms, it also doesn’t have lights or an ocean for relief.

If it was going to work, I would have preferred the race to be on the actual Fourth of July, no matter what day of the week that falls. Running the race on a Sunday defeats any purpose because any out of town crowd that you had hoped to get is leaving anyways. This race needed to be run on a Saturday or a late morning July 4th start. Running it on a hot Sunday in July isn’t rectifying the problem at hand.

Plus, having Indy in July waters down the races in the Midwest region. From June 7 to July 11, the series goes from Michigan (June 7) to Sonoma (June 14) to Chicago (June 21) to Pocono (July 27-28) to Indy (July 5) to Kentucky (July 11). That’s four tracks within a few hours of each other running in a six week span.

I don’t know how many fans will travel to all four. To me, this really waters down this region.

Daytona Move Could Back Fire

I get why the annual second visit to Daytona was moved to the end of August. I can see the thinking behind starting the regular season in Daytona and ending it there. But, moving the race from July 4th weekend could backfire though.

See, that race was always a tourist race. It’s a destination track. Many fans from out of state traveled to Daytona in July to see that race. Moving it to the end of August takes families away. It makes it a more local crowd again.

Plus, you have pissed off a southern fan base because you messed with tradition again. Since 1959, it was always known the Firecracker would take place in Daytona. That’s now gone.

We have seen how much (sarcasm) the locals have supported the Clash and the Duels lately. I can see that despite making the ‘400 a regular season cutoff race, the actual attendance dropping again.

The date isn’t favorable. The thinking is right, but the date doesn’t help.

Cutoff Races/Playoffs Are Brilliant

I can see what NASCAR is trying to accomplish by this. Cutoff the regular season on a restirctor plate track. Cutoff the first round of the playoffs on a short track in Bristol. Cutoff the second round on a ROVAL in Charlotte. Cutoff the third round on another short track in Martinsville.

CHAOS.

This is a brilliant move that I love actually the most out of everything.

This part I actually like, a LOT. I think NASCAR got the playoff schedule right and I greatly applaud this move.

If you think the cutoff races were wild before, just wait until 2020.

Then, to make the Southern 500 as the playoff opener and doing so on Labor Day weekend is fantastic. I always thought that NASCAR needed a marquee event to kick off the postseason and they finally have one with great date equity.

Moving Atlanta Back Smart Move

Making the west coast swing start after Daytona is great too. A late February weekend in Atlanta was always risky. Giving them a mid March date is much better. Plus, it’s a great race to have before heading back to South Florida in Homestead.

Two high tire depredation tracks in-a-row is brilliant.

NASCAR moves to nicer climate tracks early on.

Martinsville Night Race Finally!

Martinsville added lights but they haven’t been used on the Cup side yet. Until next May. Moving the annual spring race to Mothers Day weekend and running it under the lights is an extremely smart idea. This will be one of the more highly anticipated races of the 2020 season.

Another smart move.

Phoenix As Final Race Works

I don’t mind moving the final race of the season. I would vouch for tracks bidding on this. It needs a change up. Moving to Phoenix practically guarantees that weather won’t be a factor. Plus, it’s a place that races like a short track and could create some chaos at the end.

Phoenix is a win.

#MonsterEnergyNASCARCupSeries #NASCAR

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