DW: What I like about the 2015 NASCAR schedule
AUG 27, 2014 9:45a ET
The 2015 NASCAR race schedule was announced Tuesday evening. If you got a chance to watch NASCAR Race Hub on FOX Sports 1, I was on there weighing in with my thoughts to Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Adam Alexander.
After reviewing the schedule and thinking about it, I'm pretty excited with what NASCAR has done. When you include all the non-points events our NASCAR on FOX broadcast team does, we'll have a total of 20 races next year. I'm really excited that we get a road course back in our portion of the broadcast schedule.
I'm excited we get to cover Sonoma again. I loved driving the road courses, I love winning on the road courses and now I love getting the chance again to cover the race on the road course. The road course races have turned into some of the most exciting racing we have. It used to be only a handful of drivers were very good on a road course, but now almost anyone can win and that makes for exciting racing like we saw a few weeks ago at Watkins Glen.
After we cover the 57th running of the Daytona 500 Feb. 22 on FOX, we don't immediately all have to pack up and head to the West Coast. Next year we'll just head up the Interstate as we will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway for our second race of the year on March 1. It gives us some momentum coming out of our season's biggest race, as we go to Atlanta, another big, fast track where the racing is tight. And it gives the fans a chance on their way home from Daytona to go right back to another race at a track close-by.
The thing that is really cool about Atlanta is the close finishes we have seen there since 2001 when Kevin Harvick helped start the healing process of losing Dale Earnhardt when he shocked everyone and won the race. The other really cool thing about going to Atlanta in 2015 is that they are going to give the fans a "Double Header" on Saturday, Feb. 28, with a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race AND a Nationwide race. That's pretty cool.
As most of you know, I have beat the drum for a long time that I believed that when NASCAR looked at revamping the schedule that they try to align the schedule where our sport stays in a certain part of the country for a few weeks and eliminate the weekly East Coast to West Coast back to East Coast brutal schedules of the past.
I have been a big proponent of a Western Swing, if you will, where when we go to the West Coast, we run a few races there before coming back to the East Coast. NASCAR has attempted that in 2015. Next year the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series run on three consecutive weekends, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 7-8, Phoenix International Raceway on March 14-15 and Auto Club Speedway on March 21-22.
I think going out west and staying there for three weeks opens the door for a lot of cross-promotion among the three tracks. Those tracks could work together to maximize exposure for all three events and possibly offer race fans a package deal. So I am glad NASCAR is going with the Western Swing idea.
Now sure, I wish they had stopped off at Texas Motor Speedway on the way back East before Martinsville but that's just the way it is. So we'll run Martinsville on March 29 and then run Texas Motor Speedway on April 11 before heading to Bristol. The one thing I really like about Bristol's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spring race is the fact it moves deeper into the calendar from mid-March in 2014 to April 19, 2015. The spring weather in April should be a lot better and there's no reason our NASCAR on FOX race can't equal in excitement of last Saturday's night race there.
So those are all positives for our sport. I applaud NASCAR for their willingness to listen to the tracks, the broadcast partners, the teams and most importantly the fans to make the schedule more inviting. Let's face it with all the races NASCAR runs from February to November; it's really hard to change the schedule that dramatically.
Are there some things I don't like? Sure, remember I've been a race car driver all my life, so I still think like a race car driver. One thing you can take to the bank is any race car driver can find things they don't like and want to complain about.
As I mentioned earlier, I wish we would have stopped at Texas before going to Martinsville. I'm not a big fan of moving the July Daytona race to a Sunday evening. I haven't quite figured that one out. Personally I'd like to see us go back to our roots and tradition of starting the race at 10 a.m. It would be over by 2 p.m. and then like in the old days, we'd be on the beach by 3 p.m. plus we beat the afternoon thunderstorms that Daytona is famous for.
The second half of the 2015 season doesn't really change a whole lot from the way it is laid out this year. One thing though that was a definite positive, although I hate the fact of losing the race from our NASCAR on FOX portion, was putting Darlington back in its rightful position of running the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend. As I said the other night on NASCAR Race Hub, I think NASCAR realized there are certain changes they made that really upset our core fan. I have always been very vocal that moving the tradition of the Southern 500 away from Darlington on Labor Day weekend was one of those. I am thrilled to see it go back to the way it was.
I would have liked do see some shakeup particularly in the Chase. I still think that is an area that needs to be addressed in the future. I still maintain the Chase is too long and that needs to be looked at as well. Obviously no track wants to lose a Chase race, but sometimes collectively NASCAR, the tracks and the TV partners have to put their own interests aside and think about what the fans want.
A lot of people want to add a road course to the Chase. I've been on the fence about that for a while now. But after seeing how good all the drivers have become on the road course and the action it's generating, well, a road course added to the Chase would definitely give it a new flavor. I don't totally agree with that, but I can definitely see why there is a growing voice to add a road course to the Chase.
Overall, I really like what NASCAR has attempted to do starting in 2015. You have to look at it like the start of this year's Chase -- there will be a lot of unknowns until we actually get into running the new schedule. I'm happy to see them trying to improve our schedule because I have said for the longest time that was a big area that needed to be addressed.
I'm also happy with how the off-weeks fall for the teams. These breaks will come at just the right time to let drivers and teams catch their breath, re-energize and re-focus. So that was another positive in what NASCAR has done for 2015. Again, I am really thrilled we get to end our NASCAR on FOX portion of the season at Sonoma. It's not just because it's in wine country, but I think it's appropriate that after 20 events next year it all comes to a close at that long and winding road at Sonoma.
VIDEO: Analyzing the 2015 Sprint Cup Series schedule