Published 10:43 am Saturday, July 10, 2010
Looks like a shakeup is coming for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup race schedule, specifically the last 10 races of the season. Along with a shakeup in the schedule, it appears that the format for the Chase for the Championship will be tweaked as well.
Both Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and the France family’s International Speedway Corporation are presenting NASCAR with proposal to move races around next season. These two companies control 19 of the 22 racetracks that hold Sprint Cup events and, most times, they get what they want relative to scheduling.
According to reports, races will be added at Kentucky, Las Vegas, and Kansas. To make room, New Hampshire will lose its second race, the first race of the chase, Atlanta will lose its second race, and California will lose its second race.
Ever since Bruton Smith bought the track in New Hampshire a few years ago, speculation was that not only did he buy a track, he bought a second race for Las Vegas. Now, it appears that is about to happen.
Attendance at the California race has been atrocious, so no surprise at pulling a race from the west coast to enter a new market, Kentucky, which sits right outside Cincinnati.
Atlanta losing its second race is a little harder to figure out. One of the oldest tracks on the schedule, Atlanta sits right in the middle of prime NASCAR territory.
But, these changes are not set in stone, only being discussed. However, it seems clear that changes are coming, in some form, to the 2011 schedule.
Relative to the Chase format, one idea being discussed is an elimination type format. The chase would start with 15 drivers and after the first two races, five drivers would be eliminated. The field would be trimmed again by five drivers after the next three races and after two more races, three drivers would remain. The three remaining drivers would compete in the last three races to determine the champion.
I think this format is just what is needed to create more excitement and attention to the Chase.
The latest whisperings concerning Mark Martin have him racing next season for Team Red Bull, while Kasey Kahne jumps into his 2012 ride, Hendrick’s No. 5, a year early.
Since the announcement was made that Kahne would take over in 2012, Martin has insisted that he would drive the No. 5 in 2011. I didn’t buy it then, I don’t buy it now.
Whether he will drive for Red Bull next season or not is a different story, but I firmly believe Kahne will be in the No. 5 and Martin will be driving some HMS-affiliated Chevrolet next season.
After a great race at Daytona last week, the next stop on the schedule is Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. This is the 19th race of the season and teams are beginning to feel the pressure of making the chase.
My pick to win this week at Chicago is Tony Stewart.
Jeff Findley is Publisher of The Post-Searchlight in Bainbridge, Georgia – a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald – and a syndicated NASCAR columnist. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.