If you liked the 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup schedule, you will absolutely love the 2019 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup schedule, because it looks almost exactly the same, except that fans wonât have to baste in their own juices quite as long at Las Vegas.
Other than unveiling a new aero rules package that NASCAR hopes will lead to closer racing, which is always a good thing, there appear to be no substantive changes heading into next season. So it appears fans will get one more year of stage racing and playoffs, oh boy.
I know Iâm not alone in wondering how the late Big Bill France would handle NASCARâs long, slow slide into a niche sport. Big Bill founded NASCAR, and, even more important, ran it with authority. If Big Bill didnât think something worked, he changed it pretty much right away.
Big Bill hit the mark more than he missed, and his late son, Bill Jr. (who was not technically a Jr., but he might as well have been), took Big Billâs original concepts and made them work nationally. You can hear their conversation in Stock Car Heaven: âYup. Those fellas need to do something about this now.â
Part of the problem is optical: It looks like no one is in charge of the joint.
Bill Jr.âs son and heir to the NASCAR dynasty, Brian, has not been spotted around a race track since he was arrested on a DUI charge in August, and Bill Jr.âs brother, Jim, has taken Brianâs job title but is not a front guy, leaving new president Steve Phelps to do the explaining.
During a season-ending news conference in November at Homestead, Fla., Phelps said, âI’ve heard some criticism about, hey, why isn’t Jim here? Why isn’t Jim sitting right now talking to you? I can assure you that Jim France is talking to a lot of people. It’s my job to talk to the media. Jim is not — something Jim feels is part of what he wants to do. We’ll respect that.â
NASCAR became such a monolith that it is contractually locked into what it can and canât do with its schedule, which is a good thing in general but is an issue for a sport that is drawing fewer fans to racetracks and televisions every year.
Bloomberg.com reported Tuesday that John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club, has shown an interest in buying a stake in NASCAR, which would certainly be a positive development if it comes to pass. If.
Phelps said last month that the organization is getting input into what he calls âan ideal schedule,â with a wider variety of tracks and perhaps some midweek racing. âEverything is in play,â he said. Fans should be happy NASCAR is listening, anyway.
Perhaps the new aero rules package will result in what Phelps called âclose, competitive, side-by-side racing,â but Phelps added this: What effect it has on ratings or what effects it has on other things that are outside of our control, I can’t say.â
That hardly makes race fans want to storm ticket offices. Iâve heard from several fans who say tickets have just become too dang expensive for families, even though prices at most tracks have stayed in line with inflation and tickets for kids are offered at sharp discounts.
Fans, owners and $ponsor$ continue to walk away, showing that NASCAR badly needs reconstructive surgery quickly, not a mere face lift by tricking up races by dividing them into stages and implementing a points system that is all but impossible to understand and might not even determine the real winner.
Phelps, the surrogate France, insists that NASCARâs âbest days are ahead of it,â but it just sounds like empty, wishful thinking until NASCAR makes public a plan of action that includes much more than a new aero rules package.
It appears as if NASCAR is hoping merely to hang on to the fan base it has as it makes giant changes. And there is no guarantee, at least publicly, that there will be giant changes. Big Bill and Bill Jr. would have acted with much more haste. You know they would have put another short track or two on the schedule.
There could be changes galore announced in 2019 — and it would be nice if there were a big surprise or two. In the meantime, though, there will be another too-long season that will look almost exactly like this one, even though many people are clamoring for change. Â