Monday, 27 January 2020
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NASCAR’s Biggest Moment In 2020 Won’t Be A Race – Forbes

NASCAR’s Biggest Moment In 2020 Won’t Be A Race – Forbes
01 Jan
1:44

Steve Phelps, the NASCAR president, said during his annual news conference/pep talk in November that he expects to announce the 2021 Cup schedule “probably around April 1, which is a self-imposed deadline that we have for ourselves.”

Phelps added: “Could that change forwards or backwards a little bit? It could.”

OK, fair enough. The 2020 Cup schedule was released last March 26, and the 2019 Cup schedule was announced on April 3, 2018. So we will have to wait only three months, or so, for what will be, by far, the most important moment for NASCAR in all of 2020.

(Not to put any pressure on NASCAR or anything.)

The Next Gen car, which is being designed to bring down costs while still providing (hopefully) tight racing, is on track to debut in 2021. Down the road, after the 2024 season, comes the end of NASCAR’s gigantic television contract with Fox and NBC.

But the 2021 schedule will be huge, because it will essentially serve as a springboard for the future of stock-car racing. Although NASCAR officials have tried to tamp down expectations of a schedule overhaul, the announcement should be as suspenseful as a big race. Or bigger.

Teasing it out, as it should, NASCAR has only dropped some hints along the way. Races should be shorter, and the 36-race schedule should be trimmed down while they are at it, and there could be more racing on short tracks and near bigger markets. People want more variety.

Phelps said, “We’re looking at where we’re going to have the most competitive racing that we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like, is it a new market that we can service.”

Phelps added: “It really is about the fans.  We need to make sure we are putting on compelling racing and having full grandstands when we do that.”

Full grandstands, even if those grandstands are not as big as they were in the old days, provide great optics for TV and energize potential ticket-buyers. NASCAR does not want to take away races from tracks, but Pocono has a Cup weekend doubleheader weekend in 2020.

It will be interesting to see how that weekend fares at the box office, because if it does reasonably well, NASCAR might try it at other tracks. Drivers and teams should like these weekends, because it trims down on travel and costs, and time away from home. Also, each race at Pocono in 2020 will be shorter, providing a test run for shorter races overall.

The other major schedule change for 2020 is the move of the championship race to Phoenix from Homestead, Fla. This would seem to carry less risk, because there should be a packed house at the renovated track at Phoenix. The race at Homestead moves to the spring.

2020 will also be the last Cup season for the seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. He probably won’t win an eighth title — good news, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt fans — but he should win a couple of races before giving his seat to Kyle Larson or another emerging driver.

Television ratings, hammered in 2018, nosed up slightly in 2019, although ratings for the Daytona 500, the season opener and the premier event on the schedule, tumbled to the lowest on record. Even a small ratings increase for this race would be a great way to launch 2020.

After that? It will largely depend on the quality of the competition. The 2019 season was parity-poor, with Kyle Busch winning the title for Joe Gibbs Racing, three JGR drivers in the four-driver championship race, and JGR drivers combining to win 19 of 36 races.

There will be a larger influx of new Cup drivers in 2020 — don’t feel bad if you can’t tell the difference between one rookie and another — with the next top female driver still a couple of years away. A phenom would be welcome (Cole Custer is one to watch), but that takes time.

So 2020 might end up looking a lot like 2019, with one big exception. On or near April Fools’ Day, NASCAR will let us in on whether all of these changes that have been asked for, or only just a few or not many at all, have been granted. So much is riding on this.

(Not to put any pressure on NASCAR or anything.)

MUCH MORE SPEED READING:

R.I.P. Junior Johnson, NASCAR’s Original Good Ol’ Boy

The 2019 NASCAR Man Of The Year

Why NASCAR Phenom Hailie Deegan Is Jumping Into A Ford

How NASCAR Can Spice Up Its Schedule Without Moving One Single Thing

An Old NASCAR Tradition Runs Out Of Gas

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/davecaldwell/2020/01/01/why-so-much-rides-on-nascars-biggest-moment-in-2020/

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