On average, NASCAR Cup Series races draw over 3.5 million viewers each weekend, routinely making each race its respective weekend’s most watched sporting event.
While that places the sport amongst the most watched sports in America, it’s still a far cry from NASCAR’s peak, and that has a lot to do with the sport’s current on-track product.
However, if this report is true, a return to the glory days of NASCAR — both in popularity and on-track product — is right around the corner.
If you ask any NASCAR fan how they would make the sport better, you’re likely in for a lengthy explanation about a laundry list of issues that specific fan has with the sport.
As with every sport, every fan has a different perspective on what makes the sport great and which changes should be made to improve it.
But while the answers will vary, there are a select few changes that will undoubtedly be named by every single fan at one point or another.
Chief among them is NASCAR’s current schedule, and the types of tracks that host the 36 Cup races run every season.
As the schedule is currently constructed, 16 of those 36 races are run on ovals that are 1.5-miles or longer, with the overwhelming majority of those races being held on tracks that are 1.5-mile “cookie cutter” ovals.
And that’s only after NASCAR radically changed their schedule – thanks to COVID and years of fans begging for more track diversity – by adding six new tracks and configurations, including four new tracks and configurations, increasing the number of road course races to seven (the most ever), running a dirt race at Bristol, adding an additional race at the historic Darlington Raceway, and running the first Cup Series race at the unique 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway.
Regardless, the fact that the overwhelming majority of Cup Series races are held at 1.5-mile “cookie cutter” tracks still remains, and although those tracks feature subtle nuances, the high-downforce, low-horsepower rules package NASCAR has incorrectly chosen for the foreseeable future makes those races nearly identical.
So with NASCAR not listening to fans’ demands for a return to a rules package that more closely resembles the low-downforce, high-horsepower package that literally built the sport, their only option to mix things up and create the type of racing that makes NASCAR the greatest, most exciting motorsport discipline in the world is to ditch the larger speedways and add as many tracks that are under 1.5-mile as possible.
And with the latest report about NASCAR’s plans for future Cup Series schedules, it seems that they’re really doing it, and not by taking the easy way out and adding more road courses, either.
No, according to a report by Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern, NASCAR is exploring the possibility of adding a Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway to the 2022 schedule.
Also known as Gateway, the track is located in St. Louis, Missouri, and is a rather flat 1.25-mile oval with a unique egg-shaped layout, featuring corners with radius and degrees of banking drastically different from one another, which makes the track a favorite amongst the drivers who’ve raced there.
But even though adding Gateway would be a great move by NASCAR, adding a track that races like a short track and would challenge the drivers lap after lap, that isn’t even the best news from this report.
Stern also reported that NASCAR has “continued to explore” possibly running a short track race inside the Los Angeles Coliseum.
.@NASCAR has held discussions with @WWTRaceway-Gateway in recent months about potentially awarding the track a '22 Cup Series race, per sources, though the current status of the talks is unclear.
➖ The @LAColiseum short track idea is another one NASCAR has continued to explore. pic.twitter.com/HWxk4ZB9kR
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) August 21, 2021
NASCAR has long sought out a short track within driving distance of Los Angeles that they could add to the Cup Series schedule as short tracking racing is undoubtedly a far better way to get new fans hooked on the sport than adding another intermediate track like Charlotte or superspeedway like Daytona.
To that end, NASCAR announced last year that they were redeveloping Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California – about 50 miles from LA – transforming it from a 2-mile oval that’s virtually identical to Michigan into a half-mile short track that is a hybrid design melding the paperclip shape of Martinsville with the high degrees of banking found at Bristol.
While the new Auto Club short track is going to be a fantastic addition to the schedule and draw even more west coast fans to races than the 2-mile track did, NASCAR still needs to add even more true short tracks – tracks under 1-mile, but more traditionally under .75-mile – to the schedule.
Plus, the LA market is obviously massive, and there is plenty of room for NASCAR to run two races at short tracks that are within a one hour driving distance of one another without one track taking fans away from the other.
Additionally, the concept of a short track at the LA Coliseum is a far better idea for bringing America’s top motorsports series to one of the nation’s largest cities.
To this day, NASCAR executives still seem to believe that running a street circuit race in LA, Chicago, or New York is a good idea, even though the people who live in those cities tend to hate the people who make up NASCAR’s fan base and would hate them even more if the sport shut down a portion of their already heavily congested streets for an extended period of time to run a race that would be insanely loud with the sound of the engines bouncing off all the buildings that would surround the circuit.
Also, Cup cars – even the new NextGen car debuting in 2022 ≠ simply aren’t as natural of a fit for street circuits as Formula 1 or IndyCars that are far lighter, have way more downforce, and feature superior steering, suspension, and braking capabilities that make them way easier to drive than Cup cars.
But Cup cars are built for the beating and banging of short track racing, which is why short tracks also produce the best, most exciting racing for fans.
And running a short track race inside the LA Coliseum would be a spectacle that even casual racing fans would simply have to tune into.
What’s most clear from this report, though, is the fact that NASCAR is trying to add better racing to the schedule, specifically when it comes to adding short tracks back into the schedule.
Up until now, the biggest obstacle to adding new short tracks has been the lack of seating most short tracks in America have, and the fact that it would take significant investment to upgrade those facilities to meet NASCAR’s current safety standards.
The seating issue obviously won’t be a concern with the 78,000-seat LA Coliseum, though, and would provide NASCAR with a blank slate for building a temporary track that meets their safety standards.
All in all, NASCAR fans should be absolutely ecstatic over this news.
Adding both Gateway and an LA Coliseum short track to the schedule would be a huge step forward as the sport attempts to get back to its short track roots, and reinvigorate the sport with the excitement and heated rivalries only short tracks are capable of producing on a regular basis.
The ‘90s and early ‘00s will always be known as the glory days of NASCAR, when the sport was at its absolute best and was the most popular it’s ever been.
But making these additions happen would undoubtedly be a step in the right direction that will definitely accelerate the sport’s return to its past glory.
Sports with Balls will keep you up-to-date on any developments to this ongoing story.