Sunday, October 2, 2022

Chase Elliott calls for some changes to NASCAR schedule

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NASCAR released the 2023 schedule on September 14. Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott had no issues with the tracks but expressed a desire for some other big changes.

Elliott retweeted the schedule after it was posted with a very simple but cryptic message. He tweeted “Less = more” and “I like night racing too.” This obviously raised some questions during Elliott’s media availability at Bristol Motor Speedway and provided important context. One of his messages focused on keeping NASCAR fans from suffering in the hot August sun.

“There are a lot of Sunday afternoons that we spend in really hot environments,” Elliott explained Sept. 16. “That’s fine, I’m fine with that. But if I were a fan sitting in the stands, I wouldn’t be one. For 3.5 hours in August I would much rather do it at night and enjoy a night race which I think is really cool as a number one. The environment is really neat. This is the best race of the year; here under the lights.

“I also get that it’s cool because we don’t do it often,” Elliott continued. “But I just think you see a lot of short tracks in places that have Saturday night shows, and I think during the summer months we should think about doing more of those. That’s my opinion, but again, I’m not being asked. I don’t want to be asked and I don’t want this role. Just my humble opinion and that’s about it.”

In 2023 there are only a few night races on the program. The confirmed list includes the Bristol Dirt Race on Easter Sunday, the July race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Dayton 500 and Coke Zero Sugar 400 could also be floodlit due to weather-related delays.

While the addition of more night races was a major talking point for Elliott, there was also discussion about the back half of the schedule. This is the time of year when the playoffs go head-to-head with the start of the NFL and college football seasons.

The ride to the Kansas Speedway was a fitting example. The race began mid-afternoon in the middle of Week 1 of the NFL season. The Cup Series drivers took to the track as the early games drew to a close and they battled for playoff points as the afternoon games began.

“36, 45, 50 — I don’t think it matters how many races we have,” Elliott continued. “But I see no reason to face NFL football when that starts. In my opinion, this is not a fight that we will ever win. I think we should be smart about it.”

As Elliott explained, a tighter schedule could help NASCAR lose those head-to-head battles against the NFL. He doesn’t have exactly the ideal take on when the NASCAR season should end, but he thinks some adjustments could help TV ratings.

There is no indication that NASCAR will consider Elliott’s comments as they try to figure out the 2024 schedule. That answer won’t come until deep into the 2023 Cup Series season.

The last two NASCAR schedules were not released until the end of the 2021 and 2022 seasons. There were numerous details that Ben Kennedy and the team had to work out before they could drop the schedules. The latest release in particular had some new additions to the Chicago street race and the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

There will continue to be questions about the 2024 timeline and Elliott’s comments for the foreseeable future. For now, the regular-season champion is focused on staying above the elimination line and making it to the round of 16.

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