Sunday, March 13, 2011

New schedule playing out well

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took a collective breather this weekend as everybody came down from the high that has been the past month or so in NASCAR.

Every year people say this is the most exciting start to a season they can remember, but maybe they just have terrible memories. Can anyone honestly say any of the five years the series went to California for the second race of the season was anywhere close to exciting? No. Daytona may have been exciting, but that’s where it ended.

Truthfully, the Speedweeks for the past several years have been amazing and have ended with great finishes in the 500. But, the letdown fans may have felt this weekend used to happen in the second week of the season, and often those races at California were followed by an off week. Talk about a perfect setup to kill any early season excitement.

However, NASCAR drastically improved the beginning of the season’s schedule this year. Another great Daytona 500 was followed by an intense race at Phoenix that included a duel between Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch that ended with Gordon punting Busch out of the way for the win. Sure, Vegas may have been a bit of a letdown as far as the racing was concerned, but more often than not Vegas produces some very good racing. Plus, things will get even better next year if fans can wait an extra week for the season to start, because moving the Daytona 500 a week later will eliminate this off week.

NASCAR also couldn’t have asked for any better storylines in the first three weeks of the season. Rookie Trevor Bayne won the first and biggest race of the season, the Daytona 500, and was followed the next week by a win from Jeff Gordon, the longtime star of the sport who has fought whispers he might be coming into the latter stages of his career. With the two polar opposites of the sport covered age-wise, the championship contender in the prime of his career, Carl Edwards, won the race at Las Vegas.

In past years, the major players were usually defined at this point in the season. This is the first season since 2007 that has had three different winners in the first three races, and in prior years when there were three different winners, somebody jumped up and won another couple of races right away. Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have all stunk up the show early on in a season before.

It will be interesting to see what happens this time around. Kyle Busch has been a factor in every race so far, but he has had the kind of luck that usually finds him once the Chase rolls around. He’s good at Bristol, though, so maybe he will pick up an early victory right away, but that would still give us another different winner this season.

In any case, it is difficult to find reasons why NASCAR isn’t finally on an upswing, and unless somebody finds a way to dominate several of the upcoming tracks, which could prove difficult because they include every different type of track the series visits, from half-miles to two-and-a-half-miles and everything in between.

With the way the schedule is set up this season, it’s possible we won’t know the favorites for the championship until the All-Star Race in May. If we do know by then, those contending teams will have definitely earned their spot in the standings.


  1. Viva le difference, Jacob!

    Here's hoping for a whole season of exciting racing with a variety of drivers finding victory lane!

  2. Dwindy1 - But here's the trick -- keeping something the same when it doesn't need to be changed. This time a change was needed, but several times NASCAR has made things worse because of changes that weren't necessary.

  3. Nicely done. I do remember one exciting February Fontana race. It was a couple of years ago that ended with a duel between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. Other than that, you're spot on...

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  5. Brent - I remember that race. Kenseth held off a late charge from Gordon in 2009 I believe. I think things will be better now; California wasn't terrible when they ran the race in June. Even if this one stinks, at least its the only time the series visits this year.

  6. Hey JM - I agree that PHX was a way better track to follow Daytona but as a west coaster I am not pleased with having to choose between all my races (except Sonoma) within 3 weeks of each other. I think the tracks are going to see attendance problems as a result. I also do not like this early week off - but glad its going away next year.

  7. klvalus - I guess people had an extra paycheck between when Phoenix was last year and when California is this year. It will be intersting to see what the attendance is at California. I'm not optimistic.