Blow up NASCAR schedule? Brad Keselowski has great plan

mid-week and weekend races in the summer that would allow the season to end in October instead of late November.
Apr 30, 2014

 

Brad Keselowski likes to mix it up.

We saw that last weekend in Richmond, where BK didn’t appreciate the way Matt Kenseth turned him into the outside wall in the closing laps. So Kenseth got a “love tap” from Keselowski during the cool-down lap. He also said that Kenseth’s action has been duly noted, hinting at further retribution down the road.

“You’ve just got to put that in the bank and remember it,” Keselowski said.

Love him or hate him, Keselowski loves to color outside the lines when it comes to tact and diplomacy. Which is why Kenseth isn’t the only one feeling the pinch.

Keselowski recently suggested radical changes to the NASCAR schedule, changes that would include mid-week and weekend races in the summer that would allow the season to end in October instead of late November.

There are probably lots of people — including me — screaming, “Amen!” The 36-race season, coupled with two non-points events, is a big drain on everyone, including fans. Too many laps, too many weekends, too many reasons why fans are tuning out and looking elsewhere to spend their entertainment dollars.

Keselowski’s plan certainly addresses that by incorporating a West Coast road trip after the season-opener in Daytona. The haulers would then pack and go for trips to Fontana, Phoenix and Sonoma before heading back East.

“It would also be good for the people that travel the NASCAR circuit,” Keselowski wrote in his blog. “They could come along with us for the West Coast tour. We’d be like the Grateful Dead, with people following us everywhere we went.”

Speaking of the Dead, this is what will become of Keselowski’s proposal. NASCAR isn’t going to radically change its schedule, even though it radically has changed the points system this season.

There are too many stakeholders in play, including tracks that wouldn’t be inclined to blow up tradition and coveted dates. And forget driver influence. Despite the loosey-goosey “team” element of the sport, these guys and gal are essentially independent contractors without any union clout.

But NASCAR would be wise not to stay stuck in the mud with an antiquated business model. Keselowski’s suggestion of adding multiple races to the weekly summer schedule makes sense, especially because the current configuration goes head-to-head with the NFL deep into November.

Nobody is going to win that scrum.

“We’re just starting the first week of June when we get to this point, “ he wrote. “Kids are starting to get out of school. Summer is really starting to hit. Basketball and hockey are wrapping up. And we really have no competition at that point in time.

“To capitalize on that, we introduce the NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader. Wednesday nights we race in prime time. Sundays we race the same way we always do.”

Keselowki’s ideas make a lot of sense.

But he has a better shot at getting even with Kenseth than he does with the NASCAR pooh-bahs embracing radical change.

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Hamlin’s hurdles

Please add Denny Hamlin to the list of the usual suspects who are prime-time drivers still muddling about without a victory this season. He finished 22nd at Richmond, continuing a four-race streak of mediocre-to-bad runs when he has finished no better than 13th.

Hamlin also had a missed opportunity at the Auto Club Speedway at Fontana on March 23 after a rusted piece of metal got into his eye. He was asked about feeling any pressure to make the Chase, predicated on Hamlin winning a race before the cutoff race in Richmond in September.

“Honestly I think it will probably be mid to late June when you’ll start to see time start to really move fast on you and look at the races that are coming up and count down when you have to really do what you can do, when you can throw a Hail Mary to try to do something to try to get a win,” he said. “At this point, where we’re at with our organization, I think we’re in a very slow process to get our cars better and we still have great race cars and great pit crew, and the things that kind of keep us at least in contention every single week is how solid the organization is.

“The changes and our speed is not going to change overnight, but it will change in the next month or two. I’m looking forward to that. Really, it’s tough times when you know you’re down here and there in these little places that you can make your car and make yourself better. When you have those bumps in performance and you can make the parts and pieces in your car better, then you really start to perform well. I’m not panicked yet because I know good things are coming down the line.”

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Petty coping with loss

The healing process continues for Richard Petty, who returned to the track last weekend for the first time since the death of his wife. Lynda Petty, his wife of 57 years, died after a prolonged battle with cancer on March 25.

“I am back in the saddle again now,” Petty said. “I am just learning to live all over again.”

Petty — the face of the Richard Petty Motorsports Cup team — missed races at Martinsville, Texas and Darlington, and then used the Easter break for a large family celebration.

But now Petty is back in his usual grind. An old-school traditionalist, Petty keeps his schedule on a two-sided laminate business card he calls his “blueberry.” If it’s not on the blueberry, don’t expect him to show up.

“The busier they keep me, the better off I will be,” Petty said.

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Tweet of the week

“The 120th person to RT this that’s NOT named Brad will win my shades from Richmond. #winmattsmojo” — @Mattkenseth, poking fun at Brad Keselowski after their incident in Richmond.

 

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