|Some blame the heat for the dwindling Brickyard 400 crowd
NASCAR announced its '18 Monster Energy Cup Series schedule yesterday and the "biggest" move is Indianapolis Motor Speedway replacing Richmond as the site for the regular-season finale in an attempt to "breath some life into what used to be one of its biggest events," according to Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com.
The Brickyard 400 has "traditionally been at the end of July as part of the regular season." The September date "should provide cooler temperatures in addition to the added drama of being the regular-season finale." NASCAR also will "change the opening race of its playoffs, with Las Vegas Motor Speedway taking the spot formerly held by Chicagoland Speedway."
Charlotte's fall race will move from the second round of the playoffs to the "final race of the first round and use the 'roval' course that includes part of the track oval and infield road course." That will give NASCAR an "entirely new opening round of Vegas, Richmond and Charlotte." NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Jim Cassidy said that the changes will "add more diversity to the NASCAR playoff schedule."
The one thing that "did not change on the schedule" is that all the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events are on Saturdays and Sundays. NASCAR has "toyed with the idea of a weekday race but so far hasn't found a suitable date and track." ESPN.com
USA TODAY's Brant James writes the changes to NASCAR's schedule could "potentially freshen the long slog to the postseason and the playoffs themselves." However, they also "created unknowns" by thrusting IMS, scene of a "much-maligned recent racing product, into a highly scrutinized portion of the season." Cassidy said that he "was not concerned about a lackluster season-ender impeding momentum into the postseason." USA TODAY
MAKE RACING FUN AGAIN
: In Indianapolis, Ayello & Keefer note after years of "lackluster attendance numbers," NASCAR and IMS "decided it was time to make a change." IMS President Doug Boles said, "In order, we think, to make it healthy again, we needed a more dramatic change."
Boles said that among the "biggest reasons to reschedule the race was that many of the fans who were attending weren't enjoying themselves." Boles: "The biggest complaints we get from customers: It’s too hot. So you get out of July and (into) September, (and that is) a big help for us." Ayello & Keefer note the new date "comes on the heels of other planned changes for the Brickyard."
IMS announced a "number of race weekend alterations
in March in hopes of improving attendance numbers and the fan experience come July 21-23." Boles said that NASCAR and IMS "discussed the possibility of moving the race from the oval to the road course
, but ultimately decided against it." INDIANAPOLIS STAR
NASCAR Exec VP & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said, "As we looked for where it fit on the calendar and how we wanted to wrap up our regular season, conversations with the track — and really with the industry — led us to Indianapolis. Ending our regular season there felt good."
Richard Petty Motorsports crew chief Drew Blickensderfer said, “Indianapolis is a crown jewel for us, it’s one of the three or four big races we go to a year." "NASCAR Race Hub," FS1
TURN TABLES: In Charlotte, C. Jackson Cowart reports the "roval" at Charlotte Motor Speedway combines "most of the outside track with a road course in the infield." The '18 Bank of America 500 will be the "first road course Cup series race" at CMS and the "first road course to be featured in the Cup series playoffs" since they began in '03. With NASCAR looking to add a road course to its playoff series, it was "hardly a secret" that CMS would "unveil its new road course before long." CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
O'Donnell said fans have "consistently talked about" adding a road course to the Chase lineup. O'Donnell: "Each and every year when we’ve announced the schedule, they’ve wanted a road course in the playoffs. … Marcus Smith really delivered on this, so we’re going to go out and run the 'roval'" NASCAR America," NBCSN
STYLES CLASH: In Daytona Beach, Godwin Kelly notes the Advanced Auto Parts Clash will return to the Sunday before the Daytona 500, while the Saturday lineup will have a "new doubleheader consisting of Cup Series practice" and the season-opening race for the ARCA Racing Series. The Clash had been run on Sunday every year except one from '79-'02 before moving to Saturday night in '03. Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL.
BIG ENOUGH CHANGES? FOXSPORTS.com's Tom Jensen wrote his first reaction after looking at the '18 schedule was "what took so long to get this done?" The last time a "new track was added to the playoffs" was in '11, when Chicagoland replaced Auto Club Speedway. While most everything else "changed in NASCAR," the schedule "stayed more or less the same for seven years." Jensen: "I welcome the changes for next year. They will add energy and excitement to a sport that needs more of both." FOXSPORTS.com
But in Orlando, George Diaz wrote NASCAR's problems "simply won’t go away by mixing things up." The sport is still "searching for the next great thing in troubled times." A lot of star power "will leave the building" when Dale Earnhardt Jr. retires after this season. Danica Patrick, a "polarizing marketing queen who has foundered on the track, may step away, too." Attendance also "remains a problem." ORLANDOSENTINEL.com