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When I first heard that NASCAR, er, International Speedway Corp., was bulldozing its California Superspeedway and would replace it with a half-mile oval and repositioned grandstands and VIP suites, I thought they were nuts.
Not that it’s a mistake to add more short-track races to its Cup schedule and there are plenty of short ovals around that would give anything to host a NASCAR race.
But NASCAR doesn’t like to share the wealth. That’s why, when the pressure was on in recent years to add more road races to its schedule of two – Sears Point and Watkins Glen – it invented a “roval” at the speedway in Charlotte it owns instead of going to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park or some of the other permanent (and available) circuits out there. Why let anybody else make money when you can keep it all for yourselves?
Ditto the thinking when it came to adding short tracks. “We don’t own many, so let’s make one.” Ergo, Fontana gets destroyed in order for NASCAR to have its very own new short track instead of going to, say, Eldora Speedway in Ohio, which has been primed to build grandstands and suites once it got the signal it had a race. That the half-mile in California likely won’t happen till 2022 (at the earliest) is small consolation.
But NASCAR must be congratulated for finally coming to its senses, so far as road courses and short tracks are concerned. Focus groups and surveys showed that its fans were fed up with a never-ending series of mile and mile-and-a-half oval races (if you want an example, that race at Kansas Sunday, won by Joey Logano – click here for a full story – was coma-inducing) and they had to make changes. The 2021 lineup will look vastly different than anything that’s come before.
The short-track lineup in 2021 will see six in total – two at the Martinsville half-mile, two at Richmond and two at Bristol (where they’ll put down dirt over the pavement for one of them). Road courses will be Indianapolis, the Charlotte “roval,” the Circuit of the Americas, Sonoma, Watkins Glen and Road America. The rest will be roundy-round with two stops at the usual suspects (Phoenix, Vegas and so-on) and I predict right now that the TV ratings for the road courses will be consistently better than the ovals (except for Daytona and Talladega) and the attendance at new places like COTA and Road America will be gigantic.
Maybe the next road-course expansion, CTMP will get the nod it deserves.
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