NASCAR In recent seasons has been plagued by empty seats and sagging TV ratings.
Gone are the days where the sanctioning body could roll out the same product every year and fans would be running to buy tickets or make sure that they were in front of their TV sets when the green flag waved on race day.
It may have taken a little time for the powers to be at Daytona Beach to react but in recent seasons, they have proven that will take the necessary steps to begin getting fans back to the track or turning in on TV.
When the 2020 schedule was announced during the just completed season, it contained some major changes that should help to restore some of the popularity that had eroded in recent years. It has always been a tradition rich sport with the schedule being one of the most traditional aspects as seldom was there any change from year to year.
One tradition that will never be touched is that the season will get underway at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 16 with the running of the Daytona 500 but after that you may have to keep a schedule in your pocket to keep up with it. Once the checkered flag waves at Daytona the series will load the haulers a week earlier than before and begin its western swing of the schedule.
The following three weekends will feature stops at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Fontana and ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Ever since Martinsville announced that it would be adding lights to its historic track, fans have been waiting to see which one of its two races would be changed to a night race.
There has been speculation in recent years that if NASCAR ever wanted to move a race to a midweek date that this would be the track since now has lights. That may happen one day but for now the track’s spring date will be moved to a night time start during the Mother’s Day weekend.
In a total break from its traditional roots, Daytona’s second race will no longer be contested around the Fourth of July. It has always been one of the cornerstones events on the schedule but has been pushed back to become the last race of the regular season.
All but one or two spots in the 16-driver field that advances into the playoff round of 10 races are usually set by then but the thoughts of a group of drivers having to race their way in on the track’s high banks will only add to what is always an exciting race.
The 10-race playoff round will also see some changes as Bristol will now be part of that schedule as it will become the first elimination race of the playoffs. The new date should go a long way into restoring some of the luster back to what was always the premier night race on the entire schedule but has seen its share of empty seats recently.
The biggest change may come with the final race of the season that will no longer be held at Homestead-Miami. Beginning next season it will be moved to ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
That track has had a major facelift in recent seasons and has produced some of the best racing on the entire schedule.
The schedule will also feature two consecutive open dates as the break will begin after the July 19 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the next race coming on Aug. 9 at Michigan International Speedway. NBC gets credit for the extended break as it will be covering the Summer Olympics during that span.
The changes to the 2020 schedule could just be the beginning. There will always be talk of races that need to be moved and the debate on the length of the season will not doubt continue which could force more changes in the future.