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So NASCAR execs want some out-of-the-box ideas......Here's one:

  Chicagoland boss Craig Rust, one year into the job (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

    BROOKLYN, Mich.
    While we're all thinking out-of-the-box, as Jeff Gordon describes some of the talk at NASCAR's current brainstorming sessions with drivers, car owners and crew chiefs, designed to try to find some new twists to maybe 'perk up' the stock car racing tour, here's one for you:
    How about a NASCAR 'SuperWeekend'?
    One Cup stop weekend each season that features not only NASCAR's Sprint Cup headliners, and Nationwide action, and Truck action, but also an Indy-car race and an NHRA eight-team showdown, and maybe even a Monster Truck pre-race show somewhere along the line.
    A smörgåsbord of racing.
    Cross-promotional opportunities galore, B2B and more.
    A key would be to keep every race short and to the point.
    Sprint Cup headlining Sunday afternoon, or Sunday evening.
    Nationwide Saturday afternoon, and a John/Ashley Force special Saturday evening.
    A Truck/Indy-car double-header Friday.
    Sure, there would be logistical problems, parking, yada-yada.
    But think of all the angles....
    Maybe get Kyle Busch in an Indy-car for the weekend too....Kurt Busch in a Pro Stock dragster (he just earned his NHRA Super Gas license)...Kevin Harvick in something different also...
    Maybe that's a venture that Craig Rust's Chicagoland Speedway is uniquely qualified to pull off:

   Why not a 'SuperWeekend' smorgasbord of racing at Chicagoland Speedway? Maybe Chicago needs a signature NASCAR event. A big city needs a big deal. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Big market, the third biggest market in the U.S. And a big racing market (unlike Los Angeles and New York City perhaps).
    But over its 10 years on the racing circuit Chicagoland has seemed somehow the odd-man in all this. After the July Fourth Saturday night 400 at Daytona...and then facing a week off before the Brickyard at Indianapolis. And the track itself is a good 40 miles down the road from Grant Park, Soldier Field, the Art Institute, and the annual Taste of Chicago festival.
    To make a big noise in this big town, NASCAR might might need a more 'signature' package for Chicago.
   And it might be a hard-sell to get Mayor Richard Daley to block off Lake Shore Drive around the Lincoln Park area for a NASCAR road race, though the Lake Michigan shoreline and all those broad-shoulder buildings would make a nice visual backdrop...
   Rust, exactly one year as boss of the Joliet, Ill., track, after moving over from Watkins Glen, is here this weekend pumping up interest in the upcoming Chicago 400 (July 10th,  http://bit.ly/9fdmYh ).
   And when the topic of such a SuperWeekend was raised, Rust took time to ponder.
   Maybe the sport of auto racing, big-picture, is too fragmented at times, considering the economy. Maybe promoters – and the key to the whole sport of course is the stark fact that there are only a handful of major league race track venues – need to tighten things up. Certainly one obvious point is the seemingly endless NASCAR tour, with 38 Sprint Cup weekends alone.
    But the rule of thumb for having a big track like this make a profit is to have two Cup weekends and an Indy-car weekend. But now track owners have expanded into dirt-track racing and NHRA racing too....there are more possibilities.
    Well, why not consider a SuperWeekend?

   And why not a NASCAR-Indy-car double-header at Chicagoland Speedway? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Sure, logistics could be a headache, or worse. But the payoff could be big.
   Rust frets "When you bring in (just) a Sprint Cup and Nationwide race, the requirements and demands that (alone) puts on your facility....just think garage space, and think of all the national media. Where do we put everyone?
   "There would be some challenges with that.
   "I like the content of a big Nationwide-Sprint Cup weekend, and then an Indy-car/Truck/ARCA. I think that works well. We've just got to get out there and make it work."
    Still, Rust is intrigued by some new possibilities: "As I get to understand the facility a little better, and the market a little better...
    "Is it off-the-table to use the drag strip (Route 66) during one of our big weekends? Absolutely not. It is something we need to take a look at.
    "But I need to understand how we operate and our capabilities. It takes some time.
     "Still, we have a lot of passionate drag racing fans...that I've found don't come over to the oval. And the oval fan isn't going to the drag strip.
    "So right there that creates some opportunities for Chicagoland, to start cross-promoting.
    "It's all fun...and that's what sells tickets."
   Chicagoland does host the Indy Racing League (with NASCAR's Trucks) in a late August 300 (Saturday night August 28th, actually a rare off-weekend for the Cup tour, while Nationwide plays in Montreal).    
   "Well, we like what we have right now," Rust says, perhaps diplomatically. "We have three of the top-five closest races, and six of the top-10- closest finishes in Indy-car history...and last year's race went to number one. The racing is phenomenal.
   "That's a good weekend, right before Labor Day."
    However up till now fans were required to buy 'season ticket packages' for all Chicagoland races, even if they only wanted to attend one of them. Rust quickly changed that, for an obvious reason: "Once our NASCAR weekend was done, our promotional opportunities for that second (Indy-car) weekend dropped off....because you're banging the drums, and then when someone calls up and says 'Hey, I want to come out and see the Indy-cars,' and we have to tell them 'Sure, but you've got to buy this package, and that other race is already over....'
   "That makes us look crazy.
   "So this year we're going to be doing a lot more (Indy-car) promotion in the market. We've met with Izod (the Indy-car tour sponsor), and we're working on how to take this to market with non-traditional race fans."
  Rust at the moment is working on an Cup weekend invite to the Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup last weekend. "Hey, we're thinking, 'Can we get the Stanley Cup too?" Rust says.
   And maybe a pre-race drop-the-puck faceoff between some of this season's NASCAR rowdies: Kevin Harvick versus Joey Logano, Kyle Busch versus Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson versus Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle versus Joey Logano, Carl Edwards versus Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth versus Jeff Gordon.... (Who have we missed here?)
   "Oh, yes, we've got to have some fun with it, and we've talked the team about having Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane come out," Rust says. "We'd love to have them come out.
   "Harvick and I are both hockey fans. I was raised just north of Philadelphia...so my loyalties were with the Flyers. But it's great for the city of Chicago, and this sports market, that the Blackhawks pulled it off, after a long time."
   And Rust is reconsidering this year's 'two-day' race weekend concept, because he's getting negative feedback from some fans who want a longer race week in the Chicago area. Indeed, perhaps NASCAR should look bigger picture than just race-track and race-day.
   "The race under the lights is being very well received, in part because the heat of the day," Rust says.
   But is a two-day show really the way to market Chicagoland? Yes, two-day shows work at Richmond and Darlington. But Chicago is a big, big market, and perhaps the track should be promoting the entire Chicago scene as part of its race week.
   Rust agrees.
   "This isn't something set in stone," Rust says of the two-day Friday-Saturday approach this time around. "NASCAR came to us, and we talked to them. And I reached out to Richmond and to Chris Browning at Darlington. And it works for them. So we said (to NASCAR) we'll try it.
   "But we are hearing from fans who say they like a longer race week: they like coming out Thursday and making that a 'lazy day' of camping and camaraderie....
   "So we'll have to see how it goes this time."
  And then why a Saturday night race? Why not Sunday evening, perhaps, like Charlotte does with the 600. Better TV ratings than Saturday night, for one thing.
   "Sunday night would be tough," Rust says. "Charlotte has Memorial Day Monday off....
   "Would we go back to a Sunday afternoon race some day? I don't know.  We don't have any plans for it. We don't think the decline in attendance is due to Saturday night racing; it's more driven by the economy and the 'Track Pak.'
    "Now in 2011 we may go back to Thursday-Friday-Saturday."
    First, though, Rust says he is working hard to expand the Chicagoland market westward. Increasingly popular Iowa Speedway, for example, is only four hours due west, a straight shot on I-80, and Milwaukee (currently idle) is just two hours due north, a straight shot on I-94:
    "The biggest thing is we've got to reach out to Midwestern fans, not just the Illinois fans, but Wisconsin too...and let them know they don't have to buy the season-package," Rust says.
   "I've talked to fans about that, and I've realized that we're trying to change 10 years of history here. So we have to work harder to get that message out to fans.
   "But this is just one step.
    "We're looking at the whole way we take the event to market, and how we operate the facility.
   "And everything is on the table right now."

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 Chicagoland's Craig Rust and Kyle Busch. Westward, ho! the marketing....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


There are only two places

There are only two places this works and thankfully Chicago isn't one of them. Think Vegas or Charlotte. Both have the facilities to pull this off including garage space. Chicagoland is an ok race to watch but, to do something this big there would make no sense. If you really want to cross promote you go to Charlotte. Can you imagine the open wheel boys going 220 mph around Charlotte? The IRL needs a bigger presence down here in the south, this would help that to happen.


I know you're the new guy in town, getting rid of the trackpack packages was long over due, Now you need to take a look at,

Camping - Chicagoland - 3 days - $375.00 at the track
Martinsville / Bristol -7 days - $100.00 at the track

Your Hotdogs are no better than anyone else's and are not worth
$6.00, I would buy a Martinsville Hotdog any day for $2.00 over your over priced chicagoland dog

Your beer - 1 bottle $6.00 ?
Martinsville - 2.00 only If you run out of your own that you brought in
with your cooler, WHY NO COOLERS, Your NOT in Chicago, Your in Joliet 40 miles SW of Chicago and have no business charging people Chicago's rip-off prices

$6.00 Coke,Lemonade,Pretzel
$5.00 1 slice of Chicagolands best pizza (Pizza Hut) ha ha

I live in Dekalb 40 miles NW of Joilet and would love to be a season ticket holder, But, After going there 4 times camping 2 x's, I can no longer tolerate paying their ridiculous prices, My hard earned money will go to a track that lets you bring in a cooler and only charges a couple of bucks for a HOTDOG, SODA, WATER, Its sad that i actually save money driving past Chicagoland Speedway going to a Martinsville, Bristol and or Darlington for a whole week for what it cost me for 3 days at Chicagoland

It really is this simple, and

It really is this simple, and most fans know it, cookie cutter tracks are boring..they charge too much, and people aren't interested in the current "corporate" image of Cup series drivers these day. Smaller, hometown tracks are packed these days..it's back to the roots....NASCAR won't admit to it after betting the farm to move to major markets at the expence of the core fans that but the sport were it is today! Short track is back..the heck with Chi-town, kansas, charlotte,...BORING!!!!

Some short tracks are packed,

Some short tracks are packed, but not all of them. The late model stock series, the feature series at most every NASCAR track, is on life support. Motor Mile is one of the few tracks that has a regular field of more than 20 cars. Many tracks have 10-12 car fields for their feature. Why? Money is part of it, but there is no longer that hope of racing your way up the ladder. All of the Cup drivers not a son of a Cup driver are pulled out of the stroller series and signed to a developmental deal of some kind. The Cup drivers have taken all of the Nationwide rides worth driving, and all of the ex-Cup drivers are racing in the Truck series. NASCAR has killed itself from the bottom up.

No Anonymous, it isn't that

No Anonymous, it isn't that simple. Smaller hometown tracks are not packed - I go to Stafford, CT and Epping, NH and they draw well but nowhere close to packed. NASCAR is a superspeedway league and short tracks simply are not good races at that level. And why should anyone care if the tracks are "cookie cutter?" What relevence does that have with anything?

You somewhat have this over

You somewhat have this over the 9 days at Charlotte. Truck race, All-Star race, World of Outlaws, Nationwide, and World 600 all in a 9 day period. All that's missing is the IndyCar race.

Venues to do what you are recommending would have to be Vegas, Charlotte, Chicago, or Phoenix. Charlotte and Vegas could handle it, but not sure about the other two. With TV, none of that really matters to me. If each series is on TV within the same weekend, I get to watch them all from the comfort of my couch instead of the $500+ pricetag that would accompany seeing such a weekend in person.

I still want to see NASCAR shorten the races, run heats at every track like they do at Daytona, and have a support series (mods, East, West, trucks, or other series) to run same day to give the fans their money's worth. I want to see the races short enough so that I never ever have to hear another driver say "it's too early to be racing that hard". Some fans feel that they have to have a lot of laps at an event to get their money's worth, so giving them the support series race along with the heats will accomplish that. I want to see racing, not riding, and riding is what we get in the first half of a 400-500 mile race.

prices dont concern me, find

prices dont concern me, find me any sporting event that isnt expensive for beer and such here in Chicago! Phoenix the same, havent been to the others but what do you do. dont go if you cant afford it I guess. and the tickets you can get much cheaper at Stubhub! I got tickets for Nationwide and Sprint Cup for Chicago under 100 alltogether! If I bought the tickets through the speedway it would of been around 200! They need to bring prices down and accept walk ups!

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