Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

NASCAR giving up a Cup date in Los Angeles? California's Auto Club Speedway may lose its fall race to Kansas City; and Chicago kicks off the playoffs

  NASCAR may be cutting the Los Angeles market back to one Sprint Cup event in 2011, to make room for a second race in Kansas City. Is that a good move, or a step backward? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   First Atlanta.
   Now Los Angeles.
   Both apparently losing a Sprint Cup weekend in 2011, in what appears to be retrenching moves by NASCAR, rather than expansion moves.
   TV is reporting California's Auto Club Speedway will lose its October championship playoff Sprint Cup weekend in 2011, in a shakeup that could include moving the current July Cup event at Chicagoland Speedway to mid-September as the opening race of the 10-race chase.
   Losing that Los Angeles event, if so, would appear to be a major step backwards for NASCAR and its premier racing series, because Los Angeles is the second-largest market in the United States and the biggest market that this sport plays in.
    It would also be a step backward for NASCAR executives who first engineered the addition of that second Cup weekend in 2004, at the expense of legendary Darlington Raceway, by killing the Southern 500 and moving that Cup weekend to Los Angeles.
    The California track's Cup date would apparently be moved to Kansas City, as a second Cup weekend.
    There is no confirmation, but NASCAR sources called the report "pretty accurate."
    While LA is the country's second-largest market, Kansas City is only 29th. So Kansas City would have two Cup weekends, Los Angeles only one.
    The possible Los Angeles-to-Kansas City move follows the anticipated move of Atlanta Motor Speedway's annual March Cup date to Kentucky Motor Speedway, apparently for next July. An announcement is scheduled August 10th at the Kentucky track.
    The Kentucky track is just outside of Cincinnati. Atlanta is the ninth largest market in the U.S., while Cincinnati is 24th.
    The Los Angeles area track -- actually in Fontana, just down the street from the old Ontario Motor Speedway and just a few minutes up the road from Riverside, where the sport played from 1958 through 1988 – opened in 1997, after a long search and then building process to return to the LA market following a 10-year absence. For years NASCAR ran three annual races in Los Angeles, opening the season at Riverside, running a second Riverside race in June, and concluding with the championship finale at Ontario.
   The Fontana track, then known as California Speedway, hosted an annual spring Cup event (first June, then late April/early May) for eight years.
   Then NASCAR made the highly controversial decision to move Darlington's traditional Labor Day weekend Southern 500 date to the Fontana track, and in turn moved the spring race back to February. Since those moves, the track has played to much smaller crowds than hoped for.
   One problem may be the weather: Labor Day weekend in Southern California, particularly on the edge of the high desert around Fontana, features incredibly high temperatures. That finally prompted NASCAR to give up on the Labor Day weekend and move that second Cup event to cooler October last season.
   Another problem may be the unemployment in the surrounding area, which began rising precipitously in early 2008 and which is now hovering at 15 percent. And the area housing market has been particularly devastated.
   While race crowds themselves are such a notable, and highly noticeable, aspect for every track, Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker has pointed to the importance of pounding NASCAR's 'presence' into that important sponsorship market on a weekly basis throughout the season, not just on race weekend.
   A side note: this July's Chicagoland crowd was pegged by NASCAR at 67,500; while the February California crowd was listed at 72,000, and last fall's California crowd was 70,000.

    California track attendance figures:

    May 2004:           120,000
    September 2004:   90,000
    February 2005:      90,000
    September 2005:  100,000
    February 2006:      85,000
    September 2006:   102,000
    February 2007:       87,000
    September 2007:     85,000
    February 2008:       70,000
    August 2008:          70,000
    February 2009:       78,000
    October 2009:         70,000
    February 2010:       72,000

   So as of August 6-2010, the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule might look like this:

   Feb. 20       Daytona 500
    Feb. 27      Phoenix (replacing California, which moves two weeks deeper)
    March 6     Las Vegas
    March 13   California (replacing Atlanta, to be dropped)
    March 20   Bristol   
    March 27   Martinsville
    April 3       Texas (NCAA Final Four weekend)
    April 10     Kansas (Masters weekend; replacing Phoenix, which moves earlier)
    April 17     Talladega
    April 24     Easter (Nationwide Saturday in Nashville?)
    April 30     Richmond  (Saturday)
    May 7        Darlington (Saturday, Mother's Day weekend)
    May 15      Dover
    May 21      Charlotte All-star (Saturday)
    May 29      Charlotte 600
    June 5        Pocono
    June 12      Michigan
    June 19      Sonoma/Infineon
    June 26      New Hampshire
    July 2         Daytona (Saturday)
    July 9/10    Kentucky (instead of Chicago, which moves to September)
    July 17       Off week
    July 24       Indianapolis
    July 31       Pocono
    August 7    Watkins Glen
    August 14  Michigan
    August 20  Bristol (Saturday)
    August 28  off weekend (Nationwide in Montreal?)
    Sept  4       Atlanta (Labor Day weekend)
    Sept 10     Richmond (Saturday)
    Sept 18     Chicago (replacing New Hampshire, which moves deeper)
    Sept 25     New Hampshire (replace Dover, which moves deeper)
    Oct 2         Dover (replaces Kansas, which moves deeper)
    Oct 9         Kansas (replaces California, to be dropped)
    Oct 15       Charlotte (Saturday)
    Oct 23       Martinsville
    Oct 30       Talladega
    Nov 6        Texas
    Nov 13      Phoenix
    Nov 20      Homestead-Miami


        [Note: You can use Twitter as an easy headline service for mikemulhern.net stories, with our instant Tweets to your mobile as soon as our newest NASCAR story is filed. And mikemulhern.net is mobile-friendly for viewing. You can also use the orange RSS feed button as a quickie headline service on your laptop or home computer for mikemulhern.net stories, by creating a Live Bookmark RSS feed on your web browser's toolbar. Or you can create a Google Alert for mikemulhernnet.]


 Kansas Speedway: KC is a cool town, the track is spiffy....but it's not LA. So just why is NASCAR leaving Los Angeles? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

3 of the first 4 tracks in

3 of the first 4 tracks in the Chase are duds. I could live with a couple, but please swap Chicago or New Hampshire for Bristol. I like the Bristol date and I know they don't want to give it up, but it needs to be in the Chase. If NASCAR wants some TV ratings after the NFL starts, that's the best way to get ratings after football season starts. No way I'm switching from the Falcons game to watch the bore of Chicago, New Hampshire, or Kansas. Yawnnnnnnnnn!!

i'm with ya on that chase

i'm with ya on that chase stuff. it starts off with a yawn, just as the nfl is kicking but. we lose the audience almost before we even get going. the chase needs to start with a bang. and then maybe we need to look at the season too....why in the world are we still racing till thanksgiving? shorten the races, shorten the season.

Boy, I never thought they'd

Boy, I never thought they'd do it. Giving up on two dates in Fontana is a huge surprise because, even though it's the worst sports market in the nation and a terrible racing demographic, NASCAR had put a lot of value into two races at Fontana.

It's certainly an admission of defeat in trying to push the sport on southern California. Pounding it into the area's consciousness simply wasn't working anymore than Ontario Motor Speedway worked. Clearly this market doesn't want racing.

NASCAR is better advised building a 2.5-miler in the Hanford area - central California is a better racing demographic than Pete Carroll Land. In the 1960s Hanford Speedway drew some decent crowds for Indycars and stockers - a 2.5-miler today could work.

i didnt believe it either. if

i didnt believe it either. if nascar can't make california speedway work, sublease it or sell it to bruton smith.
but i feel that just putting some more banking into the track (greg biffle said the 23 degrees at Texas World was breathtaking, at 218 mph) and slowing the speeds would solve many of the problems.

No question Talladeg-izing

No question Talladeg-izing Fontana would make it much better. But in the end the demographic simply is not that good for racing. If they did build a speedway in the Hanford area (that area is a good racing demographic) it needs to be like Talladega.

California Speedway is a

California Speedway is a boring race for me as a fan. As is Chicagoland and Kansas. I don't ever watch them anymore. Enjoy the day outside with your family, while Nascar ruins a once was good thing. Small tracks are where the fun is. Martinsville, Richmond, Bristol, and Darlington of course. But these tracks don't attract the Hollywood elite. Sick, isn't it?

Exactly one of my points: the

Exactly one of my points: the on-track product at California Speedway needs to be improved. NASCAR has an image problem at that track now, and it needs to fix that, or the one Cup race left won't do very well either. NASCAR needs to fix the problem, not run away from it.
and as you point out, chicago and kansas -- nice towns, now, and well-run facilities -- dont put on thrilling shows either. Give the customer a good product at a decent price, and they'll come back for more. But once you tick the customer off, you may have lost him forever.

L.A. has lost 2 football

L.A. has lost 2 football teams also....they don't support anything except U.S.C. football

You're right....that and

You're right....that and surfing and mountain biking i guess. but still with 25M people in the neighborhood I've got to believe you could sell 92,000 widgets if you worked at it right.

Mike, Doesn't anyone realize

Doesn't anyone realize that a big part of the attendance problem is how close the races in Cal and Vegas are? We used to race Vegas in March, Phoenix in April, Cal in May. I have friends that would go to all three. A month apart and you could spread the cost out enough. Attendance started dropping when they made Cal and Vegas on consecutive weekends. If you can only afford to go to one, Vegas, the town, has more to offer. Now it is proposed to run all three in a row? Makes it easier for the truck drivers, but I bet Vegas will kill the attendance at Phoenix too. For the fans sake, the races need to be spread out a little more time wise

Good points. California

Good points. California should be, as it once was, in early May. But i think TV in part dictated the move to LA in February, to try to boost rating.
I'm looking at what will apparently be the 2011 Cup schedule, and some of that stuff just baffles me. maybe these guys just throw darts at the map....lol

What I think will happen is a

What I think will happen is a shift in attendance. LA may have a near-to-full house when Fontana race again whereas Kansas will lose out on two race dates. Reason being simple. Fontana is going to be THE only time in the area you're going to see NASCAR races or it's a trip to Las Vegas instead. I do like NASCAR/ISC psychological "design" on the "tentative" schedule listed. In the past, it was always Fontana, THEN Las Vegas, giving Vegas the opportunity to hype the race up from Daytona and Fontana. Now, Fontana gets the opportunity to hype itself with Daytona, Phoenix, Las Vegas ahead and then Fontana, making it the last stop in the area before heading back East. SoCal fans will be thinking, "Wow they're going to be here next week! Just got my tax refund check! Woo-hoo! Can't miss out!" after the hype of 3 races prior vs "Eh, I'll go to current scheduled October race when we "all" know, "life happens" between now and then". I believe ISC is thinking take the fans' money quick, fast and in a hurry. Don't look back!

Kansas on the other hand....
The weather can be brutal in the early spring. Cold, snow, rain, you name it. The races are going to look like Atlanta and Rockingham's March races back in the day probably because now, people will have a choice Kansas in the cold spring or Kansas during the Chase in the warm fall. They better hope the KC Chiefs aren't playing the Indy Colts/NY Giants/Jets/Dallas Cowboys during the same day and at home and winning. TV ratings will drop too.

one problem with the feb 27th

one problem with the feb 27th cup date, wherever it may be, is that after two weeks in daytona, spending all that money on hotels, food, hospitality, sponsorships and all that SpeedWeeks stuff, most everyone is not only worn out for the next couple of weeks but also out of money. no one really wants the second race of the season. me, i think nascar has oversaturated the country; the tour needs to be cut back to 30 events. and Kansas, i agree, may have the same problem promoting two races that other tracks have. i'm hearing June 5th maybe for kansas, which could be okay.

I notice on your schedule

I notice on your schedule that you have Chicago as a Sunday race kicking off the Chase. Is this set? Why in the hell are they moving a race in Chicago to September on a Sunday competing with the NFL?? Does anyone research this stuff beforehand? I agree with what someone else said, that Bristol should be in the Chase. My thought was to kick the Chase off at Indy (to bring some prestige back) and then go to Bristol the following week. But based on what I'm hearing, I'm pretty much convinced that these guys making the schedule are incapable of coming up with any changes that make sense.

well, i might agree with your

well, i might agree with your questions about the cup schedule not really making a lot of sense, in a number of ways. i just figure if no one checked weather.com for Labor Day and late February in Southern California before making those cup changes, we probably ought to cross our fingers on whatever new changes are being dreamed up. yes, bristol should be in the chase, and unless nascar slows the speeds across the board, all these 1-1/2-mile cookie cutter tracks are going to be equally boring. weren't those tires running 285 degrees at chicago during that race? and running the Brickyard 400 in the middle of July doesnt make good sense to me.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com