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Time to consider tweaking the NASCAR Cup tour schedule? Yes: The Chase -- Think Vegas, baby!

  This is where Mark Martin launched his title charge in 2009. Will he do it again here this spring? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Springtime in the desert, Sprint Cup time in Arizona's Valley of the Sun, and all's abloom...though up at the Canyon a snowstorm can still roll in.
   But momentum? NASCAR had it, however now it's got to get it back again.
   Daytona -- forget the pothole -- had a great finish. But then California, the following week, was again less than thrilling, at least till those final laps.
   Las Vegas, good race. Great, hot town....and loves NASCAR.
   Atlanta, good race, plus the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski controversy.
   But then a week off.
   Fox sports execs, when NASCAR was doing its early-season Mexico City stint -- which, when things quiet down down there, it should resume, but as a Cup event, with all the stars – complained about the Sprint Cup tour when it featured a break after the year's first three races. Said it cost the network valuable momentum.  And they were right.
   Mexico City should have been a Cup event all along; bill it as a 'special event,' like those Japan races, to leave an 'out.' Montreal too, in late summer.

  NASCAR's team haulers parade down Las Vegas Blvd. Does Vegas deserve a second Cup date? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   But back to this season, and 2011: Bristol and Martinsville were two of the best short track races in years....but with Easter coming so early this season, that drama was left to wither on the vine. If Nashville were a Cup event, well, maybe there might have been a livelier crowd, and the tour wouldn't have lost momentum. (ESPN's telecast of Saturday's Nashville race earned a final national household rating of 1.1 -- averaging 1,378,643 viewers. The rating was down from the 1.3 rating earned for the race in both 2008 and 2009.)
   Now it's Phoenix, Texas, Talladega, Richmond, Darlington, Dover, the Charlotte All-star race, the Charlotte 600, Pocono (still 500 miles?!), Michigan, Sonoma, New Hampshire, Daytona and Chicago (well, Joliet).....before there's another break. That's 14 in a row, criss-crossing the country, east-to-west-to-east, north-to-west-to-east-to-south-to-Midwest....whew!
   Hope NASCAR's truckers got their rest; they'll need it.
   Does the NASCAR tour schedule need tweaking?
   But the first tweaks should come in the championship playoffs, which should open in mid-September with more of a bang.
   Nothing wrong with Loudon, N.H., now. Great place, lobsters and all, and picturesque to be sure. And track boss Jerry Gappens does a great job.
   However unless owner Bruton Smith can persuade the New York Yankees to play the Boston Red Sox at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon may not be the best spot to kick off NASCAR's championship chase.
   Las Vegas. Now that's the place. Fireworks, sis-boom-bah! Plus the town certainly deserves a second Cup weekend.
   Of course Smith would like to have the season finale at his Las Vegas track.....
   One big point to keep in mind in all this is that NASCAR Nation is no longer some monolithic creature. It is divided – perhaps starkly in some points – into two camps: the long-time loyalists, who understand all this, though whose patience has been sorely tested by Daytona bosses in recent years; and the new casual fans that the sport has been working so hard to attract the past 10 years. A problem – some of those newcomers appear rather fickle, and when something new comes along, they may move on. Plus, for some of those new fans, when it comes to NASCAR racing, it may be Short Attention span Theater.

  Is it too early to start thinking about NASCAR's championship playoffs.....for 2011? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   The 10 chase races should feature 10 of the sport's best events.
   Of course maybe 10 races – which span nearly three months – may be too long a playoff run.
   The good news is that NASCAR's 2011 opening stretch looks stronger than 2010: the Daytona 500 (Feb. 20, two weeks after the Super Bowl) comes a week later. Easter also comes much later in the spring, April 24th. So it looks like the 2011 Sprint Cup tour will open with nine straight weeks of action: Daytona, California, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Bristol, Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Talladega. Actually, 10 straight weeks, considering SpeedWeeks drags on.
     In fact, it appears the 2011 Cup tour, if the 23 tracks generally follow the 2010 order, would feature only three off-weeks, for Easter (April 24th), in mid-July (between Chicago and Indianapolis), and in late August (presuming the Nationwide series plays Aug. 27th in Montreal).
     Not much breathing room there.
    Not much margin for rain delays (such as are likely at Martinsville, Watkins Glen and Pocono).
    Then, where to add that second Cup race at Kansas City?

   New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where NASCAR's championship playoffs open (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Is this NASCAR's 2011 Sprint Cup schedule?

    Feb. 20       Daytona 500
    Feb. 27       California
    March 6      Las Vegas
    March 13    Atlanta
    March 20    Bristol
    March 27    Martinsville
    April 3        Texas (NCAA Final Four weekend)
    April 9        Phoenix (Saturday, Masters weekend)
    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         Chicago (Saturday)
                     Off week
    July 24       Indianapolis
    July 31       Pocono
    August 7    Watkins Glen
    August 14  Michigan
    August 20  Bristol (Saturday)
                     Off week (Nationwide Montreal?)
    Sept  4      Atlanta (Labor Day weekend)
    Sept 10     Richmond (Saturday)
    Sept 18     New Hampshire
    Sept 25     Dover
    Oct 2        Kansas
    Oct 9        California
    Oct 15      Charlotte (Saturday)
    Oct 23      Martinsville
    Oct 30      Talladega
    Nov 6        Texas
    Nov 13      Phoenix
    Nov 20      Homestead-Miami


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   Lots of good lobster up in New Hampshire...but does Loudon has the right panache to open the championship playoffs? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)





To me, there is nothing

To me, there is nothing exciting about the opening of the Chase, whereever it may be, so why not New Hampshire? The entire schedule needs an overhaul anyway. There are so many track in demand of a race, why not reduce everyone to 1 race and add deserving tracks like Iowa to the schedule. Kansas doesn't deserve a 2nd race just because they have a casino. The racing is not good there and never has been so why a 2nd date. Vegas, while I"m sure it goes all out on Cup weekend, doesn't deserve a 2nd race either. The racing isn't very good there either.

Of course Nascar measures worthiness of a track based on $$$$ and not the quality of the product on the track and then they wonder why grandstands are half full and nobody is watching on tv. If Martinsville loses a race because of a casino at a racetrack that provides less than stellar racing, they are going to lose more fans. Nascar can bank on that.

okay, give me your version of

okay, give me your version of what the 2011 cup tour calender should look like....
me, i think if nascar would put another 300 pounds of downforce on these cup cars, the action would be a lot better. i strongly disagree with taking downforce away. trucks have the most downforce and the best racing; nationwide has the next most downforce, and the next best racing; cup has the least downforce, and......

A better 2011 Schedule - FEB

A better 2011 Schedule -

FEB 20 - Daytona 500
FEB 27 - California 500, Fontana

MARCH 6 - Vegas 500
MARCH 13 - Alamo 500, Texas
MARCH 20 - Checker 600k, Phoenix
MARCH 27 - Atlanta 500

APRIL 3 - Southeastern 500, Bristol
APRIL 10 - Richmond 400
APRIL 17 - Virginia 500, Martinsville
APRIL 23 - Music City 500, Nashville

MAY 1 - Winston 500, Talladega
MAY 7 - Rebel 500, Darlington
MAY 15 - Kansas 500
MAY 22 - Bluegrass 500, Kentucky
MAY 30 - World 600, Charlotte (Monday afternoon)

JUNE 5 - Mason-Dixon 500, Dover
JUNE 12 - Pocono 500
JUNE 19 - Michigan 500
JUNE 26 - Bye week

JULY 2 - Firecracker 450, Daytona (Saturday night)
JULY 10 - Chicago 500
JULY 17 - New England 300, New Hampshire
JULY 24 - Brickyard 450
JULY 31 - Summer 500, Pocono

AUGUST 7 - Kentucky 500
AUGUST 14 - Yankee 500, Michigan
AUGUST 21 - Volunteer 500, Bristol
AUGUST 28 - Nashville 500

SEPTEMBER 5 - Dixie 500, Atlanta (Monday afternoon)
SEPTEMBER 11 - Capital City 400, Richmond
SEPTEMBER 18 - New Hampshire 300
SEPTEMBER 25 - Delaware 500, Dover

OCTOBER 2 - Kansas 500
OCTOBER 9 - National 500, Charlotte
OCTOBER 16 - Los Angeles 500, Fontana
OCTOBER 23 - Old Dominion 500, Martinsville
OCTOBER 30 - Die Hard 500, Talladega

NOVEMBER 6 - Arizona 500k, Phoenix
NOVEMBER 13 - Lone Star 500, Texas
NOVEMBER 20 - Miami 500

No Chase format.

Ouch, you're making me think

Ouch, you're making me think too much:
So, at 1st Kansas, run the all-star race that weekend too (remember the all-star thing was at charlotte originally in order to impress rjr execs up in w-s)?
Two Kentucky races, but only one in Vegas. Sorry, can't deal with that.
Dropping both Sonoma and the Glen....i understand the thinking, but first we can't give up the San Francisco-San Jose market, and we can't give up a foothold, however tenuous, in New York State. Plus road courses can be made more exciting....let's get JPM and JG to work on that project. Maybe LR cars were indeed the answer, like Billy Jr., once thought.
450s at Daytona and Indy? And 500s at Pocono? think we should be going shorter here rather than longer..
two nashvilles? love your sense of humor. especially atlanta on labor day afternoon -- we could rename it the sunscreen 500 lol. and you really think 600k at phoenix was the way to go?
like bunching the short tracks...i presume you're thinking about doing something with the old nashville track or redoing whatever they've got now? but 500?
Winston 500? hey, I really like that....
and i like swapping texas and phoenix in november.
but all those 500s....
well, at least you're giving us something to think about. pop me another Bull....

Just drop the Chase and the

Just drop the Chase and the schedule will be great!

But seriously... why is Phoenix after Martinsville and Bristol. Move it ahead of them and give Marty and Bristol a better chance at good weather.

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