Winston Cup series needs to make changes

Scheduling conflicts

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- The war of words between Texas Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway proved to be nothing more than a big misunderstanding, but it also exposed one of the biggest problems on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Clay Campbell, president at Martinsville, now is convinced Eddie Gossage, the boss at Texas, didn't make disparaging remarks about his short track. Campbell had heard Gossage was upset Martinsville had two racing dates, while Texas a 154,000-seat facility in a major market had only one.

''He admitted that he had not seen or heard any such statement, only that he responded to rumors that a quote of that nature appeared in (a newspaper) or on television last weekend,'' Gossage said. ''I told Clay that we made no such statement. It simply doesn't exist.''

The problem with the schedule, however, is very real.

Martinsville clearly is a fan favorite, especially because the only way to pass is to knock the car in front out of the way. While Martinsville remains one of the few bastions of the sport's roots, it is fair to pose the question: Should Martinsville have two racing dates while bigger, more modern speedways in metropolises such as Fort Worth, Texas; Las Vegas; southern California; Chicago and Kansas City have only one?

Television apparently didn't think so. Fox, which paid the lion's share of a $2.6 billion contract to broadcast the Win ston Cup and Busch series, shuffled Sunday's Virginia 500 to its cable sister at FX. The network then televised the CART race on its primary network.

It's clear the sanctioning body needs to reorganize its schedule. There are too many races the season starts the second weekend of February and ends the weekend before Thanksgiving, with only three open dates and some of them are positioned poorly.

Texas is slotted in the middle of thunderstorm season. The spring race in Atlanta is on the same weekend the city will play host to either the Southeastern Conference or Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournaments. Spring races at Darlington (S.C.) and Rockingham (N.C.) speedways that are 90 miles apart, are separated by just three weeks. Fall races at Martinsville, Concord (N.C.), and Rockingham that are within a 120-mile radius, are clustered in a four-week stretch.

An idea that was kicked around a few years ago now seems to warrant new consideration. A possible solution could be to drop Watkins Glen International, perhaps the least-favorite stop on the series, and rotate some of the second racing dates among race tracks in the same general geographic area.

One cluster of speedways could be Martinsville, Rockingham and Darlington. Those three tracks play host to a total of five races a year, with the single date being rotated annually among the three.

The same could happen for Dover International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and New Hampshire International Speedway.

By doing that, the sport would free up three dates, and those dates can be doled out to Texas, California and alternated between Phoenix and Las Vegas. When Kansas and Chicago build more than 80,000 seats, they can be added to the mix.

Until then, the speedways with two dates will argue they deserve them; the ones with only one date will argue they deserve more.

Reach Don Coble at

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