Aug 26, 2014, 8:51 PM EDT
The long-awaited release of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule was much less of the surprise many expected.
Instead of wholesale changes, we got only a few tweaks – a bit of shuffling around, as well as other traditional race dates being pushed back a week or two.
But for the most part, instead of a completely radical change of tracks and locales for both the overall season and – in particular, the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup – we got more of the same.
And you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
NASCAR did what it felt it had to do, and by early measure, appears to have hit at least a triple, if not a full-fledged home run.
Sure, change is oftentimes a good thing. To shake things up and to throw out some old and bring in some new is one of the best ways to not only attract new fans, but also bring back old and former fans.
But at the same time, making change just for change sake – especially at such a crucial time in where the sport is today – would not be prudent.
Let me explain.
It’s no secret that NASCAR has experienced significant drops in at-track attendance and TV ratings for the better part of the last six-plus years.
There’s no question times have been tough for the sport and many, if not most, of its teams. Many have had to weather the most challenging economic climate they ever have. Some have even had to fold or merge with other operations because they simply could not continue racing.
But when NASCAR makes changes, it does so after extensive research and thought. Change is not made with a knee-jerk reaction or willy-nilly.
Think of the time and effort that has gone into things such as the initial Car of Tomorrow, followed by the Generation 6 car that is in use today.
NASCAR didn’t make those changes overnight. Rather, a combination of research, development, conferring with manufacturers, team owners, crew chiefs, drivers and even sponsors all take place before major changes occur.
In the case of both the COT and Gen 6, those developments were both two-plus years in the making before they actually made their debut in the sport.
Which leads us to this year’s upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup and Tuesday’s release of the 2015 schedule.
NASCAR as a sanctioning body, starting from the top with chairman/CEO Brian France, president Mike Helton and all other major officials, spent close to a year trying to come up with a way to liven up the Chase.
While NASCAR’s marquee event had become more popular as time proceeded over the first 10 years of its existence, to many there was still an intangible missing that prevented it from realizing all the potential that France, Helton and the rest of NASCAR officials had envisioned and hoped for.
As a result, yet another change in the Chase for 2014, the most significant and largest-scale change in the playoffs’ 10-year existence. Instead of 12 drivers, we will have 16. Instead of a playoff system based upon points, we’ll have three elimination rounds that will result in a one-race, four-driver, winner-take-all shootout in the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway in mid-November.
With so much on the line that the new format will be a success and will hopefully be that missing intangible that will attract more fans both in-person and in front of a TV set, it would be ludicrous for NASCAR to radically alter the schedule for 2015 without seeing how the full 2014 schedule – particularly the newly revised Chase – plays out.
Sure, many of us heard all kinds of schedule rumors over the last few months. Some were mild, like what came to be with Darlington moving back to its former Labor Day date. Or pushing the spring race at Bristol back two weeks due to often unpredictable weather in March.
Those made sense to do.
Other rumors we heard were radical, such as the Brickyard 400 starting the Chase next season, that a road course (at a track perhaps other than Sonoma or Watkins Glen) would be inserted into the playoffs, and that some tracks that currently have Chase races would not have them when the 2015 schedule came out.
Of course, that did not happen.
That doesn’t mean more changes will eventually come to the Chase makeup, but at this time, NASCAR has to look at the new format as a chef would look at a stew: you have to let it simmer for a while before you start adding ingredients or taking other ingredients out.
I still believe we’ll see the Chase schedule changed in the future, with different venues than what we currently have, perhaps after a two- or three-year period to allow for evaluation on what changes, if necessary, will be prudent.
But until then, NASCAR owes it to itself and its fans, and its fans owe it to the sport to see how the new format and the new schedule mesh.
And that will only come with time.
For now, I’ll give NASCAR the benefit of the doubt. To once again use the analogy of the chef and stew, NASCAR shook things up not on a massive scale, but just enough to give the overall season and the Chase a bit more flavor.
How it tastes – and whether it needs even more flavor – will be up to the fans.
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
Oct 25, 2014, 2:28 PM EDT
Stenhouse and Allgaier will start mid-pack on Sunday at Martinsville.
Oct 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Says first five years in F1 are about surviving, but cannot see the project failing.
Oct 25, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT
Harvick turns in a 19.457-second lap around the Virginia half-mile to top “Happy Hour.”
Oct 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
German driver looking forward to tackling the Circuit of The Americas in Austin next weekend.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Despite fighting breast cancer for the third time, NASCAR fan Wendy Smith decided to spend $25 to help others even less fortunate. Her gratuity paid off in a big way, earning a brand new $65,000 Chevrolet Corvette.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Patrick not afraid to tackle thorny topics yesterday at Martinsville.
Oct 25, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
On a weekend that carries a lot of significance for honoring NASCAR Hall of Fame-elect inductee Wendell Scott, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. paid tribute in his own way to Scott, earning the pole for Saturday’s Kroger 200 Camping World Truck Series race.
Oct 25, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Former HRT driver casts his damning judgement on the current cost crisis in F1.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
The demise of both Caterham and Marussia has been on the cards for some time, yet Formula 1 has allowed it to happen.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT
Despite chilly temperatures in the mid-40s in the 50-minute early-morning session, Jimmie Johnson led all drivers in the next-to-last Sprint Cup practice with a best lap of 98.023 mph, the only driver over the 98 mph mark.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Over 400 people attend special event in celebration of Brabham’s life and legacy.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Lotus driver has failed to score any points in 2014, but feels that next season will hold better things.
Oct 25, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
Yet another record falls to the Spanish sensation in Malaysia.
Oct 25, 2014, 5:48 AM EDT
Bernie Ecclestone claims that there will be just 18 cars racing in Austin.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT
In a surprisingly candid admission, six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson says that while nothing is imminent, the day is coming when he and crew chief Chad Knaus will go their separate ways.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT
In a bemusing video released Thursday, NASCAR star Kevin Harvick spent one of his recent off nights working the room at an Outback Steakhouse.
Oct 24, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
On Thursday, Jeff Gordon delivered the one millionth meal served by one of Gordon’s key sponsors, the Drive To End Hunger.
Oct 24, 2014, 10:26 PM EDT
Jimmy Prock, who resigned earlier this week as crew chief for 16-time Funny Car champ John Force, has been hired by rival Don Schumacher Racing.
Jeff Gordon would love to return to Saturday Night Live — and wants to bring Ricky Funck with him (video)
Oct 24, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
Jeff Gordon said Friday he wants to return to host Saturday Night Live for a second time — and he wants to reprise the hysterical “Ricky Funck” character.
Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT
A loose car and two brushes with the wall has put Kevin Harvick in a deep hole at the start of Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener.
Video from NASCAR America
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