Sprint Cup schedule open to criticism

NASCAR: 2011

Kickoff in Chicago, no road course bad ideas

August 11, 2010|By George Diaz, Tribune newspapers

A few things to ponder as NASCAR makes some relatively cosmetic changes in its Sprint Cup schedule for 2011:

Why no road course in the Chase? Is Chicago in September a good idea?

If NASCAR really wanted to mix up things, a road course is essential.

True, only two of the 36 races on the circuit are run on road courses, but NASCAR has been bucking tradition for years with changes it has made in track dates and with the points system.

Road courses no longer should be held in disdain as posh venues for the wine-and-cheese crowd. There is a lot of rubbin' and racin' going on at these courses, evidenced by what went on last week at Watkins Glen. Just ask Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

It's fun to turn right now and then.

This would have thrown an appealing curveball into the mix.

Onto the second question: It's fine to move the Chase opener to the second-largest market on the NASCAR circuit. Chicago will bounce New Hampshire from that prime spot. What doesn't make much sense is that this will be a Sunday in September, just when the NFL feeding frenzy is getting into gear, no pun intended.

How many Bears fans will cut to the Chase?

This is going to take a lot of marketing and PR savvy to lure fans from the king of sports, the NFL.

Otherwise, the news that has been announced in spurts over the last few days — the official 2011 Sprint Cup schedule has not been released yet — isn't awe-inspiring.

Kudos to Kentucky for getting its first Sprint Cup date. Kansas gets a second date. The Phoenix race is moving from April to February, a week after the Daytona 500.

There was some speculation that the Chase finale would be moved out of Homestead, Fla., with Las Vegas and Daytona emerging as viable candidates. Las Vegas would have been a more logical choice, given the two races in Daytona steeped in NASCAR tradition.

As it likely stands, NASCAR will open its season with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 and come back to Daytona on July 2 for the summer race.

The circuit will still end up in Homestead at the end of the year.

"We'll have some pretty impactful changes to the schedule that I think will be good for NASCAR fans," NASCAR Chairman Brian France promised a few weeks ago .

After all the speculation, this is a buzz kill.

gdiaz@tribune.com

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