NASCAR may be hitting public roads from 2021
You read that right – the series best known for oval racing is looking at the possibility of street circuits
Although tighter circuits have a tendency to reduce the quality of racing in motorsport, there’s definite proof that street tracks are great at attracting new crowds. With traditional motorsport fans dying out, every major series is going through an ‘audience rejuvenation’ stage.
With its history and fanbase, one would think that if there was a championship that didn’t need to go out looking for new followers, it would be NASCAR. However, with many of its agreements with tracks ending at the end of 2020, the series’ governing body may be taking this chance to radically change the sport’s identity.
Currently, the 38-race calendar includes a few road courses such as Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but it’s fair to say that most of us link NASCAR with oval speedways. Most of these large arena-like tracks are situated miles from any major signs of civilisation, which is what the organisers are aiming to change. For instance, there are tracks Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville that could provide better attraction to new markets.
The other possibility stakeholders have been informed about are more temporary street circuits. The simplest solution to this idea would be to use existing street layouts like Long Beach, or Belle Isle Park that are used by Indycar and the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. In fact, some are suggesting NASCAR does a doubleheader event with either of these series at a street circuit.
However, there are rumours that new tracks could be created in parking lots near large sports stadiums. This was done in the early 1980’s when Formula One first visited Las Vegas.
So far, NASCAR itself hasn’t announced any major plans to mix up the schedule, although its President Steve Phelps has said that all options are on the table. At the final round of the year at Miami, he said, “We’re having a lot of discussions right now on the 2021 schedule, and we’re looking at three things when we’re looking at that race schedule: where we’re going to have the most competitive racing we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like.”
With such a jam-packed calendar, teams are already being pushed to breaking point. Many even have two different pit crews allowing mechanics to get some time off during the year. With that in mind, some events from the current roster are surely going to have to be dropped. There are so many oval tracks on the calendar, surely some can be bumped off. Which would you opt to switch for more technical street tracks?