Sunday marked the second race of the NASCAR Cup series in the recently redesigned Atlanta Motor Speedway. Both races have created a competitive style like limit plate racing compared to what you would see in traditional mediums.
In fact, racing in Atlanta had similarities to the Daytona International Speedway and the Talladega Super Speedway in the early 1990s. Instead of a large package of 30 or more vehicles running close together, the area was divided into small groups of about 10 vehicles. Managing was very premium in Atlanta, and having a car that could move traffic was crucial to securing a good finish. Not everyone will like New Atlanta, but it’s interesting to see how the track rearrangement brings back the old style of racing that is unique to NASCAR’s current landscape.
For the foreseeable future, it looks like Atlanta will produce Super Speedway style racing. Therefore, the schedule change is set for 2023. NASCAR should end the regular season of the Atlanta Summer Race. The Daytona Summer Race could go back to its proper date around the 4th of July. The Road America race could stay on the Cup series schedule to the date currently held by Atlanta.
It was so frustrating that Daytona’s summer race was so far from Independence Day. Although the “other Daytona race” has always been in the shadow of the Daytona 500, the 400 mile race had its own unique history and prestige. It has always been appropriate for NASCAR to, like many Americans, go to the beach on a holiday weekend and celebrate the founding of the United States with a race on NASCAR’s signature route.
There is no doubt that Daytona Independence Day was a special occasion. It was a race that many drivers cycled through their calendars, one in which all teams put in a little extra effort to win.
Television networks also took a special approach to this. Remember how, from 2001-2006, FOX and NBC replaced the Daytona races with each other? This underscores the importance of the summer race that TV networks want to exchange on a rotating basis with the biggest race of the year. The biggest holiday weekend of the year deserves a special race, and Daytona is always presented on the go and out.
But Daytona’s July 4th season ended abruptly in 2020 when the 400-mile race ended the regular season. It was clear why NASCAR made the switch. Placing a prohibitive plate event, often one of the most unexpected races of the year, increases the chances for a last-minute shake-up on the playing field at the end of a regular season. Pack racing has more potential than any other type of racing in the cup series to create amazing winners. With a play-off format of “Win and You’re Inside,” the regular season finale in Daytona increases the chances for a post-season-related drama type that NASCAR has been pursuing for nearly 20 years.
Yet as the race receded from Independence Day, it felt like the Daytona summer race had lost some of its brightness. Winning at Daytona is still valuable among NASCAR competitors, but now it feels like winning the summer competition is a means to an end to the playoffs rather than a significant achievement in itself. Personally, the idea of reducing the importance of Daytona to playoffs makes me feel unhappy.
If NASCAR should have a Super Speedway race at the end of the regular season, why not Atlanta? Thanks to these new formations, Atlanta has the ability to match all the hopes and surprises that Daytona provides. Sunday’s race almost caused Corey Lajo to win his first Cup series. Just imagine how compelling it would be for Lajoi to fight for his first win and go to the playoffs at his last chance for the season. As long as Atlanta can provide Super Speedway style racing, it has all of Daytona’s wildcard capacity.
Moving to Atlanta at the end of the regular season will also give fans additional incentive to participate in the race. Despite the exciting competition earlier this year, there was little crowd in Atlanta for Sunday’s competition. Undoubtedly the threat of rain and the assurance of high temperatures and humidity may frighten some lovers. But if NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports Inc. Continuing to justify two cup series races each year in Atlanta, the track needs to attract big people.
Performing Atlanta’s second race on Saturday night at the end of the regular season should solve the attendance problem. Yes, NASCAR recently dropped out of night races due to low TV ratings. But there is obviously a point where attendance along the way is important to the approving organ. If not, why did the Bristol Motor Speedway Spring Race become a dirt trail? Why do two Richmond raceways run from day to night and then back? In addition, if regular season end hosting can’t attract good people to Atlanta, NASCAR needs to reconsider the question of whether the track should get two races.
As for the Independence Day weekend race, NASCAR has not found a better solution since leaving Daytona. The race lasted only a year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway around July 4th, and the future of Road America remains in the air in the Cup series schedule. Road America is a historic circuit with many natural beauties, and local fans should get a lot of credit for its strong presence over the past two years. But in terms of racing action, two cup races on Road America are often flattened. It was a good thing that last weekend’s race featured an exciting fight for victory between Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott. Otherwise, the competition will be unforgettable.
Road America may still find its place in the NASCAR world, but that shouldn’t happen with the Fourth of July. The racing we saw last week was not a good representation of how much fun road racing can be at NASCAR. In addition, as much as Road America is historic in itself, NASCAR has contributed very little to this history. NASCAR’s Independence Day competition should be at the NASCAR’s mark, and there’s no such thing as a track identification for a sport like Daytona.
The game was never a good enough excuse to take the Daytona 400-mile race away from the Independence Weekend. Yet now that Atlanta has actually become the third Super Speedway, it would be a great place to perform at the end of a regular season. Longtime fans will remember how Atlanta hosted the final race of the entire season from 1987-2000. Moving to Atlanta at the end of the regular season would be a perfect year back to this tradition. It will also help increase attendance on the track and provide a super-fast racing non-stop that NASCAR is eager to end its regular season. The Daytona 400-mile race could thus return to Independence Day weekend.
NASCAR learned from her experience with the Darlington Raceway and the Southern 500 not to be confused with traditional race races. Hopefully, a correction of the same course is in the works for the Daytona Summer Race and 2023.
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