The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule has been released and there are some notable changes to this year’s schedule.
The first change involves Speed Weeks in Daytona. In years past, the two qualifying races held on the Thursday before the 500 were held in the afternoon. This year, they have been moved to prime time. These races have always been wild and woolly with drivers attempting to either improve their starting spot for the race on Sunday, or simply race their way into the Great American Race. Now instead of racing during the afternoon, they will be held at night, which can only add to the excitement.
The next change doesn’t come until the spring. Due to the fact that the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, also known as “March Madness” would conflict with the spring Texas race, officials decided to return to its traditional Sunday afternoon timeslot on April 6. Since 2011, the spring Texas race was held on Saturday night. The following week has another big change in store.
Since 2005, Darlington has hosted its lone Sprint Cup date on the Saturday night before Mother’s Day. This year, it is now on Saturday April 12. Kansas’ spring race date has been moved from Sunday afternoon to Saturday May 10, and takes Darlington’s original spot.
Other than that, the schedule remains basically intact, with Fox taking the first 13 races on the schedule, and then TNT has coverage of the next six weeks, before the off-week of July 20. When the series returns at Indianapolis, ESPN/ABC will be covering the last 17 races on the schedule.
For the 2014 schedule, here are the tracks that host two (2) races a year: Bristol, Charlotte, Daytona, Dover, Kansas, Martinsville, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pocono, Phoenix, Richmond, Talladega, and Texas. Here are the tracks that host one (1) race a year: Atlanta, Auto Club Speedway, Chicagoland, Darlington, Homestead-Miami, Indianapolis, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Sonoma, and Watkins Glen.
Below is what I would like to see happen. I know this will probably never happen but it’s fun to think about: Atlanta and Darlington go back to two races a year. They swap their current dates (Darlington goes back to its traditional Labor Day date, and Atlanta gets a mid-April date), and Atlanta gets a Chase race in place of Texas, and Darlington takes Kansas’ spring date, remaining on Mother’s Day weekend. Chicagoland, Kansas, and Kentucky are all dropped from the schedule. Those three tracks are fine, but they don’t produce the most exciting racing on the schedule. Instead, Chicagoland and Kansas lose Chase dates and are replaced by Rockingham and possibly the road course Virginia International Raceway. If NASCAR insists on having the Chase, I think a road course should be added as well so as to truly have all types of tracks in the Chase. If Talladega, Dover, and Martinsville can all have Chase dates, I believe a road course should be in the Chase also. It would probably be better to start Rockingham off with only one date and see if fans respond like they have for Darlington in the last decade, but here Rockingham gets two dates right away. I think if Rockingham was given Kentucky’s date in late June, and given Chicagoland’s date in the Chase, that would work out well. In previous years, when Rockingham was on the schedule, weather was a problem, as its first race was the week after the Daytona 500 and late in the season, late October or early November. Now, it gets a date in the summer, and it gets an early fall date, two months earlier than its previous fall date would have fallen, so the weather should be better and warmer. So the Chase would look like this: Rockingham, New Hampshire, Dover, Atlanta, Charlotte, Talladega, Martinsville, Virginia International Raceway, Phoenix, and Homestead-Miami.