Reigning champion Kevin Harvick called the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule a “weak link’’ and suggested it is time for changes, noting “you can beat a dead horse as much as you want, it doesn’t come back to life.’’
Harvick said that Saturday night races need to be moved to Sunday afternoons, the Sprint Cup series should race at Iowa Speedway and at least another road course should be added to the schedule.
Harvick made the comments Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. This is not the first time Harvick has been critical of NASCAR’s schedule. He said in March that 90 percent of tracks should have only one Cup race per season, noting improved attendance at Auto Club Speedway after its second race was moved to another track.
Here’s what Harvick said Friday:
On growing the sport:
“If you want to talk about growing the sport, I believe that some venues need one race. I believe the schedule needs to be mixed up. People like things that change, they don’t like stagnant things. In my opinion, the most stagnant thing in our sport is our schedule and our venues that we go to. So you can beat a dead horse as much as you want, it doesn’t come back to life. Sometimes you just have to change things back up to keep the excitement and enthusiasm in the sport. I think our schedule is definitely the weak link along with some of the venues we go to. That’s my opinion.
On what’s important with race schedules:
“The most important thing to the sponsors are those TV numbers and social media outreach. The fans are important to the event in the grandstands but in the end, the Joyce Julius numbers and the sponsor numbers are the most important things. I know that we talk about Saturday night races a lot and a lot of people like Saturday night races, but more people watch Sunday at 1 (p.m.). That, to me, is when we need to be on when the most people watch. The fans in the grandstands seeing those products are important, but the TV numbers are the most important thing we have.’’
On where the Cup series should race:
“I know the first place I would go is Iowa. I think everybody wants to see more short tracks and more venues. Road racing, we have a couple of road races on the schedules, most every team has two road race cars and spends a lot of money on their road race program. Adding a road race here or there would definitely be something that I would vote for just for the fact that internationally road racing is very recognizable to race fans. There’s not many ovals. You can take your pick on road courses. Montreal does a great job. You could go to Laguna Seca. There’s a lot of good venues. I’ve always been a fan of let’s go to the (Sprint Cup Awards) banquet and roll the pills around of race tracks across the country and have a wildcard race every year. Go to the Milwaukee Mile. You could go to test these venues and see how the markets react. Even if you only have 30,000 or 40,000 people in the grandstands, if you put on a good event for TV and do the things that it takes to have a unique event that’s really what people want. They want unique things.’’
On why he doesn’t feel enough changes have been made to the schedule:
“Two publicly traded companies (International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc., which own most of the tracks the Cup series races). I think when you look at what NASCAR has done, when you look at what the manufacturers have done, when you look at the teams and the sacrifices and the changes all three of those groups have gone through, they’ve gone through major, major changes. You look at the body style changes and the effort that the manufacturers put into this, rule changes for these particular superspeedway races and the safety effort that NASCAR has put in, it’s not that the tracks aren’t putting in an effort, but there needs to be a different type of effort. This is just my opinion. We’re just talking today.’’
NASCAR owns Iowa Speedway. NASCAR Chairman Brian France discussed the chances of Iowa Speedway getting a Cup date during a press conference in July 2014, saying:
“We don’t have plans for a Cup date there. We’re working with the state representatives and others to help us build racing in Iowa to the highest level that we can, and they’re doing a great job with us, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the entire effort that the communities have made in and around Iowa. But they’ve got a nice full schedule with IndyCar and Nationwide, and I think that’s where that remains.’’
As for Saturday night races, some are held for various reasons. Next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway will be Saturday night to avoid running on Mother’s Day that Sunday. The Texas race last month was run on Saturday night to avoid going head-to-head against the final day of the Masters golf tournament, which typically dominates that day’s TV viewing. The July Daytona race moved to Sunday night to accommodate NBC, which is returning to broadcast Sprint Cup races.