A finish like Sunday’s made the "more short tracks" movement in NASCAR only grow louder, and to their credit, the sanctioning body says it is listening.
In an interview on the NBC Sports podcast, new NASCAR president Steve Phelps says he hears the fan demand for more tracks less than a mile in length, and he says there will be an opportunity to alter the schedules over the next few years.
"I think that there is a willingness among tracks and teams and NASCAR and our broadcast partners to look at things in a different way," Phelps said. "I do think that the Roval opened up some eyes. I think much like what you saw around the first race at Eldora, that first truck race on dirt … everybody was like ‘We have to have more, we have to have more dirt races.’
"I think you have to look at, ‘OK, what’s the specialness of it?’ I’m not suggesting there wouldn’t be another Roval, I’ll put that in quotes, moving forward. But I think there are changes to the schedule, there have been things that have been tossed around and around. Can you have a doubleheader weekend? Can you have a midweek race? Can you pull the schedule forward? Does it make sense to go to a street course or go to more short tracks?"
For next season, NASCAR’s next attempted fix for the larger tracks is a high- drag, high-downforce package with dramatically reduced horsepower. It hasn’t been especially popular among competitors because it risks becoming pack racing around the majority of mile and a half tracks that make up the current schedule.
Veteran driver Denny Hamlin says dramatic actions like this wouldn’t be necessary if there were more short tracks on the schedule.
"We’ve had some great races and great finishes this year. Ultimately, it all revolves around short tracks," Hamlin said. "You take aerodynamics out of the way. You get back to old-school racing. You can have this every week if you really wanted, no matter what car we drove.
"If it had six tires or a 12-inch spoiler or no spoiler, you would have racing like this — no matter what package. Just as long as the racetrack allows it. And this one does."
Unfortunately, building a new short track capable of hosting Cup isn’t feasible in this economy according to Roger Penske.
"To build a track today and find the land somewhere in the country to add another consolation would probably be very tough," Penske said. "I think NASCAR’s going to try with the rules to tighten it up as much as they can.
"These tracks like Bristol and Martinsville are certainly special places. You can see the kind of racing we have here."
Speedway Motorsports Inc. is moving closer to securing a Cup date for Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. While not a short track, 1.2-mile Gateway Motorsport Park told Autoweek over the weekend that it was willing to attempt a midweek race in order to secure a Cup date.
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