Looking At Red Lights

Don’t Expect Any Major Changes To NASCAR Sked

In the not-so-shocking news department, NASCAR Chairman Brian France confirmed on Monday what has become apparent in recent weeks — next season’s Sprint Cup Series schedule will not look all that different from this year’s.

The bulk of the schedule — outside an occasional date swap between tracks — has remained the same for nearly a decade. The addition of Kentucky Speedway in 2011 was the most recent significant change to the schedule.

So, why is this even brought up?

For the past six months or more, there has been a segment of the NASCAR media boldly predicting “big” changes to the 2014 schedule — and legions of fans hanging on the hopeful word in every story.

The easiest thing to do is say the Cup schedule should — and can — be changed. The most difficult thing — as NASCAR has once again discovered — is putting those words into action.

With two organizations — International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. — together owning roughly 90 percent of the 36 points-paying Cup race dates, there is little room to maneuver when trying to make changes.

NASCAR’s realignment policy makes it relatively easy for a track owner to move its own dates around its own facilities. There is virtually no incentive for the two major track owners to acquiesce to a date change request from the other, however.

And then there is the TV contract. Beginning next season, Fox and NBC will basically split the Cup and Nationwide series seasons. Each network, obviously, wants to maintain the significant race events they already enjoy under the current schedule.

So, significant changes to the Cup schedule could also entail having to gain the approval of the networks involved in any potential race date moves.

All of these issues make the Cup schedule unyielding. Once again, the idea of “blowing up” the Cup schedule appears doomed by the inability of anyone to light the match.