Thursday, April 2, 2020

Mending Schedules: NASCAR 2020

We are in April and this will be a tame month.

There is a great chance we will not see any motorsports this April. It is just going to be video games. The return date is a moving target. We have no clue when we are going to be back in action. Everyone is trying to plan for an uncertain future.

Some series have already laid out their contingency plans. Others have held off on revised schedules. It is going to be difficult to reschedule every race. Some series have accepted sacrifices. Others are holding out to saving every date. The problem is time is running out for every date to be saved and there are limits.

With free time and no races ahead of us in the foreseeable future I guess we should at least try and piece together the jigsaw puzzle that is 2020.

NASCAR has the most pieces scattered about, the least amount of wiggle room and it only appears it will get harder from here. At the start of the week, the Cup series had seven postponed events and was slating to pick up the season at Martinsville on May 9. On Monday, Virginia extended its stay-at-home order until June 10. Martinsville has not been officially postponed but it seems it will be added to the list.

Formula One's season opener is slated for Canada in the middle of June. IndyCar and IMSA are hoping to be back on track the final weekend of May. MotoGP is looking at the middle of May. These plans are all depended on local governments and what restrictions are in place over the next two or three months.

NASCAR has yet to announce any revision but time is tight for NASCAR. There are seven races to be made up with an eighth likely to be added. There has been no sense of flexibility over extending the schedule beyond its current end date or switching playoff races or cancelling races. NASCAR has said it plans on getting all 36 races in. That will only get tougher with more dates that are lost. Midweek races have been thrown out there as a solution to get to 36 races but let's really think this out for a second:

Is NASCAR really going to go from the middle of May to early November with no off weeks and possibly cases of four races in 14 days on multiple occasions?

That would lead to an incredible level of burnout and that has to be minimized.

At this point, time could still be on NASCAR's side but it is running out of weeks. There is a chance to fit in the remaining 32 races but it is going to take some maneuvering and some sacrifices. Here is an attempt to mend 2020:

May 16: Talladega
This was supposed to be all-star weekend but all-star weekend is got to be sacrificed. There is no time for non-championship rounds taking up an entire weekend to itself. Championship races have to be made up. Either move the all-star race to the Thursday before the Coca-Cola 600 or bin it altogether for a year and donate that purse. The donation sounds like the best option this year.

May 24: Charlotte
Keeps its scheduled date.

May 31: Kansas
Keeps its scheduled date.

June 6/7: Michigan doubleheader
This is the first massive change but it will be done to open a race weekend later in the year for one of the postponed races. The second Michigan date moves to June. It will require shortened races, similar to what Pocono was scheduled to do this year. You are not running two 400-mile races. Pocono was going to be a 325-mile race and 350-mile race. The grid for the second race would be determined based on the first race results with lead lap cars being inverted with lapped cars starting where they finished the day before.

Michigan should be the first place to get a crack at it and with a condensed schedule the races may need to be a little shorter. I think we are looking at a pair of 300-mile races or a 300-mile race and a 350-mile race.

June 14: Sonoma
Keeps its scheduled date.

June 21: Chicagoland
Keeps its scheduled date.

June 27/28: Pocono
Keeps its scheduled date.

July 5: Indianapolis
Keeps its scheduled date.

July 11: Kentucky
Keeps its scheduled date.

July 19: Loudon
Keeps its scheduled date.

July 25: Texas 
This was originally the first scheduled off-weekend during the Olympics. It now becomes a Saturday night race. Is July in Texas ideal? No but none of the other postponed races really fit into this period. Do you think Atlanta, Homestead, Richmond or Talladega fit at the end of July? No. And Texas likely cannot be a doubleheader because of its place in the playoffs. This Saturday night in July is the best we can do.

August 1: Martinsville
Originally the second schedule Olympic off week becomes the first Saturday night Martinsville race.

August 8: Bristol
This was originally the second Michigan weekend but this becomes the first Bristol race and it is another Saturday night race. It is a quick turnaround to the second Bristol race but Bristol has the same problem as Texas in its position in the schedule does not allow it to be a doubleheader.

August 16: Watkins Glen
Keeps its scheduled date.

August 22: Dover doubleheader
This is a change in that this becomes a doubleheader and it moves up a day because of the Indianapolis 500 will be August 23. For television, NBC is not going to want the races to overlap. The solution could be a doubleheader on Saturday. Like Michigan, these would have to be two shorter races, let's say one 300-miler and one 350-miler.

August 29: Daytona
Keeps its scheduled date.

September 6: Darlington
Keeps its scheduled date but it is no longer the first race of the playoffs.

September 12: Richmond doubleheader
Like Dover, this becomes a doubleheader and these are the final two races of the regular season. These are going to have to be shorter races, perhaps one 300-lap race in the afternoon and a 350-lap race at night.

September 19: Bristol
Keeps its scheduled date, now race one of playoffs.

September 27: Las Vegas
Keeps its scheduled date, now race two of playoffs.

October 4: Talladega
Keeps its scheduled date, now race three of playoffs and end of round one.

October 11: Charlotte
Keeps its scheduled date, now race four of playoffs.

October 18: Kansas
Keeps its scheduled date, now race five of playoffs.

October 25: Atlanta
The playoffs will change a little bit and since Atlanta has one date let's put it in the schedule and it can be added to the playoffs. Bristol, Talladega, Richmond, Texas or Martinsville cannot be doubleheaders in the playoffs, at least it wouldn't feel right. Atlanta would keep it at ten different races at ten different tracks. This would be the end of round two.

November 1: Martinsville
Keeps its scheduled date, now race seven of playoffs.

November 8: Texas
It moves back to fit Atlanta in and Texas stays at race eight of playoffs.

November 15: Homestead
The NASCAR season can be extended by two weeks, which isn't that odd since the season has gone this deep into November for close to the last two decades. This race would end round three.

November 22: Phoenix
Phoenix keeps its season finale slot but it has to shift back two weeks. There would be no need for midweek races. The season is still over before Thanksgiving and everyone gets a much needed holiday break.

What does this all mean for the other two national touring division?

Fortunately, the Grand National Series and the Truck Series only have five races postponed and a likely postponement of Martinsville in May does not add another race to either series plates.

To make this simple, I am only going to note proposed differences to the schedules:

Grand National Series
May 15: Talladega
Just like the Cup series, this race is the first makeup.

June 7: Michigan
This race is slid back a day and will be before the Cup race on Sunday; more on that in a little bit.

July 24: Texas
The Friday night before the Cup Series makeup.

August 21/22: Dover
Just like Cup, this will have to be a doubleheader and I am thinking one race could be on Friday evening and be 200 laps with the other on Saturday between the two Cup races and be 150 laps.

September 18/19: Bristol
Bristol would not be in the playoffs, in fact the final regular season race would be September 26 at Las Vegas. However, Bristol could get a 250-lap race on Friday night and a 300-lap race on Saturday before the Cup race.

October 24: Atlanta
This goes with the Cup makeup race and this would be the final race of the first round of the playoffs after Charlotte and Kansas.

November 7: Texas
Moves back to make room for Atlanta and this is the second race of the second round after Martinsville.

November 14: Homestead
Slotted in as the penultimate round of the season and closes out round two.

November 21: Phoenix
Moves back with the Cup weekend and keeps its spot as the season finale.

Truck Series:
May 22: Charlotte
Moves back a week because the all-star weekend is gone and it will be the Friday night before the Coca-Cola 600.

June 6: Michigan
Since Michigan is moving its second Cup date to form a doubleheader the Truck day has to go with it. This is supposed to be the Texas weekend with IndyCar but that race will have to move and there is room.

July 23: Texas
Speaking of Texas moving, this is where the postponed race can fit in, the Thursday night before the Cup makeup.

August 21: Dover
The Truck race moves to Friday afternoon before the first Grand National Series race. This weekend was supposed to be the Gateway weekend with IndyCar but...

August 30: Gateway
The IndyCar race has moved to August 30. This race will be moved to Sunday because NASCAR is at Daytona on Friday and Saturday with the other two series. This will be a doubleheader with the IndyCar race on the same day. Obviously, this will no longer be the first race of the playoffs.

September 12: Richmond
This is the makeup race from the April postponed date and it will be between the two Cup races.

October 24: Atlanta
Makeup, it will be a doubleheader with the Grand National Series race on Saturday and it will be the final race of the first round of the playoffs with the first two races at Las Vegas and Talladega.

November 6: Texas
This is where the June race slides back to. It becomes the second race of round two after Martinsville and it is Friday night.

November 13: Homestead
It slides into the Friday night of the makeup weekend.

November 20: Phoenix
Season finale is still on a Friday night and at Phoenix.

There is still time for NASCAR to complete its seasons before Thanksgiving and without having to run any weeknight races for the Cup series but time is tight.

In all likelihood, this plan will not work out. We are probably going to lose the month of May. Some places might be good to go in June but there will not be a reset date when everything is back to normal. It is going to good in some places but bad in others at the same time for the next few months. We might see outbreaks throughout the year and cause other dates to be dropped.

NASCAR is going to have to be flexible on changes. Some races will have to become doubleheaders and slightly shortened. It is what has to be done during this time. The playoffs might have to take on some different races or dropped entirely. There is a good chance the Cup series will not get 36 races this year. We can have this ideal world but that is not the real world in 2020. A breaking point may come and a loss will have to be accepted.