On Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR announced the 2015 schedules for each of the top-three tier divisions. Although no major changes were made for the upcoming season, NASCAR did swap a few events in the Sprint Cup Series.
The largest change in the schedule will be between Darlington Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Instead of racing on Mother’s Day weekend such as Darlington has since 2005, the egg-shaped track will be moving to Labor Day weekend, which has been held by Atlanta. Atlanta will now be the second race of the year – replacing Phoenix, which moves to the fourth event of the season.
Besides moving around Atlanta and Darlington, NASCAR also added an off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. The Cup Series will be off on the weekend of Aug. 30, and moves the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America to that Saturday. Road America was previously the 14th race of the 35-race schedule, but it will now be the 23rd circuit.
As previously announced, Bristol will be moving from March to April for their first of two races.
Daytona’s July race will be making a swap with Kentucky Speedway in 2015. As a part of the inaugural race weekend for NBC broadcasting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, Daytona will be the first race on their schedule. However, previously held as a Saturday evening race, NASCAR has moved the 400-mile spectacle to Sunday with the Nationwide Series race preceding it on Saturday. Kansas and Charlotte will be swapping races inside of the Chase, but no other races will be changed inside of NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.
But what good is all of this going to do for NASCAR?
Well, in a year that NASCAR expects to have another new competition package, a swap in a few tracks should help spice things up. Moreover, it should boost ratings and fill up seats in the grandstands.
Bristol’s March race had horrific weather over the course of the past several seasons. People were pleading to move it later in the year, and NASCAR listened. However, NASCAR moved Atlanta to the second race of the year for the first time in the track’s history. Previously, the earliest the 1.5-mile track had a race was March 7 in 2010. In addition to moving the race, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to the speedway after not appearing at the track in 2013 and 2014. The Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series contests are going to be held on the same day as a part of a “double header” to bring more fans to the stands after attendance has seen a decline for one-race deals.
What is the biggest part about the changes?
Fox. NBC. That’s the only thing that is huge for the schedule change in 2015.
20 events (including non-points) will be carried on the FOX family of networks. FOX Sports 1 will be broadcasting the Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond, Kansas, Dover, Pocono, Michigan and the final event of their schedule – Sonoma in June. Meanwhile, NBC is going to provide coverage of the remaining races in 2015. However, NBC Sports Network will be making their Sprint Cup Series debut with races at Kentucky, New Hampshire, Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Richmond, Chicagoland (first Chase race), New Hampshire, Dover, Talladega and Martinsville. Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte, Kansas, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead will each be shown live on NBC.
FOX and FOX Sports 1 will carry the first 14 Nationwide Series races, but NBC and NBCSN will have the final 19 events. FOX also has exclusive rights to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 23-race season. All races will once again be on FS1 with the exception of Talladega in Oct.
Daytona may look different to you this season as Fox Sports looks to take their coverage to a new angle this year. Fox Sports President, Eric Shanks, met with members of the media on Wednesday evening, as part of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, to discuss some of the new things coming to his network this season. Some of the topics included new television angles, a new feel to the prerace shows, and how the company will deal with televising the truck race at Eldora Speedway on SPEED.
Fans that cannot attend races today because of the cost of traveling have been able to get a similar experience when they watch at home, but there seems to be some things still left that Fox wants to show those fans. Shanks said that they want to show the speed and difficulty at driving at some of the tracks the Cup series goes to. When talking about the difficulty of racing, tracks that Fox covers such as Daytona, Bristol, Martinsville, Darlington, and Dover come to mind. Bristol and Martinsville are both are on brakes and tricky to make your car turn in the center, so maybe a camera will be placed in the undercarriage to show the brake rotor.
When talking about Daytona both speed and difficulty are used and Shanks said there is no other track like Daytona to show these aspects. He did mention that during NASCAR Gen 6 testing earlier this month they did test their cameras for the upcoming season, but still needed to get them fully approved. Some of the angles some fans might have seen included one that was pointing at the way the camber was changing in the car as it entered and exited the turns such as in this video. Furthermore, it would be interesting to point out the speed camera and that Shanks said there is “no track the size of Daytona” which leads me to think about a camera similar to how they have in swimming. Imagine a camera going down the backstretch at Daytona right with the cars at 200 MPH!
It is part of the history and tradition of each NASCAR race to announce and display the starting field before each race and Fox wants the fans at home to get to see their drivers before the race too. Usually before the command to start engines and the invocation and national anthem, the 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers climb into trucks to be taken around the track to wave to their fans. When this happens you don’t get to see “the human starting grid” as Shanks says. The only race that has done this sometimes in the past was the previously named Shootout, now Sprint Unlimited, occurring the weekend before the Daytona 500. Shanks wants fans to be able to see all 43 drivers together at once, again like a human starting grid. Fox is currently working with tracks on how the driver introductions are occurring this season, but look for a new driver intros starting at the 500.
SPEED, a Fox Sports company, will once again broadcast the Camping World Truck series this season, which will include the series’ visit to Eldora Speedway. Eldora as some fans know is a dirt track owned by Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart, and a market that NASCAR is heavily interested in getting back to. By returning back to dirt this season, NASCAR is attempting to get back to their roots of the “good old days.” One of the dilemmas that the team at Fox will have to work with is the dust and mud from the track. “We have the self-cleaning cameras that are used for our on board coverage,” Shanks said, but when it came to talking about the exterior cameras used to show the entire field he says, “that is a great question, I am not sure, we will get it figured out.” With teams going to be testing at the track I am sure that Fox and SPEED will get it all worked out in time for the race.
With this season making the fans happy and doing more for them, Fox is more than excited to help NASCAR with their marketing and strategy this year. “If you love the sport, you want to do more for it,” Shanks said, and they are going to do just that. Some other notes from my discussion with Fox Sports President, Eric Shanks, included about the future of SPEED channel. He says SPEED will be around, no need to get worried about that, and that some of the NASCAR themed shows are being worked on. NASCAR Raceday, the two hour prerace show broadcasted on SPEED, will be back again this season as well as SPEED’s very interactive Social Garage. The social garage allows fans to interact with SPEED personalities such as Bob Dillner, Wendy Venturini, Kenny Wallace, and every week this past season they had a special guest driver. Some of the drivers that were part of the social garage experience included Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman. Trackside “is a work in progress” as Shanks puts it saying that several of the segments that occurs on the show were good, but it is just difficult to plan how to do the show. Trackside has gone through several changes over the past several years from live or tape-delayed shows, taping in the middle of a Friday, and then if it is live on Friday, sometimes not that many fans are there to be part of the show. Trackside is just a difficult show to put together from a logistical side, but SPEED and Fox Sports are interested in making it a great show still for the fans.