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Blow up 2015 NASCAR schedule? No one can light match

NASCAR Daytona Auto Racing
John Raoux - AP
Brian France, CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, said Monday that the 2015 NASCAR schedule wouldn’t include any significant changes from 2014. Given the complexity of wholesale changes, that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

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My two cents

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.

Notes

Safety pioneer dies: Dr. John W. Melvin, a former University of Michigan professor, senior research engineer with General Motors and paid safety consultant for NASCAR, died July 17.

“NASCAR and the entire motorsports industry lost a giant with the passing of Dr. John Melvin. Dr. Melvin was a pioneer in the field of driver safety, particularly in the area of driver restraint systems,” NASCAR president Mike Helton said in a statement. “His many contributions as a safety consultant to NASCAR for more than 13 years forever changed the sport.”

A memorial service will be held Aug. 10 at West Side United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. Nie Family Funeral Home of Ann Arbor is in charge of arrangements.

Chase Grid goes live: NASCAR announced this year’s “Chase Grid Live,” a free outdoor fan fest featuring the drivers in this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, will be Sept. 10-11 in downtown Chicago.

Throughout the two-day fan fest, ESPN will feature live segments with many of the 16 drivers competing in the first round of the Chase, as well as other NASCAR personalities making appearances on-site.

Fans will be treated to custom content featured on Sprint Vision as well as Toyota show cars and a special tribute to the nation’s servicemen and women.

Monster truck bash: The Dirt Track at Charlotte will the 15th annual Circle K Back-to-School Monster Truck Bash on Aug. 9.

Ten high-flying monster trucks including Bigfoot, Avenger, Equalizer, Hooked, Red Solo Truck, Stone Crusher, Walking Tall and Wrecking Crew will compete in a freestyle competition and head-to-head racing over an obstacle course.

For more information, visit charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 704-455-3267.

New director: Major Gen. Chuck Swannack has been named executive director of Speedway Children’s Charities. After serving in the same position for nearly 25 years, Major Gen. Tom Sadler has been named executive director emeritus.

“Gen. Sadler set a high bar with his years of service and dedication to children,” said Marcus Smith, president and COO of Speedway Motorsports and president of Speedway Children’s Charities.

Harvick adds race: Cup series driver Kevin Harvick has added the Sept. 13 Nationwide series race at Chicagoland Speedway to his schedule at JR Motorsports this season. Harvick has won two races in JRM’s No. 5 Chevrolet – at Richmond and Kentucky.

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