ThatsRacin

These are the 2019 ‘dreams tracks’ for Dale Earnhardt Jr., other NASCAR stars

In this photo from Nov. 17, 2017, Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks with the media during a news conference before a NASCAR Cup series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt and other NASCAR stars have been tweeting their 2019 “dream tracks” this week, venues that currently host no races in the sport.
In this photo from Nov. 17, 2017, Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks with the media during a news conference before a NASCAR Cup series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt and other NASCAR stars have been tweeting their 2019 “dream tracks” this week, venues that currently host no races in the sport. AP

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other NASCAR stars have been tweeting their 2019 “dream tracks” this week, venues that currently host no races in the top circuits of the sport.

Staging a Cup series race or two at a non-traditional or long-abandoned venue could spur more fan interest and attendance, followers of the sport say.

Retired driver Tony Stewart started the latest discussion on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday, Auto Week magazine reported.

Why not dream of a top series NASCAR race at Eldora Speedway, the short-track clay oval he owns in New Weston, Ohio, Stewart said. Eldora has been a Camping World Truck Series venue since 2013.

A couple of hours later, Earnhardt tweeted a response to Stewart’s suggestion, saying he “would love to have a race at Eldora Speedway on the schedule. What say you, NASCAR, let’s do this already!”

Earnhardt is a team owner in NASCAR’s Xfinity series through his Mooresville-based JR Motorsports.

NASCAR limits its national series’ exposure to dirt tracks to once a year – a Camping World Trucks Series race at Eldora.

As far as generating fan interest, it’s the only night of the season that the Trucks Series – No. 3 among NASCAR’s top tiers – usually generates more talk and social media interest than the upper two tiers – Xfinity and Cup Series. It is also the only midweek race in any of NASCAR’s three national series (although there are occasional Monday and Thursday races in the Truck Series, too).

Bob Pockrass, the lead motorsports reporter at ESPN, recently wrote a story suggesting that a Cup race at Eldora Speedway could be the sort of spark NASCAR needs to stave off its rapid decline.

NASCAR Cup series star Kyle Busch discussed having more races at smaller tracks, too, but isn’t too sure about Cup races, NBC Sports reported.

On Thursday, Cup series driver Kasey Kahne tweeted how he’d like to see a race at former NASCAR Cup series venue “The Rock,” Rockingham (NC) Speedway.

In a reply tweet to Kahne, Earnhardt said Indianapolis Raceway Park and Nashville Fairgrounds (Speedway) “would be on my list of many.”



On Wednesday, Earnhardt mentioned even more possible venues, including Canada and Mexico, in a reply tweet to an Auto Week editor. “Wouldn’t hate on a trip to Alaska or Hawaii,” Earnhardt added. “But Dubai??”

In his tweet to Earnhardt, the editor said former Charlotte Motor Speedway president H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler had brought up even that far-flung locale as a possibility for a NASCAR race.

Another former NASCAR track, North Wilkesboro Speedway, has also been popular among fans and drivers as a potential alternate course.

There have been constant pushes from NASCAR fans and drivers for the sport to reconsider and ultimately alter its schedule, but doing so presents multiple hurdles. International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) — the latter of which is chaired by Charlotte businessman Marcus Smith — own and operate nearly every one of NASCAR’s tracks, including Charlotte Motor Speedway locally. The relationship between those two companies and NASCAR is so intertwined that diffusing it, even for one or two Cup races, would be of major economic significance.

Additionally, entire communities have popped up nationwide in response to the construction and renovation of NASCAR’s tracks. Awarding any Cup race — or NASCAR race in general — to an alternate location would mean taking one away from an already-established area. That move, again, would have severe economic ripples in whichever towns were losing a race.

NASCAR has also toyed with the idea of moving other races to the middle of the week, similar to this week’s at Eldoro Speedway, but that move could have the opposite effect on fan attendance. Midweek races often allow for fewer fans to travel due to work conflicts.

Staff writer Mike Reader contributed.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak
  Comments