Two initial takeaways from the two major headlines from Wednesday’s announcement of a reconfigured — and rebranded — "Speedweek:"
1. Smart move, and a few years overdue.
2. We’ll see, but worth a shot.
The smart: Taking the modern form of Speedweeks, minus the dead time and lightly attended parts, and packaging it into a tighter six-day run from Tuesday through the Sunday of the Daytona 500.
The ol’ wait-and-see: Moving the Busch Clash to Daytona’s 3.56-mile Rolex 24 road course.
As for the proverbial no-brainer, this condensing has been coming for several years now. Aside from possible — and important — network considerations, it could’ve or should’ve been done before now. Once it became harder and harder to fill seats on that opening weekend, the change was practically made on its own.
The last true Speedweeks went away 15 years ago when the Rolex 24 was moved a week earlier to avoid Super Bowl Sunday, which had been replanted in early February.
Granted, our memories do tend to glorify days of yore, but in the best of times, you had three consecutive weekends of marquee events, beginning with the Rolex 24, and lots of on-track activity during the 10 weekdays sandwiched between: Second-round qualifying, third-round qualifying, consolation race, practice, practice and more practice.
And that was after a winter that included multiple preseason test days at the track, with the star drivers of the time practically getting their mail here and filing for the homestead exemption.
Of course, you could also get gas for 50 cents a gallon and a $1.95 shrimp dinner at Bahama Joe’s.
Times change and a lot of things have to change with it. If there’s a downside to this repackaging of Speedweek(s), it’s the nagging reality that times don’t just change, but pass us by at an alarmingly quicker rate.
The obvious winner of this reshuffling is the ARCA race, which is again part of a doubleheader with a higher-profile event — it’ll be run on Saturday and precede the Xfinity Series race. Up until 2017, ARCA’s 200-miler was a companion race to the Busch Clash, but they’ve run on separate days the past four years and, well, let’s just say they didn’t have to hire an extra ticker clerk to handle the crush.
The new Busch Clash? It might also be a winner, as well as a loser. Depends on who you ask. Over the years, it became more Crash than Clash, to the point that teams brought the extra Clash car to town knowing they wouldn’t likely haul it home in one piece.
Some fans are OK with that; some are bored by the inevitability of it all.
Rerouting it to the road course will draw mixed reviews initially but is undoubtedly worth a try. It’s not like they can’t move it back to the tri-oval in 2022 if it doesn’t work well. Road-course racing used to be a twice-a-year diversion. The old-school oval-track fans put up with it because, if nothing else, it helped identify those racers who were the most well-rounded talents.
But in recent years, a third road-course race was added to the Cup Series schedule, and this year Indianapolis is using its road course for the Xfinity Series race in July (giving Xfinity five road-course races this year).
Road-racing has taken on increased popularity. Will it continue, will it increase, or will it decrease? Next February’s high-profile Busch Clash will help answer that question.
Remaining questions to eventually be answered: When will they test the Cup cars on the road course and can we watch? And what happens to the lengthy February programs at New Smyrna and Barberville, where the short-track and dirt racing has largely mirrored the Daytona schedule.
And finally, an answer in progress: It appears that the fourth generation of France family stewardship is hitting its stride. Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of founder Bill France Sr. and son of current executive Lesa France Kennedy, was NASCAR’s voice for releasing this news.
Recently promoted to a vice president position on the competition side, Kennedy is experienced beyond his 28 years, obviously willing to mix things up, and best of all he’s drawing five-star reviews from all corners.
A new-look Speedweek will soon arrive, and a new generation of NASCAR leadership appears to be riding shotgun.
Reach Ken Willis at email@example.com