Chase Elliott would like a more compact Cup schedule and more night races
BRISTOL, Tennessee – Chase Elliott has said the fall is his favorite time of the year for watching sports, but he doesn’t believe the NASCAR schedule fits into that lineup.
The 2020 Cup Series champion has lobbied for an earlier end to the Cup season, and he made the case again this past week by noting “Less = more” in retweeting NACSAR’s 2023 schedule release.
Asked to elaborate by NBC Sports during his Friday media availability at Bristol Motor Speedway, the four-time most popular driver said, “36 (races) ... 45 ... 50 ... I don’t think it matters how many races we have, but I don’t see any reason in competing against NFL football when that starts. In my opinion, that’s not a battle we’re ever going to win. I think we should be smart about that.”
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Since downsizing from 48 races in 1972, NASCAR annually has raced well into the fall with a Cup schedule that has been at 36 races since 2001.
Elliott believes “a more compact schedule” over a shorter timeframe than nine months (even with more races) would draw larger audiences.
“I don’t make the rules and nobody asks my opinion that does,” he said. “And that’s completely fine, I’m not asking for that job. I don’t want that job. But I’m a firm believer that less is more, in the sense of the timing of a schedule and when we could end our season to make the most for TV ratings and things of that nature. I think we could do better, personally.”
Elliott also tweeted “I like night races too.” in a nod to there being only three points races under the lights (Bristol on the April 9 Easter Sunday and Sept. 16; the Coca-Cola 600 also starts in daytime and ends at night). Richmond Raceway, which regularly had two annual Saturday night races for nearly three decades, will have two Sunday afternoon Cup races for the second consecutive season.
Elliott said he hadn’t put much thought into how many night races or which tracks should get them, but he believes fans deserve a break with some cooler conditions.
“There are a lot of Sunday afternoons that we spend in some really hot environments, which is fine,” Elliott said. “I’m good with that. But if I was a fan sitting in the bleachers, I wouldn’t be. For three and a half hours in August, I would much rather do it at night and enjoy a night race. The environment is really neat.”
Elliott is a big fan of the atmosphere for Saturday night’s race at Bristol, which he said was “larger than life” when he attended as a kid and “made me want to be a race car driver. The environment is unmatched and this event is special. I don’t see another date or track on our schedule that can rival what this environment is on Saturday night in August or September.
“This is the best race of the year here under the lights,” he said. “I also understand that it’s cool because we don’t do it much. But I just think you see a lot of short tracks in places that run Saturday night shows, and I think during the summer months, it’s something we should consider doing more of. That’s my opinion, but again, I don’t get asked. I don’t want to get asked, and I don’t want that role. Just my humble opinion.”