NASCAR cuts weekend schedule to save money and ease gruelling travel
LONG POND, PA. — Kyle Busch usually wakes up around 8 a.m. or so on race day and just waits until he’s needed for a meet-and-greet before he slips into the No. 18 Toyota.
But if he’s up, he may as well as qualify before lunch. And if he wins the pole, well, he may as well go win the race.
Busch was the biggest benefactor in NASCAR’s decision to try a reduced weekend Cup schedule at Pocono Raceway.
NASCAR ditched the traditional practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and drivers made their run at the pole just a few hours before the start of Sunday’s race. Busch won the pole and won a race for the first time this season.
“I wouldn’t mind more days like that,” Busch said. “With my Xfinity and Truck efforts getting cut back more and more each year, that’s going to be more Fridays at home with my son.”
NASCAR will try the two-day show again this week at Watkins Glen and Oct. 29 at Martinsville.
Pocono threw an infield fan festival on Friday night and a solid crowd turned out to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell have fun participating in lip sync battles, cooking showdowns and the like.
Watkins Glen is holding its own fan fest and a country music concert Friday night.
The real benefit to the skinny schedule is that teams can save money and spend more time at home. The cash and days off add up over the course of one of the more gruelling schedules in sports.
Plus, it’s hardly worth it for tracks to open the gates anymore on Fridays to draw a crowd not much larger than a minor-league baseball game.
NASCAR’s slice of the schedule was just one of many shakeups this week that could influence the rest of the season: On the fence Busch had led more than 1,000 laps entering the race but was still on the longest losing streak of his career. He made a late charge down the stretch to win at Pocono for the first time and end an overall 36-race losing streak. Sponsor woes Kyle Larson, the top young driver in the sport, lost Target last week as his sponsor in 2018.
Kenseth, Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne are among the drivers with uncertain futures because of various sponsor issues. Tricky triangle? What would Pocono call itself if it ditched its tri-oval shape for a Cup race on the road course? Track CEO Nick Igdalsky said he would be willing to hold one of the track’s two Cup races on the road course.