NASCAR cuts week­end sched­ule to save money and ease gru­elling travel

The Hamilton Spectator - - RACING 2017 - DAN GEL­STON

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.

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