Why Shouldn’t NASCAR Race on a Street Circuit


Why Shouldn’t NASCAR Race on a Street Circuit

The announcement that NASCAR Races are hitting the streets of Chicago in the 2023 season has not been met with universal joy. There are fans who think what makes NASCAR different is what makes NASCAR special and following the already well beaten path that F1 and IndyCar have already taken is unneeded and unnecessary.

NASCAR’s announcement of a Street Circuit race on the streets of Chicago in July 2023, has been met with worry. There are Safety implication that need to be addressed, pollution considerations, public convenience as well as implementing changes to a sport that while needed,  may not take traditional fans with them.

We take a look at some of the reasons why a NASCAR street Race is a bad idea. We also have an article linked below, on why it might actually be time for a NASCAR street race as well.

Why a NASCAR Street Race is a bad idea.

You don’t mess with a good thing. That’s a time-tested rule in business, and it should be a time-tested rule in sports, too.

NASCAR works for America because it’s what Americans expect. It’s beloved, predictable, stable, and has held the interest of Americans for decades. It has certain rules, certain standards, and every American knows that the next NASCAR race they watch will be held in a stadium or at least a race track.

NASCAR races on Ovals not Streets

This is the standard that drivers and audiences have come to expect, and the framework within which safety is optimized. Trying to mess with this standard can compromise on safety, and can lose an established NASCAR audience interest in the quest to gain a new one.

NASCAR works because it’s stock car racing, as opposed to crafted race car racing. It’s something that every American knows, and whose rules are familiar to most Americans who watch from home. Trying to run a NASCAR street circuit race on the streets of an American city defeats the purpose of having a NASCAR race. 

It drags a sport out into an arena it was not developed over decades to handle, and tries too hard to be something it isn’t international.

Is nascar planning more road track races
NASCAR Street Circuit racing

NASCAR is not F1 or Indy Car So why follow them?

Formula 1 street circuit racing has been popular for generations in Europe, South America, and Asia. Racers drive nimble, sleek race cars through the narrow streets of Monaco, Barcelona, or Abu Dhabi. It’s a global sport with a global following, and deserves its own respect, and platform.

It’s undeniably popular and thrilling to watch, but it just isn’t NASCAR. NASCAR is Fast, and they may even be nimble when compared to the saloon sitting in your driveway, but compared to an Indy or F1 cars they are basically very fast tanks!

If you want a brand to continue to thrive and to make money, to give paying customers what they expect, and what they’re there for. You trust the customer, and deliver what they love. You don’t change the way you do things, and demand that the fans just keep up. You drive, plan, and organize for the fans, because without the fans, your sport loses its funding.

Without fans, you lose money, and lose sponsorship. Taking NASCAR racing out of the stadiums takes away a crucial component of the entire racing experience, and throws the audience a curve ball that won’t make sense to them.

Trying to turn NASCAR into NASCAR street circuit racing just isn’t going to work, and the company shouldn’t try it. I’ve got a million reasons why, but let’s just look at a few. 

Difference Between Indycar and F1
NASCAR Street racing

NASCAR Safety on a Street Course?

One of the most crucial things to consider is safety. Can crews of workers and medics respond quickly enough if the race is held on a city street? Will audience members be out of harm’s way if an accident does occur? Remember, the traditional NASCAR stadium is built in such a way that tiers of spectators are increasingly higher up and further away from the action, making contact between onlookers and accidents less likely.

there are catch nets and safety personnel all around the Oval or Road track which are purposely built, in some cases purely for NASCAR, but at least for cars going up to 200 miles an hour. The streets of Chicago, as the police will reaffirm, are not designed to have over 40 cars weighing 3400 lbs speeding along them.

Taking the crowds into the narrow streets of an American city will bring its own safety risks, and put thousands of spectators in harm’s way. There’s no height and distance barrier to a wheel flying into a crowd. There’s no clearance, either. And if a car spins out of the track, infrastructure, businesses, and structures could be damaged. In a stadium, there’s no one’s private property to damage.

Too Much Going On

When companies, brands, and franchises try to reinvent themselves, the idea often flops. Customers come to expect a certain thing from the companies and institutions they love. You don’t go to McDonald’s for fillet mignon, and you don’t go to the Ritz Carlton for chicken tenders. And you don’t go to NASCAR for circuit street racing you go to an oval, or more recently a Road Race track.

Like the idea of fusion dishes like Korean Texas barbeque, it’s a cute idea that won’t taste good to either fans of Korean food, or fans of Tex-Mex. If you try to be something you’re not, and incorporate too many elements of different sports, you don’t wind up with a block buster comedy idea; you wind up with a confusing flop.

Put simply, NASCAR street circuit racing tries to combine too many things into a format that is new and mostly unneeded with the traditions of NASCAR racing. . The high-paced energy of Formula 1 racing works great within its own parameters, but it doesn’t translate well to the larger cars, stage racing and unique rules of NASCAR.

Trying to be all things to all people is a risky business and is more likely to turn off more than it turns on. John Lydgate said it better although we adapted it little for context.

“You can please some NASCAR fans all of the time, you can please all NASCAR fans some of the time, but you can’t please all NASCAR fans all of the time”

John lydgateOpens in a new tab.
How Long is a NASCAR Track
NASCAR Street Circuit chicago

Too Much Change is Unnecessary

Briefly, you don’t need to bring NASCAR to the streets. You can keep NASCAR in the Ovals, on the dirt and on the Road Courses and give fans the freedom to roam and explore the host city on their own. A street race will close business along the track and hit the income of those businesses. The mainstays of Daytona, Nashville, Charlotte or Atlanta get many visitors from NASCAR Race Days without having to close.

Fans know how to visit a city, how to use Trip Advisor, and how to find awesome places to eat and sights in the host city if they want to. You don’t have to shove them into a downtown area to show them there’s a city there. They know there’s a city there.

It might get more in advertising revenue but those business are unlikely to see much of that.

Expectations in NASCAR

If you want your boat to sail, you use it like a boat. You don’t attach wings to it, and launch it off a cliff. If you want NASCAR to keep doing what it’s always done, namely bring in fans, money, and opportunities, you keep the formula the same. You race in a stadium, where the cars have room to maneuver and drive like NASCAR vehicles.

You also race in a setting that NASCAR is designed for, and that is associated with the sport. You don’t drag the sport into unfamiliar territory, and expect the emotional associations to be the same. And if the emotional momentum sinks, you’ve lost your fan base. Lose your fan base, you’ve lost your money.

To us it feels like NASCAR is feeling ashamed of its Oval roots, and frankly we are struggling to see why. It is what has worked, continues to work and from attendance (in Most) Oval and road races is bringing in fans. yes there is a need to keep revenue coming in, but unless there is a serious problem, and they have not suggested there are huge issues todate, then why take what is a pretty large risk by changing the format.

NASCAR and Pollution

Although the streets of chicago are often full of traffic. closing them off for 3 or 4 days to allow cars that would never normally be allowed on roads the day after the race is not going to be effective in reducing that. A race day weekend may add to the pollution woes of an already busy city, although there may not be any traffic jams for those drivers at least! In fact letters have already started to appearOpens in a new tab. in the Chicago Sun times mentioning just this.

nascar rain

What do NASCAR Drivers Say about the NASCAR Chicago Street Race

Jeff Gluck has managed to get a few responses from NASCAR Drivers to the announcement of a NASCAR Street race in Chicago, and here are some highlights and a link to the full article.

  • Kyle Busch: Is onboard for a range of tracks btu thinks a one year trial rather than the three years that is currently rumored would make more sense.
  • Kevin Harvick: Agrees that some changes are needed to the schedule but really liked road AMerica and thinks it is a shame to lose that track for the Chicago Street race.
  • Michael Macdowell: Suggest that it is a better idea now with the new generation of NASCAR and that previous generations could not have managed it.
  • Ryan Blaney: thinks that the track layout needs to be planned to avoid race stoppages from crashes
  • Joey logano: has said that its a good idea to try to get the racing to the fans, rather than the fans to the races and that a street circuit race might bring in more fans, or develop more passionate fans.
  • Both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott: have suggested that the race needs to be done with a lot of fanfare and “fireworks” With starting something for the first time the pressure to make it work will be large and it needs to be something special.

there will be undoubtedly more opinions coming as the race date gets closer from drivers, commentators and fans, but it remains to be seen whether the pendulum will swing to good idea or bad idea just yet.

Conclusion

NASCAR street circuit racing is a dangerous, risky idea which may cost NASCAR viewers and fans in the long run. If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Don’t reinvent the wheel if the wheel is working just fine as is. And don’t try to take NASCAR to the streets.

You’ll be risking lives, risking the attention and respect of your fans, and making an expensive gamble that likely won’t pay off in the long run.

References

Roy

Al lifelong Motor Racing Fan, with a particular love of NASCAR and IndyCar racing. Been in and out of cars of varying speeds since i was a child and sharing what i have learnt here.

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