With reports swirling about the changes NASCAR will make to its 2018 schedule, it brought up a great question. What can be done in order for the Playoffs to be more exciting? The system that is in place is great. 16 drivers make the playoffs. A format consisted of four rounds, eliminates four drivers in each of the first three rounds. The fourth and final round is a dash for the championship. Whoever crosses the finish line first out of the four remaining drivers wins the whole shebang.
What hasn’t happened in a while though, is the change of the 10 race tracks we visit in the playoffs. NASCAR will be introducing two new tracks in 2018 (Richmond and Las Vegas) to the postseason, but why stop there?
Due to the current format, five of the ten visited tracks in the postseason are 1.5 miles in distance. If you are a driver that made the playoffs, but struggle on tracks of this stature, you’re chances are minuscule from the start. A more balanced schedule, with a few “Wild Cards” is what will make it interesting.
Here is how I see NASCAR maximizing the excitement for the 10 race postseason with strategic placement of certain race tracks, while adding a couple of new circuits to the fold.
Bristol Motor Speedway
Why not start the playoffs with a bang? The night race at Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the best spectacles in all of sports. 40 cars crammed into a bowl shaped race track, which is half-mile in distance, is sure to set the bar for intensity.
You are bound to see some fenders rubbing and emotions flaring throughout this dog fight. Just to think, there would still be nine races left to determine a champion after the dust is settled at Bristol. This battle won’t be for the faint at heart.
Michigan International Raceway
The fastest track on the circuit has to be added into the playoffs. Speeds, which can hit upwards of 215 MPH, will surely be a change from the previous week at Bristol.
Everybody loves speed and action. Michigan International Speedway is the epitome of that. Drivers will be as much as Five-Wide in the corners to make crew chiefs blood pressure raise through the roof. A track with all of those things combined is a no brainer for the postseason.
Richmond International Raceway
The track that used to close out the regular season moves into “prime time” for the playoffs. Many drivers on the circuit have Richmond as one of their top tracks to race. Still able to retain its “close out” reputation, Richmond would be the final race in the first round of the postseason.
Dover International Speedway
Round 1 started off with a bang heading to Bristol Motor Speedway and we are going to do the same for Round 2 when the schedule takes us to the Monster Mile. Dover International Speedway is a unique track that packs action and excitement in 400 laps. The racing surface which is concrete, makes this one of the most unique racetracks on the circuit.
It might have been bumped from the final race of the season, but Homestead Speedway still gets to keep its prestigious reputation in the playoffs.
A track with many grooves, you will see some drivers racing below the apron, while others are hugging the wall waiting to get a run off of Turn 4. The action there makes this track a staple for the playoffs.
The restrictor-plate race track is known as the “Wild Card” of the postseason. No reason to take that out. In a race that will see positions 1-40 a mere three seconds apart, Talladega is everything that says “Playoffs”. The unknown is what makes this race exciting. Having it close out Round 2 will keep everybody on the edge of their seats. Like when a 15-seed beats a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament, this race may have some drivers who look to be knocked out of contention, move onto Round Three.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Charlotte is the heart of NASCAR. Not having a playoff race in that city or at that track would just be insane. Furthermore, the 1.5 mile track has giving us some of the best finishes we have seen throughout the sports history. Why not continue making these great moments, just with a playoff atmosphere to it?
Here is the big one. The NASCAR circuit takes us to two road courses a year, Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Some may wonder why Sonoma got the nod over Watkins Glen, and it’s very simple. Weather! Going to California in late October is going to much better than the weather conditions you may see in New York.
Outside of weather, Sonoma has giving us a lot of great finishes as well. Just flash back to last years contest when Tony Stewart was able to capitalize on a Denny Hamlin mistake on the last lap to take the Checkered Flag.
Like Talladega, Sonoma would be considered a “Wild Card” race as well. Continuing to throw unknowns in the playoffs is what will continue to bring fans back for more.
Texas Motor Speedway
Everything is bigger in Texas, and there’s no exception to the moves that will be made in order to move on to the final round of the playoffs.
Texas, as of right now in NASCARs playoff schedule, is the second race of Round 3. In this format, they move back a week, but become the last race of Round Three. Making this track, where speeds reach just north of 200 MPH , the close out race of Round Three, makes too much sense.
To add a little more excitement to it, it stays under the lights. Things will get interesting for sure.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
It all comes down to this race. Four drivers enter with a chance to win it all, but only one will be able to hoist the championship trophy when it’s all said and done. Many gambles will be made throughout the final race in order to carve their name into NASCAR history, so why not end the season in the heart of Las Vegas?
Also, the NASCAR Awards Ceremony takes place in Sin City. A two week spectacle to end the season will be a breath of fresh air and garner more publicity for the sport.
There you have it. A first round that seems to be gauntlet with a track as small as Bristol and as big as Michigan. The following two rounds each have a wild card race with a restrictor-plate track and a road course. Then the finale being held in the heart of Gambling, USA, Las Vegas. More importantly, there is a balance in the tracks we visit for this 10 race shootout.