Pocono Raceway needs to lose one of its two races.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is not perfect. Like anything in life, it has its flaws, and everyone has an opinion about the best way to fix it.
Today, I offer mine.
When looking at the 2014 schedule, the first thing that sticks out is that it is very similar to last year's. Only a couple of race dates changed, but none by more than a couple of weeks.
There were no new venues added, no additional races given to current tracks and the 10-race Chase consists of the same events for the fourth consecutive season.
Overall, the Sprint Cup Series is not terrible. Sure, things like a couple more night playoff races and the inclusion of a road-course event in the Chase would spruce it up a bit. But on the whole, it could be a lot worse.
That said, with just a few adjustments, the Sprint Cup schedule could maximize on its potential and provide fans with an even better season.
In the slides ahead, I will look at six changes that would improve the schedule and make it a little more exciting than it currently is.
Matt Kenseth won the last race in Rockingham, back in 2004.
There are some tracks that are well deserving of two races per year. Then, there are some that are not. Pocono Raceway is one of the tracks in the latter group.
Twice each season, with just seven weeks in between, the Sprint Cup Series stops in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. The track is unique in that it is a tri-oval facility featuring three turns, all with different banking.
Its uniqueness is the only thing that Pocono has going for it.
The track is notorious for long green-flag runs where the field gets strung out in a single-file line around the speedway. The restarts, however few there are, provide a few exciting moments of four- and five-wide racing, but after one lap of side-by-side action, the field typically reverts back to its conveyor-belt ways.
Pocono is a boring track. Even the addition of some jumps and a ring of fire would do little to elevate the excitement level at this speedway.
It seems that even NASCAR is privy to this fact. Following the 2011 season, the sanctioning body made the decision to cut both Pocono races from 500 to 400 miles.
The first schedule change I propose would be to eliminate one of Pocono's events and, instead, go back to Rockingham Speedway.
The series raced annually at "The Rock" from 1965 through 2004. It is a one-mile oval with 22- and 25-degree banking in the turns.
The last time that the Sprint Cup Series was at Rockingham, Matt Kenseth scored the win by .01 seconds over Kasey Kahne. Finishes like that one are why the North Carolina track is more deserving of a race than the wildly unexciting Pocono Raceway.
Las Vegas would be a better choice than New Hampshire to host two events.
Pocono is not the only track on the Sprint Cup schedule that should host just one event. Dropping a race from New Hampshire Motor Speedway would open the door for Las Vegas to get the second race that it desires.
New Hampshire has hosted two races every year since 1997. Its second race of the season was the Chase opener from 2004 through 2010. Beginning in 2011, that race moved back one week and became the second event of the postseason.
While some people may argue that the last thing the Sprint Cup Series needs is another mile-and-a-half track on the schedule, Las Vegas deserves a second race more than New Hampshire.
It is no secret that the western part of the country hosts far fewer Sprint Cup events than the East Coast. Eliminating New Hampshire in favor of Las Vegas helps level the playing field a little more.
The move would also make sense as NASCAR is clearly in love with the City of Lights. For the past few years, Las Vegas hosted the season-ending awards ceremony, so giving it a second race would make a whole lot of sense.
Bristol is one of four short tracks featured in the first nine races.
The Sprint Cup Series features five tracks one mile in length or shorter. Each of those venues—Bristol, Martinsville, Richmond, Dover and Phoenix—host two events per season.
Short-track racing provides the most entertainment, but the problem is that there is a significant void of them in the middle portion of the schedule.
Within the first 13 races of the regular season, the series visits all five tracks for the first time. None gets revisited until the 24th event of the year, nearly three full months later.
From the first of June through the end of August, road courses and superspeedways fill the bulk of the schedule.
The simplest solution to this quandary would be to swap the mid-March race at Bristol with the late-June event at Kentucky. Doing this breaks up the midseason monotony of bigger tracks and puts one of the best venues into the section of schedule that NASCAR dubs "The Race to the Chase."
Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a great road course.
Road courses are not everyone's cup of tea. Some people like them because it is a change of pace from the week-to-week left-hand turns, but others dislike them for their lack of action and lead changes.
Regardless of anyone's feelings for road racing, it has become an annual staple on the Sprint Cup Series schedule since 1986. Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International each host one event per season, both taking place during the summer months.
One problem with the current setup of the schedule is that the Chase does not feature a road course. The Chase is designed to test the championship contenders on a variety of tracks, yet one style of race track is noticeably absent.
The second change to the Sprint Cup schedule is two-part. First is the addition of a third road race, preferably at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. The second part is adding one of the road-course events into the Chase.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve hosted a Nationwide Series race from 2007 through 2012. The crowds were always great, and the racing was very entertaining. A Sprint Cup race north of the border would be a welcome addition.
Being that this would be a brand-new track to the Sprint Cup schedule, including it in the Chase would not be wise.
Instead, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve would take Watkins Glen's place on the schedule while the Glen would move into the Chase, replacing one of the five mile-and-a-half tracks that are currently visited during the postseason.
While the facility usually sells out, Kansas is the track that loses its place on the schedule in favor of a road course.
Charlotte is currently the only Chase race run at night.
Ten of 36 races during the Sprint Cup season are run under the lights. Only one of those is during the postseason.
Currently, Charlotte is the only venue that hosts a night race in the Chase. There is a huge need for at least one more, and preferably two, during the playoffs.
First and foremost, night races are more exciting than those run in the daylight. The change from bright sunshine to darkness throughout the race adds an element that is missing during daytime events.
Looking at it from a mathematical standpoint, nine of the first 26 races end in darkness. That is roughly 33 percent of the events. Only 10 percent of the playoffs are contested under the same conditions. That is a big difference.
Moving some Chase races to the nighttime would also be beneficial to the Sprint Cup's television ratings. According to Jayski.com's television rating chart, the event at Charlotte was the most-watched playoff event during the 2013 season.
By the time NASCAR's postseason gets underway, the NFL season has also just kicked off. Clearly going head-to-head with America's favorite sport, NASCAR is going to lose out on viewership.
The third schedule change would be to switch both the postseason opener at Chicagoland Speedway and the event at Texas Motor Speedway to Saturday night events. This would give the Chase a total of three races under the lights, and it would prevent the sport from having to fight the NFL for viewership for 30 percent of its championship fight.
NASCAR's home track should host the season's last race.
The final race of the year is a big deal. It is the culmination of a 36-race season and is the time when the champion will be crowned.
Since 2002, Homestead-Miami has been the host speedway for all three of NASCAR's top series' final events. The track continuously does a nice job of hosting the season's closing ceremonies, but having the championship coronation at the sport's home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway, would make the moment all the more special.
Which track should host the last race of the year is an interesting debate. Tracks like Martinsville and Darlington are worthy of consideration because of their lengthy history in the sport while one could make a case for Daytona due to its importance in NASCAR.
Some people may be against a mile-and-a-half track hosting the final race based on the occasional lack of excitement that type of facility offers, but holding the festivities at Charlotte would be an exception.
In all other sports, one goal is to perform well enough in the regular season to have the opportunity to play home games during the postseason.
If NASCAR moved the season finale to Charlotte, where most of its teams are centrally located, the drivers and crews, especially those still in the championship fight, would get the home-field advantage feeling to end the year.
The races at Charlotte may not always be the most entertaining, but after 36 races, the teams in NASCAR's top series deserve the opportunity to run the final race of the year at home.