NASCAR Sprint Cup: 12 Tracks That Would Be Better for the Chase's Final Race
The Chase currently is chock full of comfortable 1.5-mile tracks, including the finale at Homestead, but NASCAR could really shake up the game plan for the Chase by changing the location of that all-important last race of the season.
The eventual winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship should be able to win and finish well at all different styles of track.
Drivers experience a level of comfort when the schedule gets beyond tracks in the Chase like Martinsville and Talladega, which can really ruin their standings in the points.
It may be a tough pill to swallow for the drivers who are battling for the title, but how great would it be for the fans to see the grand finale at a track that could totally erase any predictability of who will be the champion.
Having the Chase finale at a track with some special significance, be it location, historical factors or just ambiance that is colorful and exciting, could draw in more fans for that all-important last race of the season.
The Homestead-Miami Speedway is a lovely facility near a major city—Miami—in south Florida, but it sits on the edge of the Everglades in an area not especially known for NASCAR racing.
More people tuned in to watch the 2011 Ford 400, but it was to watch the heated competition between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. Stewart had won four Chase races and winning a fifth seemed unfathomable, yet he did it.
Let's switch up that season finale race and look at some scenarios that might make for better fan enjoyment and greater challenges for those contending for the title.
Low and behold, we had the best Chase ever in the 2011 season, but that is an anomaly. More often, we see a race on yet another intermediate track and, often, we pretty much know who will win the Cup title.
It is important to have yet another factor in the Chase finale that can be a true game-changer. Ending the season at a track that would attract fans on its own merit, regardless of who is contending for the title, would be icing on the cake.
In this slideshow, we will look at tracks that, for a variety of reasons, would liven up the last race of the season, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is crowned.
1. Atlanta Motor Speedway
There used to be two NASCAR Sprint Cup races each season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but currently the track only hosts the Labor Day racing for the top national series of NASCAR.
This is a track that is known to be fast. Sure, it is another one of those 1.5-mile circuits that are abundant in the Chase, so it really would not effect the current strategy with intermediate tracks.
Atlanta Motor Speedway opened in 1960 and was reconfigured in 1997. It is a track steeped in history, located in the heart of the south.
Based on location alone, fans from many states could more easily make their way to Atlanta than to the far southern tip of Florida.
2. Charlotte Motor Speedway
Charlotte Motor Speedway is currently a night race during the midpoint of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
It is a 1.5-mile track, just like Homestead-Miami Speedway, so nothing is gained or lost from that standpoint.
Charlotte is the home base of NASCAR, with most teams, drivers and owners being based in the Queen City of North Carolina.
During the stressful time of preparing for the final race of the season, it would be good for drivers and teams to be able to relax a little more and remain near home.
For the fans, Charlotte Motor Speedway is known for putting on a show that goes along with the race. The track and the city are extremely fan friendly.
CMS and the Charlotte Visitors Bureau could throw a race finale that could easily be the NASCAR party of the year, which would culminate with the crowning of a Cup champion.
It might be a little chillier than the south Florida track, but not enough to detract from having the last race there.
3. Darlington Raceway
Darlington Raceway is known as "The Lady in Black" and "The Track Too Tough to Tame." The fast, banked 1.366-mile egg-shaped track leaves few cars unscathed from damage.
Few cars leave after a night of hard racing without the signature "Darlington Stripe" on the side of the car from brushing the wall.
Darlington Raceway is another track rich in racing history since its opening back in 1950.
Having the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase finale at this track could easily ruin the standing of the top guys in the points who are contending for the title.
The track is only a couple hours from Charlotte and the racing is guaranteed to be exciting for the fans.
At one time, there were two Cup races each season at Darlington, but now they host the Cup and a NASCAR Nationwide race on Mother's Day weekend.
What chaos there could be if this was the last race of the Chase.
4. Infineon Raceway
Okay, a race at the Infineon Raceway road course in Northern California is a stretch for the final race of the season, primarily because of logistics for the teams.
The point of having this track included is mostly attributed to the fact a NASCAR Sprint Cup title contender should be able to handle a road-course race as easily as one on an intermediate track.
Currently, the race prior to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway is held in Phoenix, so the teams are already out west. Fans, though, would have trouble with travel from the East Coast, especially in a tough economy.
It would indeed be thrilling to watch the title contenders proving their mettle with right and left turns on the curvy track.
Surviving a road-course finale would definitely prove that the title winner didn't triumph without a tough challenge from those who enjoy this kind of racing.
Also, wrecks could be real game-changers.
5. Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway is NASCAR's coliseum of racing. The .533-mile banked, concrete track with two pit roads and short straightaways makes for exciting racing where things can easily go awry.
Just as we now have the wild-card slot for the Chase, BMS could be the wild-card track that could make for a wild swap of points that could affect the winning of the title.
The facility can hold some 160,000 fans, who sit in grandstands that seem to go straight up from the racing surface.
It is unfortunate that lodging is so sparse near the track, but there are camping areas that can fill up a week or two prior to the race.
Bristol Motor Speedway could indeed really upset the best-made plans for the title-contending teams, with racing that turns really bad really quickly, because there is no room for escape and no place to hide.
In a tight Chase race, fans would be on the edge of their seats—as they were at the Ford 400 in Homestead this season—until the checkered flag dropped.
Imagine the tension and stress level of drivers, teams and fans if the last race of the Chase was held in the bowl we call Bristol.
6. Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas has become the venue for the Champions Week celebration to honor the Chase drivers and the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.
So what better place to have the season finale race than in the city of sparkle, neon and party atmosphere that is Las Vegas.
The 1.5-mile track would easily replace the race on the same-sized track where the current season finale is held—Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Perhaps the festivities surrounding the final race of the season and the crowning of the champion could just continue into the next week.
For fans, many would already be there and could just extend their stay. It might be a little harder on drivers and teams, as they would not get the short respite they currently enjoy immediately after the series finale.
Las Vegas would indeed be a terrific spot for the celebration of the winner of the NASCAR Cup title. Racing at LVMS is always exciting, with a multi-groove track that allows drivers maximum movement on the banked track.
7. Dover International Speedway
Dover International Speedway is already part of the Chase tracks. It is a track many drivers can't wait to get past because its wicked, banked, concrete nature can be a real game-changer.
The track is known as the "Monster Mile" for a reason. The one-mile track can be unforgiving, especially to the drivers who don't particularly like racing on concrete tracks. Wrecks can be common.
Dover International Speedway is located near many metropolitan areas, which allows good access for fans who are able to attend the race.
Without a doubt, holding the final race of the season at Dover could really shake up the points and easily affect the outcome of the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
8. Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway is a 2.66-mile high-banked tri-oval track that is currently part of the 10-week Chase.
The two-car tandem racing gave us one of the most exciting finishes of the season when Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushed Jimmie Johnson to a win and some eight cars were within striking distance of the checkered flag.
This season, we saw 88 lead changes in the April Cup race and 87 during the October race. Racing with action like that could certainly make for a stunning season-ending race.
When things go bad at Talladega, they can go really bad.
Ending the Chase at Talladega could certainly throw a curveball at the title contenders.
9. Texas Motor Speedway
Texas Motor Speedway is one of the 1.5-mile tracks currently on the Chase schedule for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Track promoter Eddie Gossage is known for the festivities that always take place in the party atmosphere at the Texas track.
One never knows what surprises may be in store for fans as far as entertainment, and the winner of the race is adorned with a cowboy hat.
Texas Motor Speedway is a track that drivers look forward to racing on and could easily be swapped with the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With the Dallas-Ft.Worth area as the host city, there should be no shortage of fans for a season finale race and weather should be reasonably good.
The celebration of the crowning of a NASCAR Cup title winner could be held at this great location, which is known to provide a fun-filled atmosphere for fans and great racing for drivers.
10. Daytona International Speedway
Unlike most sports, NASCAR holds its Super Bowl at the start of the season, with a two-week, action-packed period known as Speedweeks that culminates with the running of the Daytona 500.
The high banks of the 2.5-mile tri-oval at Daytona offer racing that is not only exciting, but is also danger-packed because of the multi-car accidents that seem to be inevitable.
Winning the Daytona 500 is something every NASCAR Sprint Cup driver covets. Any win at Daytona carries prestige.
It would seem fitting to have the Chase finale at the track in Daytona, the place where NASCAR was born.
The possibility of the draft or a wreck totally changing the point standings could make for a dramatic finish for the Chase title contenders.
Daytona International Speedway is popular with fans and drivers alike. The warm weather of sunny Daytona Beach would equate to the tropical feel at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Perhaps it would be fitting to have not only the kick-off, but also the grand finale of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season at this track.
11. Martinsville Speedway
Logistically, Martinsville Speedway in Virginia may not be the ideal choice for the NASCAR Chase finale, but without a doubt the shortest track on the circuit may make for the most game-changing season-ending race.
With the sharp paper-clip turns, short straightaways and inside curbing, drivers often have a tough time staying out of trouble on this track.
Martinsville is currently on the Chase schedule and drivers contending for a title are thrilled to leave this track without getting hammered in the points department.
The challenge of surviving hard braking, the inability to pass easily and the necessity to find a way to accelerate smoothly out of the turns is a test for each and every driver, especially for a Chase contender.
Having the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup end at Martinsville Speedway would give the new series champion not only the Sprint Cup trophy, but also a traditional Ridgeway grandfather clock and maybe even a good ole Martinsville red hot dog.
12. Richmond International Raceway
Richmond International Raceway is the 3/4-mile short track that races like a superspeedway. It is the place where NASCAR holds the final preseason race to determine the drivers who will be in the Chase.
The track is known as "America's Premier Short Track." It provides exciting racing and is a very popular track with drivers and fans.
Though RIR puts on a great show at the two Cup races prior to the Chase, it might be a good track to have in the Chase and maybe even a better track for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase finale.
There is usually a good crowd for any race held here, but especially the night race in the fall. What could be better than watching the last race of the year under the lights on this fast short track?