NASCAR stars push for changes

LOUDON, N.H. — NASCAR has been reluctant to make more than modest tweaks to its schedule. That hasn’t stopped its drivers this summer from wondering about possibilities in hopes of luring more fans:

n A Cup race on Eldora dirt.

n More races at short tracks.

n No more multiple races at the same track.

n Try Iowa; go back to Rockingham.

The idea of blowing up a schedule that has largely remained unchanged for most of the last decade is hardly a novel idea, and drivers have long lobbied NASCAR to try something new and mix things up over the staid summer months.

Denny Hamlin, a 31-time Cup winner, mulled over a few potential schedule shake-ups until he splashed cold water on the campaigning.

“None of this is ever going to happen,” Hamlin said. “Not until these tracks and NASCAR get together and are willing to make changes.”

That seems unlikely in the immediate future for a variety of reasons — from sanctioning agreements with tracks that run through 2020 to safety upgrades and even the threat of litigation should a track lose a race.

The sport has resisted even such fan-friendly schedule changes, like running weeknight races or rotating the site of All-Star weekend.

“It’s going to have to take someone way high up saying, ‘We’re making changes and this is what we’re going to do,’ for it to happen,” Hamlin said. “But it definitely won’t happen in the next few years until that contract’s over with.”

One of the few fun additions over the last decade came when NASCAR added a Truck Series race on the half-mile Eldora Speedway dirt track in Ohio. The series made its annual stop on the dirt this week for the only time this season. Retired NASCAR champion Tony Stewart owns the track and used his forum to push for the sport to at least bring the second-tier Xfinity Series to the dirt.

Like most issues facing NASCAR, few agree on any topic. Kyle Larson, a noted sprint car racer, said NASCAR should stay above the muck.

“I wouldn’t like to see Cup on dirt,” he said. “Cup belongs on pavement and real road course tracks. If we went to Eldora, yeah, I mean I would be excited because I would be really fast and I feel like I would definitely have the best shot to win. But at the same time, I think we are fine not going there.”

The race winner at Eldora is awarded a Golden Shovel, which seems fitting because these days everyone is piling on NASCAR.

How low can they go? The ratings reports could win a limbo contest with the regular bottoming out of all-time lows or decade-worsts for most races.