When NASCAR announced the 2012 Sprint Cup Series schedule late last month, there few changes for the final 10 races of the season. Except for Talladega's Chase race moving up a few weeks, the tracks that determine the series champion will remain the same.
That has been the overwhelming case for the entirety of the Chase, but there's been an ongoing debate in NASCAR: Should the sanctioning body re-examine the schedule going forward and shuffle those final 10 events?
In my opinion, shuffle away.
Since the inception of the Chase in 2004, there have only been minor changes to the final 10-race stretch. The first came in 2005, when Texas Motor Speedway replaced Darlington Raceway as a Chase race. Aside from swapping dates among Chase races, the only other changes came in 2009 when Fontana replaced Atlanta Motor Speedway, and this season when Chicagoland Speedway became the first race of the Chase and Fontana's short run as a Chase event was over.
With four lackluster events opening this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup – two fuel mileage events at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, and two relatively uneventful races at Dover and Kansas – perhaps it is truly time for the sanctioning body to look at which tracks they include in the Chase schedule.
For years, fans and industry insiders have called on NASCAR to include a road course event in the Chase. While the belief is the Chase races are representative of the overall schedule and a true test of driver, team and pit crew, the addition of a road course is long overdue.
By taking the series to Infineon Raceway in the Chase, the series would not only benefit from finally including a road course event, but also from the chance at nice weather and the ability to hype the championship battle on the West Coast.
I propose the Chase begin with the road course event at Infineon, as opposed to this year's race at Chicagoland Speedway. The chance to promote the championship battle – one which California native Jimmie Johnson has won five times – to those in San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland and other markets is a potential opportunity for NASCAR.
Along with the addition of Infineon Raceway, I would also propose including tracks such as Darlington or Iowa Speedway – for two very different reasons.
While Iowa is currently not a Sprint Cup Series track, it has produced some great racing in the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series and even the IndyCar Series. The short track would lead to high speeds and close racing, along with maintaining a track in the Midwest.
Darlington is so steeped in history and among the most challenging tracks on the schedule, what better place for the championship contenders to race than the track 'Too Tough To Tame?' This move would also please longtime fans, who have called for another race at Darlington.
The addition of other tracks would, of course, come at a cost for other facilities currently in the Chase, but that is the harsh reality of a schedule realignment.
After eight years (nine including 2012) is it not time for a major realignment of the Chase races? In 2013, it will be the 10th year of the Chase, the series will have a new body style and the cars driven by the championship contenders may look entirely different from the ones currently used.
Why not continue with the changes and shake up the final 10-race schedule to spice up the Chase even more?