NASCAR recently announced its 2020 schedule, which includes some major changes. Two of the biggest moves are pushing the mid-summer Daytona International Speedway race back to the regular-season finale in August and switching the championship race in November from Homestead-Miami Speedway to ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
Fans had mixed reactions, while drivers seemed pretty into the new schedule. More changes are expected to come for the 2021 schedule after NASCAR’s existing five-year contracts with tracks expire after 2020.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a radical idea for what the sport could do to really shake things up. The retired driver wants the championship race to be at Daytona.
That’s a gutsy idea, but Earnhardt says if it’s good enough for the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of NASCAR, then why not for the title race?
He explained on his Dale Jr. Download podcast this week:
“A championship race at Daytona, where it all started. It’s good enough to be our Super Bowl, but we don’t want it to have a championship race? Good lord, everybody. Grow a pair.”
Debating with podcast cohost Mike Davis, Earnhardt insisted that based on social media, he’s not the only one who thinks this is a good idea.
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And when Davis made a joke about the unpredictable chaos of a Daytona race crowning Ricky Stenhouse Jr. the champion, Dale Jr. quickly fired back that if Stenhouse happens to be among the Championship 4 drivers racing for the title, then he deserves it in this hypothetical scenario.
For NASCAR’s title race, the final four drivers don’t necessarily have to take the checkered flag to be the champion. The winner is simply whoever has the highest finish compared with the other three – although in recent history at Homestead, the race winner and champion have been the same driver.
Davis: You could also have all four of them wiped out!
Dale Jr.: Sorry!
Davis: Do you crown the champion that finished 32nd because they didn’t finish 35th, 37th and 39th?
While it’s fun to see a slightly ruthless side of Earnhardt – who’s willing to say too bad if the four championship cars wreck or accidentally get caught up in “the big one” – NASCAR fans probably aren’t too into this idea.
Moving the summer Daytona race from the Fourth of July – give or take, depending on the dates – to the end of the regular season is already pretty bold but excellent. Because the track is known to have multiple, massive wrecks that can collect half the field, the change for the 2020 season opens the door for a potentially random winner, handing an unexpected team a spot in the 16-driver, 10-race playoff.
But moving the championship race to Daytona is a next-level thought with high risk but perhaps high reward. Daytona could serve as the perfect bookend, kicking off the season in February and ending it in November. Races there are almost always exciting, wild and crash-filled, so being an action-packed race is practically guaranteed. If the Championship 4 cars are all still on the track at the end, the final laps could offer a phenomenal finish.
On the other hand, as Davis pointed out in his debate with Dale Jr., what if the four championship drivers all wreck? What if they all wreck early?
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It could absolutely still be a thrilling and intense race as a singular event.
But when you look at the larger picture with it being the finale and championship race, losing all four drivers early is incredibly risky. Hypothetically, if the Championship 4 drivers get caught up in a wreck before even the halfway point and can’t finish or have severely damaged cars, is that really the best title race NASCAR can put together?
However, it would still be awfully exciting, tons of fun and could also end up producing the best championship races the sport has ever seen. Either way, it’s a good bet that NASCAR isn’t listening to Dale Jr. on this one.