Lengthy NASCAR Season Defines the Sport: Fan’s Opinion

One of the more prominent subjects, which consistently fuels fan debate, is the length of the seasons for the sports that we love.

The green flag drops on the Daytona 500 on February 26 and it will be the first race of Sprint Cup competition in 2012
Wikimedia Commons

For some, the annual session in sports such as baseball, hockey, and basketball drag on far too long.

Others believe their favorite pastime would be enriched by more games. Widespread arguments are put forth favoring an 18 game NFL season or an added college football playoff.

With each argument in favor of an expanded season, there is a counter-argument in opposition.

With each argument in favor of a shorter season, there is a counter-argument in opposition.

And if championing the status quo, there are two competing sides ready to attack.

Yet, one sport that witnesses very little opposition to its grueling 38 week campaign is NASCAR, which has thrived under a schedule seemingly packed to the brink. While some tracks like Rockingham have disappeared, and others like Kentucky have been added, the basic format of the NASCAR schedule has been consistent for nearly a decade.

As a suddenly football-deprived sports fan, hungering for the roar of stock cars to fill the vacuum of Sunday afternoons, I come to sing the praises of the NASCAR schedule.

The sport's unique characteristics among top-level American athletics provide ample reasons for its seamless fit throughout much of a calendar year.

One of the more significant factors is that NASCAR begins its season with its biggest single event in the Daytona 500. While competitors typically value winning a Sprint Cup Championship above all else, a victory in Daytona means more than any other race. In addition to helping begin a new season on a high note, it also assists in generating substantial off-season buzz.

Stock car fans currently salivate knowing that not only is the racing year about to begin, but that the most important race will inaugurate the 2012 campaign.

However, even more critical both to the tolerance of the long NASCAR season is a "traveling circus" nature of the business. Though nearly every team in nearly every sport hits the road, few others see participants sojourning to a common destination each week.

Simply put, when NASCAR rolls into town, it dominates headlines of that market for the entirety of a weekend. Though action might rage in other sports, by putting upwards of 200,000 fans into seats, campgrounds, and hotels around a track, the racing world seizes attention of even casual fans.

Over the course of 38 weeks, this routine might otherwise grow tiring—analogous to a weekday baseball game for a last place team in September.

Yet, by continually moving 43 top level race teams throughout its season, NASCAR stays fresh.

Whether it is the spring Bristol race, the summer race at Indianapolis, or the fall race at Charlotte, each weekend breathes new life into the lengthy campaign. Whereas matchups in other sports tend only to differentiate based on weather, NASCAR changes its look, rules, and even competitors on a weekly basis.

Perhaps the most dramatic reason for the success of NASCAR's lengthy season is the popular "Chase for the Championship," which uses the year's final 10 races to crown a titlist. Needing an injection of excitement, the sport instituted this playoff format in 2004 and it has proved very popular. Not only does this provide structure, but it creates an extra incentive for fans to keep their eyes on racing once football competition resurfaces.

Even before the true return of Sprint Cup racing, "Speed Weeks" at Daytona International Speedway is already underway. The famed Florida track will kick off the 10 month season with the Budweiser Shootout on February 18, 2012.


Yahoo! Sports

More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:

Thrilling NASCAR Season to Produce New Champion

Jeff Briscoe is a longtime Mark Martin supporter and a motorsports fan who also covers the IZOD IndyCar Series for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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Updated Friday, Feb 10, 2012