After two races experimenting with the new two-day race weekend, reactions aren’t as positive as they first seemed.
The “Skinny” schedule started as an effort to save money and reduce travel for Cup drivers and NASCAR officials first opted to try a new two-day weekend schedule at Pocono.
The schedule change did away with practice and qualifying sessions on Friday, and it allowed drivers to qualify and attempt to win the pole just hours before the race on Sunday. The early reactions were promising.
According to ESPN, Pocono Raceway president Ben May thought it worked well. Kyle Busch was also a fan. Busch won that first race using the new schedule after also winning the pole earlier that same day instead of on Friday.
“I wouldn’t mind more days like that,” Busch said via FOX Business.“With my Xfinity and Truck efforts getting cut back more and more each year, that’s going to be more Fridays at home with my son. That’s going to be more fun for us drivers.”
Kevin Harvick was also on board with the change, and he said it is better for “quality of life” for his crew by giving them an extra day with their families.
“If we can add that up 10, 15, 20 weekends, that’s two or three weeks that you can keep those guys at home and let them spend some time with their families and kids and wives,” Harvick said. “Everybody is just gone so much, it’s almost becoming harder and harder – it is becoming harder and harder – to hire people because it is such a grind.”
NASCAR tried the two-day skinny schedule again at Watkins Glen International. Instead of practices and qualifying on Friday, the track hosted a fan fest and country music concert. This time, the reception was not as warm.
Track president Michael Printup thought the shortened weekend was a turn-off for his fans because of the later start time for the main event, saying via ESPN:
“Why would you want to punish a track? Why would you want to punish the fans? That’s what the fans were saying to me. That’s important and that’s something we better listen to and NASCAR better listen to.”
He said he was hearing from the fans during a meet-and-greet before the race.
“Resounding sentiment was get rid of it quick — don’t like qualifying on Sunday, don’t like the late start. It was more late start than it was qualifying. … They don’t like qualifying on the same day, [too].
“A lot of us are traditionalists and so are the fans, but the No. 1 reason was ‘Why are we starting at 3:30 because if this race goes late, I’m not coming from Buffalo again.'”
NASCAR vice president Elton Sawyer has heard both sides and said:
“It has to work for the tracks and broadcast [partners] and NASCAR and the teams and our fans. Our fans speak loud and clear what they like and don’t like — we’re going to take that and go from there.”
If the skinny schedule saves money for drivers and their teams, NASCAR officials could be pressured into making the change permanent. They will likely test it out a few more times before making any final decision.