The reality of moving dates
by Stan Creekmore, NASCAR Editor

March 19, 2003

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Those of us who believe exciting races at North Carolina Speedway and Darlington Raceway will be enough to keep NASCAR from moving their respective spring dates to other facilities are fooling ourselves.

Re-alignment is not about the product. Itís about location Ė be that on the calendar or the atlas. Like every good business model the key to success is location, location and location.

The question we should all be asking of Bill France should deal with that one key item. Is NASCAR willing to move the schedule about in a manner to give both North Carolina Speedway and Darlington Raceway a better position on the calendar?

If the answer is no, then the decision to move a spring date from both of those facilities is moot.

Chris Browning, General Manager North Carolina Speedway, is helpless to change the economic landscape of the surrounding counties enough to make both sponsor and television executives happy. He canít build hotels and restaurants. Moreover, he canít change the fact that the major attraction to the area is golf and only golf.

Darlingtonís president, Andrew Gurss, is probably in a slightly better position than Browning, with a single exception. Browning has a facility that has been heavily modernized over the past decade. Gurss lacks the VIP Suites and other corporate amenities needed to keep sponsors happy.

What Gurss does have is Myrtle Beach, a tourist-trap style beachfront community that would be a favorite for the sponsors if his spring race date were a little further in the year. Very few people head to the beach when temperatures are unlikely to break the 70-degree mark.

What does it all mean?

It means the drivers arenít telling us anything new when they tell us how great the racing is at both facilities. The communities surrounded the two facilities arenít making breaking news by saying they donít want to lose the events that pump millions of dollars into their economies.

Unless someone is willing to realign the schedule, first by date, the fates of both tracks have been sealed. The only problem, its far harder to move dates around the schedule. The easy way out is to just take a date and move it to another facility.

The futures of North Carolina Speedway and Darlington Raceway lay with the mindset of Bill France, Mike Helton and the rest of the brain trust in Daytona. Are they willing to take the easy path or hunker down and give both tracks every opportunity to keep both dates.

The author can be contacted stanc@autoracing1.com

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