NASCAR announced on Tuesday morning that Phoenix Raceway would hold its fourth consecutive Championship Weekend at the conclusion of the 2023 season.
While it might be the right decision for next year, should NASCAR start a new routine instead?
Phoenix Raceway’s status as NASCAR’s championship
Homestead-Miami Speedway held its final Championship Weekend in 2019 before Phoenix Raceway took the mantle in 2020 as Chase Elliott became the track’s first NASCAR Cup Series champion in the new format.
While the environment of the track is electric, the on-track action at Phoenix has been heavily criticized for years due to its lack of passing and excitement.
Many NASCAR fans have been vocal in their demands of removing Phoenix from Championship Weekend, as the track already hosts another event in early Spring.
It also begs the question of whether the final race of the year should have another date in that season. Homestead didn’t need to worry about that because it has always received one date since 1999.
The on-track racing is a good enough eye test to warrant that Phoenix needs one date. There are simply more exciting tracks and if NASCAR moved it to one date, then it would be more enticing.
If the sport races at Phoenix earlier in the year, it gives fans an idea of what to expect. Not knowing what to expect is most likely the way to go when it comes to excitement.
For now, Phoenix is set to return for at least the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Hopefully, the NextGen car makes NASCAR’s finale a bigger success in terms of entertainment, unlike the past few seasons.
Related: NASCAR TV ratings during the 2022 season
The case for NASCAR to rotate tracks for Championship Weekend
NASCAR will begin its new media rights deal at the beginning of the 2025 season. It would not be surprising to see Phoenix back for the 2024 season, but it makes so much sense to end the streak at that point.
With the new media rights deal, it can be a start to making changes that could keep more energy in the final race for networks, organizations, and fans alike.
The NFL rotates the Super Bowl every single year. The NBA, MLB, and NHL don’t play at neutral sites. While every site is neutral in NASCAR, why should one track hold the event every single year?
It’s a real opportunity for thes sport to grow its fanbase and generate excitement. The current schedule can be predictable in terms of the final weekend. There’s an expectation that it simply stays in Phoenix.
If the sport decides to start a rotation every one to two years, each venue that is capable of holding Championship Weekend would have the opportunity to maximize its product.
Plus, it is fairer for drivers since a track could heavily favor the style of one driver and the odds are stacked against the other contenders.
Let’s face it. Phoenix does not compare to the likes of Darlington or Homestead. NASCAR has been open to making schedule changes and it should not stop at adding new tracks.
There’s so much to gain and NASCAR will most likely figure out a way to maximize this opportunity. Drivers, such as Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., have been vocal about their desire to make this happen.
It’s not a diss on Phoenix itself. There are just more opportunities that should be explored for NASCAR’s growth. Imagine a NASCAR Championship Weekend in Las Vegas or Nashville.
Big events call for big audiences and those two certainly fit the bill with good racing and fans. Plus, the fans want to embrace Championship Weekend and certain tracks can feed that ambition.
This can also be done for other events, such as the All-Star Race which has been heavily criticized over the past week. It can create new energy as it did at Bristol Motor Speedway during the 2020 season.
Overall, there is more to gain than lose when deciding to rotate Championship Weekend and it should be something NASCAR considers as the new media rights deal rolls out in February 2025.
Related: NASCAR power rankings 2022: Denny Hamlin skyrockets after Coca-Cola 600 victory