Brad Keselowski: Changes overdue to Sprint Cup schedule; offers his ideas

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Brad Keselowski had a dream season in 2012, winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Now Keselowski wants a dream schedule on the Cup circuit – and some of his ideas make sense.

Writing a few days ago on his blog at bradracing.com, Keselowski proposes a number of changes for the Cup slate, including increasing the number of races from 36 to 38 (adding Iowa Speedway and Road Atlanta to the schedule), having 10 “doubleheader” weeks (races on Sundays and either the preceding or following Wednesday), and an eight-week Chase (including two doubleheaders) that would wrap the season up by the end of October.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget Keselowski wants to move the Sprint All-Star race from its traditional mid-May date to after the regular season, to become similar to the NFL’s Pro Bowl scheduling.

“Why is the schedule so sacred?” Keselowski asks. “Everything else has been cut, changed, chopped, and rebuilt. Why not that?”

Keselowski proposes a three-race “western swing” after the season-opening Daytona 500 that would have the Sprint Cup Series visit Fontana, Phoenix and Sonoma in consecutive weekends.

“It would also be good for the people the travel the NASCAR circuit,” Keselowski wrote. “They could come along with us for the West Coast tour. We’d be like the Grateful Dead, with people following us everywhere we went.”

Right, and have tie-dyed firesuits, right? Groovy, Brad-io.

After the West Coast swing, Keselowski would like to see – what else? – an East Coast swing that starts in Homestead, Darlington, Martinsville, Bristol and then out to Texas.

As for the doubleheader idea, it’s intriguing – and something that fans have proposed for years, namely mid-week night races in prime-time on TV.

“Here’s why,” Keselowski said. “Like I said, there’s such a dead stretch in the middle of the season. Turn on SportsCenter on a Summer Wednesday, and what are they talking about? Tim Tebow in training camp? The only major sport that’s in full swing is baseball.”

Tim Tebow in training camp? Uh, Brad, I guess no one told you, but TT is no longer playing football. Just sayin’.

But this doubleheader idea has a lot of merit.

“We race twice a week,” Keselowski wrote. “We start hitting double headers at some of these marquee places that are not that far from each other on the map, and we do it for three weeks in a row. Michigan and Pocono. (Okay, they’re not that close, but roll with me here.) Iowa and Kansas. Dover and Loudon.”

For the record, Brad, you had me at “We race twice a week.”

While it would be hard for race teams, not to mention what happens if rain pushes race day back a day or two, but we still like the concept a LOT.

“During that stretch, everything moves to a two-day show,” Keselowski said. “You practice and qualify on one day, and race on the next. Teams that are running really well would get on a roll. Teams that are running poorly would risk falling into a slump.”

But there’s one thing that might draw the ire of some of Keselowski’s fellow Cup regulars, folks like Kyle Busch or Matt Kenseth.

“I want to take a quick moment to point out an added benefit of doing two Cup races a week — it would discourage Cup drivers from driving in the Nationwide as much,” Keselowski said. “To me, that’s a good thing. Right now, Cup drivers have financial incentives to drive in the Nationwide Series. Personally, I also like the added opportunities to keep my skills sharp. But if you’re driving double headers, it’s Cup racing, all the time.”

Check. We like that idea, too, Brad.

Then Keselowski proposes nearly week-long back-to-back stays for summer races at Daytona and Indianapolis, followed by four straight weeks of what have the prospect of being grueling doubleheaders: Kentucky/Atlanta, Pocono/Michigan, Bristol/Road Atlanta and Richmond/Talladega.

An interesting idea, indeed, although we have to question why Brad would put Talladega as the final Chase-qualifying race instead of Richmond.

Speaking of the Chase, Keselowski continues the doubleheader concept by starting the playoffs with back-to-back races at Loudon and Watkins Glen (moving a road course race into the Chase).

After a single week’s race at Chicago, there’s more back-to-backers with Kansas/Martinsville, a single race at Charlotte, a doubleheader at Dover/Texas and Phoenix.

Then, Keselowski proposes to run the All-Star race and vary its venue each year.

But we’re not done. After the All-Star race, there’s a two-week layoff before the season finale at Las Vegas. And as an incentive, the team that wins the All-Star race sits on the pole for the season conclusion in Sin City.

In other words, have a two-week buildup to the championship-determining race like the NFL has with the Super Bowl.

Keselowski admittedly makes some pretty decent points. What do you think? Leave us your thoughts on Bad Brad’s “dream schedule.”

Do you feel all dreamy about it, too, or is it one of your worst nightmares come true?

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Grosjean: ‘Unbelievable’ to score Haas’ best F1 qualifying result in Australia

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Romain Grosjean hailed Haas’ Formula 1 qualifying performance in Australia as “unbelievable” after picking up its best Saturday result since joining the grid.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, with Grosjean leading its charge through its debut campaign.

Haas enters its sophomore year in 2017 looking to build on its eighth-place finish in the constructors’ championship, and made a strong start in Australia on Saturday.

While new driver Kevin Magnussen dropped out in Q1 following an error on his hot lap, Grosjean was able to take Haas into Q3 before securing sixth place on the grid for Sunday’s season-opener.

The result marks Haas’ best qualifying result to date in F1, beating Grosjean’s run to P7 ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix last November.

“It was quite an unbelievable qualifying session for us. It’s a shame that we didn’t get Kevin there, but the car is looking good, even better than what we’ve seen recently,” Grosjean said after the session.

“We’ve made some good progress over the weekend. There’s a lot more we can understand and analyze but, generally, it’s a great start for us.

“It’s always good to start with a strong qualifying session. It tells you that if you keep improving the car, you could be in a good place very soon. If that’s our baseline, and you can fight between sixth and 10th position, where it’s so tight, it would be great to be there most of the time and enjoy some good times.

“Tomorrow’s start is a big unknown. We’ve been practicing and some have been good, others not so much. Hopefully, we’ll get the first one right tomorrow.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Daniel Ricciardo frustrated to crash out of home F1 qualifying

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Daniel Ricciardo made no secret of his frustration after crash out of Formula 1 qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, resigning himself to a 10th-place start for his home race on Sunday.

Ricciardo entered the Melbourne weekend aiming to become the first Australian to finish on the podium at his home race since the event became part of the F1 world championship in 1985.

Despite struggling with the setup on his RB13 car on Friday, Ricciardo looked poised to claim a top-five grid slot for Sunday’s race, only to lose control of his car at Turn 14 in Q3 and end the session in the wall.

“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home,” Ricciardo said after the session.

“But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen, so let’s say I’m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top five.”

Ever the optimist, Ricciardo said the difficult qualifying will only serve as greater motivation to fight back up the order and give his home fans a result to celebrate on Sunday.

“I knew the crowds would have also preferred to see me further up the grid and it would have been nice to put on a better performance than that but tomorrow is where the points are,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s a chance to create a bigger headline if I have a good race so that’s what will motivate me to do better tomorrow. I made it a bit more difficult for myself but it’s going to be alright.

“To get a good start in the race will be the key. I saved a set of ultra-softs in Q2, I know that not everyone in front of me has, so maybe that gives me a chance.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Valtteri Bottas disappointed with P3 start for Mercedes F1 debut

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Valtteri Bottas came away from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix feeling disappointed despite securing third place on the grid for his first Formula 1 race as a Mercedes driver.

Bottas joined Mercedes over the winter following world champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from racing, and made his first official race weekend appearance for the Silver Arrows on Friday.

The ex-Williams driver made a splash in qualifying by running teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel close, but was left to settle for third on the grid after finishing three-tenths of a second off the pole time.

“Third position is not ideal. In general I’m not happy with the result,” Bottas admitted after qualifying.

“But what I’m really happy about and proud about [is] what the team has done again with this car. I only saw a very small part of the preparation with the new car and the new era of Formula 1, and it’s really nice to see that all the work has paid off and we’re fighting at the very front.

“It seems to be very close this year, especially here. Myself I didn’t get any perfect laps in, so not that satisfied.

“Tomorrow’s the day that matters. It seems like in the race starts we’ve been quite strong. If we can keep that form I had in practice, and have a nice and clean race and get some really good points.”

Bottas’ best finish in Australia currently stands at fifth place in 2014 with Williams, with the Finn never qualifying any higher than sixth at Albert Park in his four previous attempts.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”