NASCAR: Is it time to start thinking about a Sprint Cup street race?


Yesterday’s NASCAR Victory Lap parade down the Las Vegas Strip is always a fun part of Champion’s Week in Sin City.

All 16 of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders cruised the Strip in their loud, bright, 3,400-pound machines and performed burnouts to the delight of onlookers both on the sidewalks and perched above on walkways.

The sight was as far away from the whole “turn left for 500 miles on some Southern-fried oval” image that the casual fan often has of the sport.

And it’s that casual fan that NASCAR is clearly aiming for at this point in time. The way that the new Chase format played out this fall was a good start, but if the sport wants to augment its loyal, longtime boosters with new ones, it’s gonna have to think outside the box a bit.

At this point, we’ve pondered the pros and cons of condensing race weekends, cutting race lengths, and staging mid-week races. And all of those options should be considered.

But allow me to throw another option on the table: A Sprint Cup street race.

Now, perhaps you are different from me. Perhaps you look at all the pictures and videos from yesterday’s parade down the Strip, and you don’t start dreaming of what would happen if new Cup champion Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and the gang raced in anger through the streets of some urban metropolis.

But I do. And in my opinion, it would be an absolute blast.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The best racing in NASCAR either involves short tracks or the two road courses at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. In regards to the style of racing on those latter tracks, NASCAR’s road racing product stacks up very well now against those from other series.

But why not take that product directly to the people? For example, the Glen is in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, which is absolutely beautiful but not particularly near a major city.

How cool would it be to see an A.J. Allmendinger vs. Marcos Ambrose-style battle for the win in a city setting with fans jamming grandstands and walking all along the course? With as good as NASCAR road racing is, a sizable number of the curious newbies in the crowd are going to be impressed – and hooked.

The only big stipulation I’d have to impose on such a prospect would be that it has to be a day race. In other words, don’t try to be like Singapore in Formula One.

That race is the only night-time street race in F1 and in that series, the novelty still works. Here in the U.S., we’ve overdone the night races to the point where their uniqueness has long faded away. Sunlight, not portable lights, please.

Let’s hear what you have to say about this idea. Would you be fine with a Sprint Cup street race, and if so, which city do you think would be best suited for such an event? Leave your comments below, just keep ’em clean.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.