Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway was nothing short of fantastic. Kyle Busch outduelled Kyle Larson in a contact-filled final lap in which Larson put Busch in the fence off of Turn 2 and Busch returned the favour by spinning Larson in Turn 3.
However, does this classic finish, and overall, entertaining race leave NASCAR with a big decision to make come 2020?
Sunday was a steaming hot day at the track, with temperatures above 90°F. The excessive heat was a huge downside for attendance, as the stands looked bare compared to previous runnings of the event in September in years past. For fans at home, though, the slick conditions provided great action on the track.
Stages 1 and 2 were both filled with comers and goers, and multiple lanes being used. Stage 2’s ending between teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch was one of the more exciting moments of the season thus far. The exciting racing continued in the final stage, a stage that saw Kyle Busch work his way from outside the top ten to the lead.
The final long run of the day saw Kyle Busch fend off Kevin Harvick with around 40 laps remaining. Kyle Larson, 6 seconds back, charged past third placed Martin Truex Jr and second placed Harvick on the very top lane, inches from the wall.
As the tyres wore out, Larson became even more effective on the top lane and eventually caught Busch. A slap to the wall late on was made up by Busch’s struggles with lapped cars. The chase Larson put on Busch was possible because of the multiple lanes available.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 1, 2018
These lanes become available because of the slick conditions and tyre fall off. Is the Chicago thriller, which in no way is normal, enough for NASCAR to leave it as a July race in the daytime?
Further, what will NASCAR do to other tracks’ race times as a result of this? Atlanta is in the spring because of heat. Both Richmond races this season are under the lights. Fontana and Phoenix both avoid summer dates. But, the racing is typically better in the daytime.
It’s a tough spot for NASCAR; do they try to get more fans at the track or better racing on track? Certainly, heat and better racing is not always the case, but there is a correlation between the two.
You can certainly argue for a few more daytime races in the schedule. Keeping one Richmond night race, hot venues like Phoenix out of the summer, and a good mix between night and day would perhaps bring a better balance.
Thankfully, NASCAR has some time to figure out this new dilemma of attendance vs racing, as the 2019 schedule is already set.