Dalepinion: NASCAR’s Season Finale Cannot Live at Phoenix Any Longer

NASCAR’s Season Finale has run its course at Phoenix Raceway. Look; I think Phoenix has performed excellently with their marketing and advertising. The stands are mostly full, and most people I talk to who attend the event express that the weekend is worth attending. However, I don’t need to make a trip to Arizona to diagnose the problem.

Before I get into the Cup Series, it’s worth noting that Trucks and Xfinity seem to excel in the quality of racing and drama in their respective series; both series boasted absolutely fucking awesome races on Friday and Saturday. Even though Trucks are the superior form of athletic competition in the universe (#TrucksBetterThanF1ConfirmedAndItsNotEvenClose), the Cup Series still moves the needle.

Phoenix is Phoenix. The aero package doesn’t matter much, the configuration doesn’t matter much (even though the dogleg config provides somewhat of a spark), and the era doesn’t matter much. Phoenix is just.. Phoenix. The quality of racing is always mid-tier at best in NASCAR Cup Series competition. The only instant classic that comes to mind is the 2016 photo finish between Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

If you wanna throw 2007 in there when Gordon tied Earnhardt on wins, go ahead. That race was pretty dramatic in the waning laps, but the significance of the win would shine bright and enhance any race at any track.

In present-day NASCAR, we have a thrilling set of playoff races to round off our final ten races of the season. I think a strong majority of fans would agree – out of all ten tracks in the playoffs – Phoenix certainly wouldn’t be at the top or near the top of the list regarding pure excitement or quality of racing.

The ten playoff races classify accurately as follows:

  • Darlington (Fucking Awesome)
  • Kansas (Great with Gen 7)
  • Bristol (Fucking Awesome)
  • Texas (The Clear-Cut Sickening Abomination of God Race of the Playoffs)
  • Talladega (Awesome; but Not Awesome to Some, but Way Better Than Phoenix)
  • Charlotte Roval (Pretty Awesome)
  • Las Vegas (God-Tier with Gen 7)
  • Homestead (Awesome but We Need More HP but That’s a Different Conversation)
  • Martinsville (Fucking Awesome)
  • Phoenix (It’s Phoenix)

What sticks out about this list? Other than Texas, it’s Phoenix. Money talks, and I believe Phoenix dropped the 401K on getting the finale for several years, and maybe NASCAR used this opportunity as an initiative to ignite a fan base out west, but it is fucking absurd that we have all these great races to take us down the stretch only for the excitement to fizzle out once we arrive at Phoenix.

I can’t reiterate enough: it’s not the track’s fault from a “people” standpoint. I think they’ve given everything possible to make this race special. But NASCAR fans simply will not get excited enough for a track that produces average or slightly above-average racing – especially immediately after the best ten-race stretch of the season.

The Dale Solution (Kinda)

Over the past thirty years or so, we’ve seen the finale at Atlanta, New Hampshire (so weird, but thanks to 911, this happened in 2001), Homestead, and Phoenix. So what’s next?

I am fully on board with a rotating finale. I used to be skeptical of this idea, but I think this should become a necessary function of our sport. Most of the drivers and teams wouldn’t mind this, I think this would enhance competition, and it would be good for the fans. Let tracks bid for the finale. Let NASCAR coordinate to switch it up on a yearly basis. I think it would work.

The glaring issue with this would be the idea of Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta being in the equation. I simply think these tracks should be ruled out. We can’t have the most important race of the season decided with the quality of racing that superspeedways present. That would be worse than Phoenix – like.. way fucking worse.

I don’t know how that element could work or what NASCAR would have to do, but Daytona and Talladega have four great slots on the schedule already, so maybe there wouldn’t be an issue with them entering the rotation, but Dear God, we cannot let Atlanta slip into the rotation. If NASCAR could find a way to prohibit these tracks from entering the rotation, the finale rotating would be amazing.

Imagine the finale at Bristol one year and then Darlington the next. And then Vegas after that. And then Charlotte after that (Oval or Roval). Watkins Glen next. Then Martinsville. Or… NORTH WILKESBORO!

North Wilkesboro will be impossible for a long time and maybe even forever. I know.

Overall, the concept here could provide the spark NASCAR needs for its Championship-deciding race. And this isn’t new; this idea has floated around for a bit. But now is the time, with uncertainties for the finale upon us after 2023, to open the revolving door for the finale starting in 2024.

Let me know what you think. Yell at me on Twitter @daletanhardt.


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