Friday, December 17, 2010

NASCAR in the Pacific Northwest?

John Marine | 12/17/2010 04:32:00 AM | |
(UPDATED: May 27, 2012)

The Pacific Northwest is beautiful in the United States. Sadly, none of NASCAR's top three series race in the Pacific Northwest. I know there were plans to maybe try to get some racing deal to happen in the Pacific Northwest, but the last time any of NASCAR's top three series raced in the Pacific Northwest was probably back when the NASCAR Trucks raced around Portland International Raceway in 2000. There used to be a short oval ("short track" is not in my terminology when talking about ovals) called Portland Speedway that used to be raced by... NASCAR Grand National and/or Trucks. Evergreen Speedway is probably the best Pacific Northwest race track for any level of NASCAR. Two of NASCAR's best from the Pacific Northwest are Greg Biffle and Kasey Khane. There are also other Pacific Northwest racers like Tayler Malsam in NASCAR. Will the Pacific Northwest have a true home track for the top touring series? I explore these ideas in this previously unfinished blog entry.

--- Geography Lesson: Pacific Northwest ---

To give you an idea of the Pacific Northwest, here's a look at what we're talking about.

The Pacific Northwest consists of the states of Washington and Oregon, and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Sometimes included are Southeast Alaska, Idaho, western Montana, and far northern California. Two of the most likely locales would be Oregon or Washington, because I doubt NASCAR would make much an impact in southeastern Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and especially not in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

For more on the Pacific Northwest, read about the Pacific Northwest on Wikipedia. Now on to my commentary on NASCAR in the Pacific Northwest.

--- Why the Pacific Northwest? ---

For many people, NASCAR is still a regional sport, only concentrated mostly on the American Southeast. NASCAR has made efforts to try and diversify itself to reach out to various other sectors of the United States and even international support. I don't think you can really establish yourself nationally if you don't have any representatives in all of the major regions of the United States: American Southeast, New England, Midwest and Central States, Mid-South, Rocky Mountains, American Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest. Some American pro sports also have some Canadian representation, mostly with the Toronto area.

NASCAR's top series would be complete as far as geographic representation is concerned if they could race in the Pacific Northwest. Would it be at a true Pacific Northwest venue or at a brand-new venue in the Pacific Northwest? Whatever the case, there is no home-field advantage for any racers from states like Oregon or Washington. That is... unless there is a proper venue for these racers in the Pacific Northwest for NASCAR's top series.

And why the Pacific Northwest outside of the aforementioned reasons? Because it's beautiful up there! :)

--- Speculation of What Would Be Good Pacific Northwest Bets for NASCAR ---

The bread and butter of NASCAR is ovals. Getting an oval deal in the Pacific Northwest would be great. Question is- what kind of track do you get going? I am thinking you have to capture two individual markets. For this to work, you HAVE to have a track either representing the Portland, Oregon area; or the Seattle, Washington area. These would make for the best hope of such a track being a success for the big NASCAR series. Two solid race tracks in both markets would be even better to help represent the Pacific Northwest. Otherwise... the only track close to the Pacific Northwest is Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, USA. My biggest concern with any longer courses would be environmental impact.

Let's explore possibilities by race track type.

Short Track?

Portland Speedway was the only real short oval representing the Pacific Northwest, at least this comes to mind immediately for me. Evergreen Speedway plays host to racing and drifting. The track is located in Monroe, Washington, USA. Monroe is just a few miles east of Seattle. I think in the past, I have heard of NASCAR wanting to make a 7/8-mile oval for racing in the Pacific Northwest. I'm not sure if NASCAR would even want to enhance Evergreen Speedway to potentially host races for the top touring series in NASCAR.

Mile Oval?

Imagine a mile-long oval or a track just under 1.5 miles in length. As long as it isn't as boring as Loudon, I'm okay.

Intermediate Ovals or Superspeedways?

For intermediate ovals, we're talking about courses between 1.5 and 2 miles in length. There is absolutely nothing wrong with intermediate ovals. I do, however, imagine if certain environmental issues would allow for a proper intermediate oval. Imagine if ground was reserved for a 2-mile oval within reach of Seattle.

Road Courses?

There are two primary candidates in this department- Portland/Vanport International Raceway and Pacific Raceways. Portland International Raceway was once raced by the NASCAR Trucks in 2000 or so. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Portland in terms of a proper racing facility for NASCAR's top series (even NASCAR's lower series) to race this course. My only concern about Portland is the fact that Portland International Raceway is carbon-neutral (or working towards Carbon-Neutral.

Equally beautiful is Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington, USA. Pacific Raceways usually plays host to the NHRA Northwest Nationals on the drag racing front. The track may have to be really renovated if it were to host NASCAR's top series there.

What Would Work Best?

I think for the Pacific Northwest, the likeliest possibility would be an oval somewhere between one mile to two miles in length. That is even if someone wanted to create a major oval more like any of the Speedway Motorsports Inc. style ovals (like Texas and Charlotte). I say that if such an oval were made in the Pacific Northwest, be distinctive! Why not make an oval styled like Darlington or Pocono?

As far as what city or market would work best, I'm truly impartial to a track for the Seattle market. Again- if a deal can be arranged to work for Portland AND Seattle, that would be great. However, Seattle seems a bit more lucrative (to me). Perhaps a track midway between Portland and Seattle would be great. If you want to expose a different market, you could probably make a track around the greater Eugene, Oregon, USA area. For the Emerald State, a race track representing the Washington [State] cities of Yakima or Olympia would be nice alternatives to the Seattle area.

--- A Dream Pacific Northwest Race for NASCAR's Top Series ---

Now that I've speculated on a proper Pacific Northwest race track for Trucks, Nationwide, and Cup; it's time to think about what kind of race would work best. I will use the hypothetical name "Pacific Northwest" to represent the race in question rather than plugging in a certain race sponsor or race title.

• NASCAR Trucks: Pacific Northwest 200 for an oval, Pacific Northwest 200 for a road race
• NASCAR Grand National: Pacific Northwest 300, Pacific Northwest 250 for a road race
• NASCAR Cup: Pacific Northwest 400/500, Pacific Northwest 350 for a road race

A problem with some sports on the West Coast is that Eastern audiences will have to stay up later to see the race live on TV. Most daytime NASCAR races usually air at 1:00 PM Eastern time (meaning 10:00 AM Pacific) to see a live race. Daytime races out west usually begin at 3:00 PM Eastern. Night races usually begin at 7:30 PM Eastern with the exception of the Coca-Cola 600, which begins at 5:45 PM Eastern. If anything, the race will have to be on in that 3:30 PM time slot. If a night race were to be run on this hypothetical NASCAR track in the Pacific Northwest, fans would have to tune in around 10:00 PM Eastern. Are you (in Eastern and Central time zones) going to tune in this late to see a live NASCAR night race held on the West Coast? Likely not. The only alternative for a late race would be to tune in around 7:30 PM Eastern to see a mid-afternoon race in the Pacific Northwest.

--- Special Message If You are a NASCAR Fan in or From the Pacific Northwest ---

I just want to say hello to you all! I'm pretty sure it's sad there isn't really a true Pacific Northwest track (unless you consider Infineon Raceway as a Pacific Northwest track) for NASCAR's top touring series to enjoy racing on. I think its sad you all aren't represented among NASCAR's top series with a home track in either Oregon or Washington. Regardless, you NASCAR fans up in the Pacific Northwest need NASCAR to race a certain track to be home field for NASCAR in the Pacific Northwest. Think about it- there are a lot of tracks raced on in the American Southeast and Midwest. However, there are absolutely no major venues representing the Pacific Northwest.

I'm pulling for you all to have a race venue for the Pacific Northwest, whether an existing track or a brand-new track for NASCAR's top series.

What do you think would be a great fit for NASCAR's top series racing in the Pacific Northwest? Do you think NASCAR will ever be fully represented with a major racing facility in the Pacific Northwest? Will the Pacific Northwest have its true home field advantage for NASCAR? Get your fill of NASCAR Pacific Northwest love by checking out these links:

a 2005 ESPN article on NASCAR in the Pacific Northwest
commentary on NASCAR's potential impact on the Pacific Northwest
NASCAR Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series
failed attempt in 2007 to convince to build track in Kitsap County

Will the Pacific Northwest have its premier NASCAR racing facility? Comment away!

Thank you for reading!

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