We are heading into the 11th race of the 2023 season this weekend at Dover Motor Speedway and we will have another patient at Hospital Hendrick this week. Last week, Chase Elliott made his return to the #9 Napa Chevrolet after suffering an accident snowboarding in Colorado. Now, Alex Bowman is going to be out 3-4 weeks after suffering a back injury in a sprint car race in Iowa. Josh Berry will be filling in for the #48 Ally Chevrolet team as Bowman heals from injury.
These drivers have to go live their lives and do things to relieve stress, but at what point does a team or an owner step in and say no? According to Rookie Road, Alex Bowman is making $4.5 million dollars this season to drive the #48 car. That comes out to $125,000 per race which means Hendrick is going to lose an investment of at least $500,000 not including any purses they could win from Bowman winning a race and have to spend more money for a replacement driver. We all know accidents can happen, but how can you invest millions of dollars into a driver and then be okay with them missing time from an unrelated, unnecessary activity?
With the length of the NASCAR schedule, I can see why the drivers want to go do these activities throughout the season. The Cup series starts in February and ends in November. That is only a two month offseason. Not only that, but they run a race damn near every weekend of the season with no break. The drivers need to live their lives, but the owners need to be able to protect their investments as well.
Having star drivers miss races is not good for the sport. Has it been great to see Josh Berry get a shot driving these Next Gen cars? Absolutely! If there is anybody in the field that everyone should be a fan of, it’s Josh. However, Bowman should be in that car this weekend, not admitted to Hospital Hendrick healing from an injury. Drivers should live their lives but should find a more riskless way to do so and NASCAR could help the situation by giving these teams a break or more time off to be able to recharge.
What NASCAR needs to do is implement some sort of break in the middle of the season, similar to the summer break in Formula 1. They need to determine the worst racetrack that has two races, which is Richmond, and eliminate one of those races. Atlanta used to be one of the best tracks on the schedule, but we don’t need mini-Talladega twice a year now when we have two Talladega races already. That’s two weeks off by just eliminating 2 double races. Then, eliminate whatever race has the worst ratings and give these team 3 weeks off to rest in the middle of the season, or just shorten the season by 3 weeks and end before Halloween.
By doing this, you can give everyone what they want. Drivers get more off time, either during or post season, and owners can protect their investments better. The more time the drivers get off, the more comfortable an owner should be with telling them that they need to refrain from high-risk activities outside of their job. It’s a win-win for everybody.