Realignment refers to changes in the schedule of NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series. In a January 2003 press conference, NASCAR's Chairman of the Board, Bill France, Jr., caused a stir when he interrupted the conference to announce big changes for 2004. France said that many tracks were under fire and being looked at as having race dates taken from them, and given to other facilities. Among the scenarios being looked at by France were how tracks did with ticket sales, and how the weather affected those races. Two tracks immediately looked at by the media were the North Carolina Speedway and Darlington Raceway. Both tracks' events almost never sold out, and the weather, especially at North Carolina Speedway, had been a major problem, as rain forced many races to be postponed until the next day, typically Monday, which is even worse for tracks because most people who planned to attend the race on a Sunday couldn't be there on a Monday because they had to work.
Basically, the message being sent with the realignment was "Sell out, have good weather, or lose".Template:POV-statement
"Realignment 2004" was announced in June 2003 at the Winston Cup race weekend at the Michigan International Speedway. While there weren't very many changes, those changes were still big. In June 1997, the California Speedway began hosting a Winston Cup race. Since the track's host city, Fontana, is located just outside Los Angeles, many fans flocked to the first race, and very quickly, the Los Angeles area became NASCAR's largest market. So, it was announced that Darlington's Mountain Dew Southern 500, held on Labor Day weekend for many, many years, would be moved to November for 2004. In the process, the North Carolina Speedway's November date, the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400, would move to Fontana, become the Pop Secret 500, and be run from the late evening into the night on the West Coast on the day before Labor Day, while also being shown live on NBC in primetime. The move of the race to September left the Rockingham, North Carolina-based track with just one race to run in 2004—its February date, the Subway 400.
"Realignment 2004" was unpopular with many, but unlike "Realignment 2005", the previous realignment in the schedule wasn't tied in with a lawsuit. In April 1997, two months before they debuted in Fontana, the Winston Cup Series began racing at the Texas Motor Speedway in Justin, Texas, near Fort Worth. O. Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which also oversees operations of tracks like the Bristol Motor Speedway and the Atlanta Motor Speedway, which have two race dates a year, thought that the first race at Texas was popular enough to warrant another date. Soon, the company began pressing NASCAR to give them another date. Then, it boiled over. Early in the 2000s, SMI shareholder Francis Ferko filed a lawsuit against NASCAR, saying that it failed to come through on a "promise" to give Texas a second date. NASCAR denied making any promise of any kind. What's even odder is that although he wanted the second date, too, when presented with the lawsuit by Ferko, Smith had no interest in filing it, so Ferko went in on his own.
In May 2004, NASCAR announced that they and Texas had reached a settlement. Texas would be given a second date, but at a cost. The France family, most of whom are involved in some way with NASCAR, also owns the International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which oversees operations of tracks like the Daytona International Speedway and the Talladega Superspeedway. ISC took the one date from the North Carolina Speedway, which it also owns, and gave it to Texas, and then sold the track to SMI. This not only cost Rockingham its Nextel Cup date, but left it with no dates in any of NASCAR's national racing series—Nextel Cup, Busch Series, or Craftsman Truck Series—in 2005. The ISC also owns the Phoenix International Raceway, and they gave them a second date for 2005 as well.
Compared to "Realignment 2005", "Realignment 2004", despite the big changes announced, was basically a whimper. The 2005 Nextel Cup Series schedule (with the Busch Series schedules for 2004 and 2005 affected by these changes, while also having a major change announced for just its 2005 schedule) will look very different. For just over 10 years, the North Carolina Speedway hosted the second race of the season with the Subway 400, a week after the Daytona 500. Now that it is gone from the schedule forever, the California Speedway's Spring date, the Auto Club 500, was moved to that slot. The new race for Phoenix, called the Subway Fresh 500, was held on April 23, 2005, while the date that has been on the schedule since 1988 will continue to be run in November. The new Texas race, called the Dickies 500, will be held November 6, 2005, one week before the second Phoenix race. While Rockingham was the biggest loser with all these changes, losing its one date, Darlington might have paid an even bigger price. How? The new Texas race phases out the Mountain Dew Southern 500. In May 2005, the 500 and the Spring race at Darlington, the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, merged to become the Dodge Charger 500, making it the only race Darlington will host in 2005. The race was held on a Saturday night (May 7, 2005) on Mother's Day weekend.
However, there will be a slight realignment to the 2006 Busch Series schedule: the International Speedway Corporation recently bought the Pikes Peak International Raceway, and plan to shut it down by Halloween. The track's Busch race will be moved to the Martinsville Speedway, a track that hasn't hosted a Busch Series race since 1994.
Controversy surrounding the realignmentEdit
While NASCAR is taking major steps into the 21st Century with trying to expand the sport by taking it into new markets, the changes are also affecting NASCAR traditions. Rockingham has been a part of NASCAR since the 1960s, and, most of the time, producing great racing with its 1-mile configuration whose surface was tough on tires. But the Mountain Dew Southern 500 has been a part of NASCAR's top circuit since 1950. Seeing this race go is a very hard thing for longtime NASCAR fans to deal with. In fact, many of the changes announced by NASCAR in 2004, including the change to the points system, creating a 10-race shootout to determine the series champion, have turned many fans away from NASCAR's top division, in which they have begun supporting their local weekly racing short track more.Template:Cn
Reasons for Rockingham losing its races and Darlington having theirs merge togetherEdit
NASCAR has said Rockingham and Darlington lost their dates because they didn't sell all their tickets for those events, and that giving Darlington only one date would make a sellout more possible since it would be the only race taking place there next year.
Also, races at both tracks had been affected by rain many times over the past few years. Even if there was no rain, it was usually overcast, and any sunshine was very welcomed. Darlington's only race taking place in May also puts the scheduling of the race in the peak tornado season in the Southeast.