NASCAR fans will get to enjoy a lot of real racing next month as all three major series return to the track. The Cup Series alone is scheduled to hold four races in an 11-day stretch from May 17 through May 27, with two races each at Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Three additional races in the Xfinity and Truck series are set to go green during that time, as well.
Fans of old-time racing can tell you that NASCAR has a lot of experience in scheduling a lot of races over a short period of time, although back in the day, it was mostly by design. This year’s condensed setup is an attempt to make up races that were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and get back on pace to run a full 36-race schedule.
You have to go back almost half a century, to 1971, to find a comparable squeeze. That was the last year the Cup Series ran a 48-race schedule. Though the season stretched 11 months (mid-January to mid-December), there were still times when multiple races were run just a handful of days apart.
With data from Racing-Reference.info, we present this Southern scramble from the spring of ’71:
April 8, Columbia, S.C.
Winner: Richard Petty. The King recorded his fifth win in the season’s first 11 races, this one at the half-mile Columbia Speedway in Cayce.
April 10, Greenville, S.C.
Winner: Bobby Isaac. Isaac won by two-plus laps over David Pearson at the half-mile Greenville-Pickens Speedway. He led 181 of the 200 laps and earned $1,430 for the win.
April 15, Maryville, Tenn.
Winner: Richard Petty. The series moved to .520-mile Smoky Mountain Raceway, where Petty resumed his dominance. He won by eight seconds over Benny Parsons. They were the only two drivers to run all 200 laps.
April 18, North Wilkesboro, N.C.
Winner: Richard Petty. Season win No. 7 was just as easy for Petty, who finished a lap-plus ahead of Pearson in the Gwyn Staley 400 at the five-eighths-mile track. Petty went on to win 21 of the 48 races that year and claim the third of his record seven series championships.
There was a similar crush of races in July of that year — four in eight days, including a back-to-back — as NASCAR made its way up north from Bristol to New York state, Long Island and New Jersey. Petty won the last three of those races.
All of that makes this year’s scheduled single-day doubleheader at Pocono look like a breeze.