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NASCAR Nationwide Series to see reduced schedule in 2011?

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By Lee Montgomery
lee.montgomery@nnsracing.com

NEWTON, Iowa – NASCAR’s Nationwide Series schedule for 2011 isn’t quite finished, and it appears it could be dramatically different from this year’s schedule.

Gateway International Raceway asked out of its two dates earlier this year, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials are considering taking over the date currently held by O’Reilly Raceway Park, according to a story in the Indianapolis Star.

And there could be more movement, too. Iowa Speedway, which hosts this weekend’s U.S. Cellular 250, could be in a position to pick up a second Nationwide race.

Dover Motorsports’ Nashville Superspeedway, the sister to Gateway, has two dates this year, but attendance at Nashville has been terrible in recent years. Could that track lose a date?

NASCAR President Mike Helton wouldn’t speculate on whether the Nationwide schedule would be drastically different.

"I’d always try to avoid getting out ahead of the announcement of the schedule and let it speak for itself," Helton said this week at Iowa. "I would tell you, there’s a lot of movement going on in the three national series this year, trying to sort it all out."

Helton did say, however, the possibility of the Nationwide Series dropping below its current 35-race schedule is being discussed.

"That’s been bounced around," Helton said. "Is it necessary to do that? Obviously, there’s players that have to be talked to in regards to that, Nationwide, for one, ESPN and other promoters, and the competitors. That level of activity is being talked about."

Rusty Wallace Racing owner Rusty Wallace said Nationwide owners want the schedule cut back to help contain costs in the series.

"The owners really want to see the schedule reduced," Wallace said. "It’s costing so much money right now."

Drivers agree. Wallace’s younger brother, Kenny, said no one in the series is making money like they used to, and even top Sprint Cup teams don’t have as much money.

"We’ve got too many races, the races are too long," Kenny Wallace said. "We need to hit the reset button."

Sponsorship costs have increased, even as teams look for ways to cut their budgets.

"We need 30 races, 28 to 32, somewhere in there," Kenny Wallace said, "so we don’t have to go ask for $6 million."