NASCAR makes major changes to 2020 Cup Series schedule, including a new championship track |
U.S./World Sports

NASCAR makes major changes to 2020 Cup Series schedule, including a new championship track

Brad Keselowski does a burnout while holding a flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Sunday, March 24, 2019.

After repeated cries from fans and drivers alike for a renovated NASCAR schedule, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday that it finally has made some substantial changes.

NASCAR released its 2020 Cup Series schedule Tuesday, confirming reports that it had shifted its schedule for the first time in several years. Among the more significant changes, NASCAR is moving its championship race from Homestead-Miami Speedway to the recently renovated ISM Raceway outside Phoenix. Homestead’s lone race will move to March 22.

“We think it’s time to update the championship,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing officer, during a live reveal of the new schedule.

But that is far from the only major scheduling shakeup. Other notable changes include:

• Moving NASCAR’s West Coast swing — Las Vegas, Fontana and Phoenix — up a weekend. Those three races will now immediately follow the Daytona 500.

• Consequentially, moving Atlanta Motor Speedway’s spring race, usually held the second weekend of the season, to the middle of March.

• Switching Daytona International Speedway’s summer race — typically 4th of July weekend — with the annual Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which previously was the final regular-season race of the year. The summer Daytona race will now serve as the regular-season finale.

• Making Darlington Raceway’s Labor Day weekend race the first race of the playoffs rather than the penultimate weekend of the regular season.

• Trying to host a Cup Series doubleheader at Pocono Raceway, with Cup events on both Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend.

• Two consecutive off weekends in July and August during the Summer Olympics.

• Shifting the playoff cutoff races to Bristol, the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and then Martinsville, respectively. Martinsville also sees its spring date pushed back to Mother’s Day weekend, and the race will now be Saturday night under the lights.

These changes are the result of collaboration between NASCAR and the sport’s two major track operators, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and International Speedway Corporation. NASCAR signed a five year agreement with ISC and SMI in 2015 that mandated the physical venues for the Cup schedule. That means for 2020, NASCAR could only shuffle the order of its races rather than opting to replace or depart from previous tracks.

“NASCAR’s 2020 schedule is a product of unprecedented collaboration from so many stakeholders in our sport, but the most important were our fans,” Marcus Smith, SMI president and CEO, said in a statement. “We’ve taken a tremendous amount of fan feedback to create a schedule that maintains the tradition of NASCAR’s biggest weekends in our sport, while also adding some wrinkles the fans will love, particularly as we look ahead to the playoffs.”

Those changes, though, could come as early as the 2021 schedule, when NASCAR will need to renegotiate its events.

Categories: Sports | US-World
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