For months leading up to the moment NASCAR released the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series this week, they repeatedly said one thing. Expect major changes to what we’ve done before.
Well, they sure as heck backed it up when the schedule reveal was announced Wednesday, Sept. 30. Fans wanted change from years past, and they received their wishes.
Was everyone pleased? Nope. Are they ever? Heck No.
The 2021 Speedweeks schedule for Daytona International Speedway was announced months ago resulting in less days by the beach and the Busch Clash to the road course. In hindsight, that was minor compared to the full schedule reveal.
With that said, let’s take a look at what’s in store for 2021. Ready, here we go.
Off the schedule
The demise of the 1.5-mile “Cookie Cutter” tracks which have produced some hum ho racing could appear underway. For next year, Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Motor Speedway are totally off the schedule.
While it is surely disappointing for both venues, it is now their responsibility to have more events to keep the coffers going and jobs intact. If they need an example to follow, Charlotte Motor Speedway is leading the way in scheduling innovative revenue earnings such as in-car concerts, graduations and other smaller events in a safe manner.
Let’s be honest, aside from the track itself and geographical fans, are you really going to miss those two races at Chicagoland and Kentucky?
One and done
Dover International Speedway and Michigan International Speedway both lost a date for next year. The sole event at Dover will be May 16 and MIS lost it’s June date, but retained one to be run on Aug. 22.
Where both tracks the results of declining attendance and/or predictable racing action? Either way, the powers that be decided to delete one from each to open the door of opportunity to others.
New to the schedule
The cry for “Road courses, we want more road courses” from fans in the stands – and Internet – was clearly answered by six, yes six, road courses on the 2021 schedule. But, they came at an expense to other facilities used to hosting one or two events per year.
For the first time, the stars of the Cup cars will take on Circuit of the Americas in Texas and Road America in Wisconsin. This will be a first visit by any NASCAR series to COTA and first Cup race at Road America.
Questions of infrastructure and accommodations will need to be answered, especially for RA as they have very few grandstands, but plenty of real estate for fans to watch. Grab a lawn chair, cooler, your American flag and pack a snack because this could be a huge picnic-style race with it being held on July 4. Getting away from the summer heat of Daytona and Indy on Independence Day should be a good move.
For COTA to get a race, Texas Motor Speedway had to lose one date. That’s another 1.5-mile track taking a fiscal hit to make way for the 2021 Cup Train. So far, that’s three Cookie Cutter events moved aside. However, TMS will host the All-Star Race for the first time on June 13, so they have that going for them.
First, Music City USA of Nashville became the new location for the Cup banquet last year. Now, in addition to crowning a new champion, the city will host a Cup race at the previously-shuttered Nashville Superspeedway.
In the past, the Xfinity and Truck Series raced there. Lackluster attendance forced it off those schedules a few years ago. Will fans respond to the top drivers of Cup racing a few miles from Tootsie’s Wild Orchard Lounge? Again, there’s only way to find out on June 20.
Switching it up a bit
Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t losing a date, but a track layout. The historic Brickyard 400 run on the “Big Track” will now be held on the road course. Earlier this year, the NASCAR Xfinity Series race ran there and it didn’t disappoint for action.
Can the Cup cars have the same results? That will be answered on August 15.
“We want Cup cars on dirt, let’s see what the Cup drivers can do on dirt, they aren’t real racers until they race on dirt.” Those sentiments have been heard for years.
Well, come March 28 the usual Spring date at Bristol Motor Speedway will, indeed, be held on dirt. Like they did before for the World of Outlaws Sprint and Late Model Series, the half-mile high-banked oval will be covered in clay for the Cup Series race. To say this will be interesting is an understatement.
Bristol has suffered from bad weather and dwindling attendance the past few years. Will this fill the seats and spark more interest? This write will bet his Batman, Elvis, KISS and Evel Knievel lunchboxes it does – big time.
It’s Dirty Bristol Baby
You get two
Two tracks that have been on the NASCAR schedule for decades were given a second date. Actually, they are getting back a second date as they both had two in the past.
Atlanta Motor Speedway will be the sixth race of the season when it hosts a race on March 21. They series returns for the second time on July 11. So, what was before is now new, but actually not because it’s been done before.
Darlington Speedway was a workhorse in 2020 hosting events when nowhere else could so the 36-race points race schedule could be honored. For its efforts, the Lady in Black and track Too Tough to Tame will see what it has for drivers on May 8 and again on September 5, as the first Playoff race on Labor Day weekend.
Pocono Raceway will, again, host the double header like this year races running Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27. It seemed to work out well this year, so what the heck…do it again.
Off weekends, are we talking off weekends?
With the schedule being so intense and the season so long, teams will get a break on April 4 and then two-consecutive off weekends of July 25 and August 1. Why? Because the 2020 Summer Olympics were pushed back to those dates in 2021. And, with NBC having NASCAR broadcast rights for that part of the season, racing will give way to the swimmers, pole vaulters and runners trying to earn gold.
Who’s going to be the Champion
That question will be debated from the end of this season right on through the end of 2021. The good part, all 10 Playoff races remain the same as this year with the big trophy being rewarded at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7.
So, there you have it…the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule with impactful changes, new places, added race spaces.
Will fans respond via ticket purchases and tuning in to pump up attendance and ratings? There’s only way to find out. Until then, there sure as shinola is plenty to talk about for next year.