NASCAR adjusts 2021 schedule due to pandemic, Daytona will get two consecutive weekends of racing

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - AUGUST 15: Chase Briscoe, driver of the #98 Ford, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Xfinity Series UNOH 188 at Daytona International Speedway on August 15, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Speedweeks will actually be just that in 2021. NASCAR announced Tuesday that all three of its national touring series will remain in Florida this February. The sanctioning body said that adjustments had to be made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for significant advance planning for fans and the NASCAR industry led to the schedule adjustment. The second Daytona weekend will be on the infield road course where all three divisions raced last August.

Originally NASCAR would have moved from the season opening Daytona 500 to Homestead-Miami Speedway the following weekend. Under the new adjustment, Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR weekend for the first time in 24 years. The 2-mile Fontana, California, track was slated to hold the third race of the season for both the Cup and Xfinity Series for the second straight year.

With the pandemic undergoing a surge around the country and particularly California, the possibility that sporting events will be cancelled there remains high. The state of Florida has been looser with restrictions and Daytona International Speedway had already announced that there will be a limited number of fans in February. Daytona will not only have fans, but now has a second consecutive weekend of racing.

“Daytona International Speedway is known for iconic moments, and last year’s historical, first NASCAR road course races were incredibly exciting and added to the legacy of the World Center of Racing,” said Speedway President Chip Wile. “It was also great to see our trio of winners go on and hoist Championship trophies at Phoenix. We’re thrilled to have all three series back.”

Homestead-Miami Speedway also announced they will also allow a limited number of fans. The races are now shifting ahead a weekend  than the original schedule.

“The South Florida community and Homestead-Miami Speedway are always excited to welcome fans here from across the country,” said track President Al Garcia. “We pride ourselves on personal hospitality and incredible racing at our beautiful, colorful, one-of-a-kind facility. We will work with our fans to find the best opportunity to enjoy NASCAR racing at its finest, here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”

The new adjusted schedule:

— Feb. 14 weekend — Daytona oval (all three series)
— Feb. 21 weekend — Daytona Road Course (all three series)
— Feb. 28 weekend — Homestead-Miami (Cup, Xfinity)

The Camping World Truck Series had previously been scheduled to contest its second race of the season at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami track. That event has been realigned to the 3.61-mile Daytona Road Course layout.

There is a proposed redevelopment project at Auto Club and that will continue as they transform the track into a high-banked short track. Timing for approval will occur later based on the impacts from COVID-19.

Auto Club officials said in a release that plans to reconfigure the venue into a high-banked short track for future events would be placed on hold. “This will allow fans and the industry the opportunity to properly close the history books on the storied 2-mile, D-shaped oval for what could be the final race on its original surface in 2022,” the track’s release stated.

The announcement adds a new twist to an already overhauled 2021 Cup Series schedule, which was unveiled Sept. 30. The series will now compete on seven road courses next season, as the Daytona Road Course joins Circuit of the Americas (May 23), Sonoma Raceway (June 6), Road America (July 4), Watkins Glen International (Aug. 8), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (Aug. 15) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 10) on the schedule.

The schedule shift also adds to an already busy stretch for Daytona’s road course layout. The circuit is scheduled to host the non-points Busch Clash for the Cup Series on Tues., Feb. 9, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicks off with the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 30-31, one week after IMSA’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 preliminary Jan. 22-24.

Greg Engle