NASCAR announces radical changes to its 2020 schedule

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, and Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, lead the field during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will throw tradition out the window for 2020 with some somewhat surprising changes to next year’s schedule.  In what NASCAR calls the “2020 Schedule Shake-Up” NASCAR made alterations to the schedule that has remained pretty consistent in the last decade.

Among the highlights:

The July Daytona race will be replaced by the Brickyard 400; the second Daytona race will move to Aug. 29 and become the last Cup regular season race of the year; The Daytona 500 will still be the opening race

Phoenix will move to the last race of the season and be where the champions for all three top touring series will be crowned

The spring Martinsville race will be on Saturday night on Mother’s Day weekend

The Bristol night race (the second Bristol race) will be a cutoff race for the playoffs

Pocono will now compress it’s two races into a single weekend

The race at Homestead-Miami Speedway that has ended the season every year since 2002 will move to March 22

The season will now end one week earlier. Traditionally the season has ended one weekend prior to Thanksgiving, now it will end two weeks before the holiday and includes two consecutive off weekends for the Cup series.

With attendance down at all tracks on the circuit in the last few season the move to change the schedule around is a radical one as NASCAR attempts to grow the sport.

Among the changes, NASCAR’s championship will transition from the beaches of Miami to the desert near Phoenix, Arizona, following the renovation and reconfiguration of ISM Raceway. These recent changes delivered a new and exciting form of racing just a few weeks ago, reinforcing it as the perfect stage for the 2020 championship finale.

Fans have expressed their desire for more short tracks in the Playoffs, and as a result, the Bristol Night Race will become a part of the 10-week title battle as the first cut-off race on Saturday, Sept. 19. Bristol will join the Charlotte Roval (Sunday, Oct. 11) and Martinsville (Sunday, Nov. 1) as cut-off races.

The “Lady in Black,” Darlington Raceway, will be the first race of the NASCAR Playoffs on Sunday, Sept. 6 with Las Vegas becoming the first race of the second round on Sunday, Sept. 27.

“The fans and the industry as a whole have been vocal about the desire for sweeping changes to the schedule, and the 2020 slate is a reflection of our efforts to execute against that feedback,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “These changes are a result of unprecedented consensus-building with our race tracks and broadcast partners; something we look to continue into 2021 and beyond.”

The Great American Race, the Daytona 500, will once again open the NASCAR season during President’s Day weekend on Sunday, Feb. 16, but NASCAR’s second visit to Daytona will come with much more on the line than in previous seasons. Under the lights on Saturday, Aug. 29, the superspeedway will set the Playoffs field as the last regular season race of the year.

“Quite fittingly, the birthplace of NASCAR will host the bookend races to the 2020 regular season,” O’Donnell said. “Racing in Daytona – particularly in the summer under the lights – never fails in delivering intense and unpredictable action. There’s no question this venue will create some incredible drama as drivers make one last push for a playoff spot.”

Following the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s trip to the West Coast will commence immediately with stops in Las Vegas (Sunday, Feb. 23), Auto Club (Sunday, March 1) and ISM Raceway (Sunday, March 8). Atlanta will move to Sunday, March 15 followed by Miami on Sunday, March 22.

Martinsville will move back in the schedule to take the spotlight – quite literally – on Mother’s Day Weekend when cars hit the track under the lights for primetime racing on Saturday, May 9.

Pocono Raceway will make history when it helps kick off NASCAR’s summer portion of the schedule. On Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28, the Tricky Triangle will host back-to-back premier series events, creating a bucket-list, can’t miss destination weekend for NASCAR fans.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway moves to a cornerstone weekend on the NASCAR calendar with a race at the Brickyard on July 5, a spot previously occupied by Daytona International Speedway.

“It was a tremendous collaborative effort,” said Bill Wanger, FOX Sports EVP Programming, Live Operations and Research. “Working with NASCAR to offer race fans the most compelling schedule requires a fine balance between honoring tradition, while at the same time, looking for places to add energy to the race schedule for the fans and viewers, and we believe that was accomplished for the 2020 season.”

Expect even more changes for the 2021 schedule, perhaps even more radical, as the agreements NASCAR signed with tracks expires at the end of next season.

2020 NASCAR Cup Schedule
Date Track
Sunday, Feb. 9 The Clash
Thursday, Feb. 13 Duels at Daytona
Sunday, Feb. 16 Daytona 500
Sunday, Feb. 23 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 1 Auto Club Speedway
Sunday, March 8 ISM Raceway
Sunday, March 15 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 22 Homestead-Miami Speedway
Sunday, March 29 Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, April 5 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sunday, April 12 OFF
Sunday, April 19 Richmond Raceway
Sunday, April 26 Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, May 3 Dover International Speedway
Saturday, May 9 Martinsville Speedway
Saturday, May 16 All-Star Race at Charlotte
Sunday, May 24 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, May 31 Kansas Speedway
Sunday, June 7 Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, June 14 Sonoma Raceway
Sunday, June 21 Chicagoland Speedway
Saturday, June 27 Pocono Raceway
Sunday, June 28 Pocono Raceway
Sunday, July 5 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Saturday, July 11 Kentucky Speedway
Sunday, July 19 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 26 OFF
Sunday, Aug. 2 OFF
Sunday, Aug. 9 Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, Aug. 16 Watkins Glen International
Sunday, Aug. 23 Dover International Speedway
Saturday, Aug. 29 Daytona International Speedway
Sunday, Sept. 6 Darlington Raceway
Saturday, Sept. 12 Richmond Raceway
Saturday, Sept. 19 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sunday, Sept. 27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 4 Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, Oct. 11 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 18 Kansas Speedway
Sunday, Oct. 25 Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, Nov. 1 Martinsville Speedway
Sunday, Nov. 8 ISM Raceway

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