NASCAR finally unveiled its Cup Series schedule for 2021 Wednesday and it’s radically different than anything seen in the past. According the NASCAR not since 1969 has the sanctioning body added this many new venues to its premier series schedule.
The highlights include new venues like Nashville Speedway, a Cup race on dirt for the first time since 1970 at Bristol Motor Speedway, and a total of six road course races including at Road America in Wisconsin on July 4th and the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. The All-Star Race will be held at Texas Motor Speedway, and NASCAR will stay in Florida for nearly the entire month of February.
Two tracks, Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway, will be off the schedule while Dover International Speedway will lose one of its dates to Nashville. Also losing points paying races are Texas and Michigan, although Texas will still have two races with the All-Star Race. The Brickyard 400, which was run on the July 4th weekend for the first time this season will move to August and the road course through the infield will be used instead of the traditional oval and will be a doubleheader weekend with the IndyCar Series . Atlanta and Darlington will each get a second race, Atlanta in March and July, and Darlington in May and on Labor Day weekend.
Prior to 2019, in NASCAR’s modern era, the NASCAR Cup series held only two road course races, one each at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Last season they added a road course race at the ROVAL, a hybrid road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
There will be two breaks, one in April and an extended break in late July and early August as the rescheduled Olympics play out in Japan. The season will open at Daytona in February and end at Phoenix in November, with the final 10 playoff races remaining essentially the same as this season with only Texas and Kansas swapping weekends. Darlington will still open the Playoffs on Labor Day weekend.
“We developed the 2021 schedule with one primary goal: Continue to take steps to create the most dynamic schedule possible for our fans,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “Extensive collaboration between NASCAR, the racetracks, race teams and our broadcast partners allowed NASCAR to create what promises to be an exciting 2021 schedule of races.”
There was confirmation that the races at the new venues (Road America, COTA, Nashville) along with the Daytona 500, the Coke 600, the road course race at Indy and at Phoenix will have practice and qualifying. For the other races there will be no practice or qualifying as the series has done in this pandemic ridden season which forced NASCAR to postpone and move races in order to complete a full season. The lack of practice and qualifying is seen as a cost saving move that will let teams build fewer cars in preparation for the next generation racecar which, after a delay due to the pandemic, will debut in 2022.
The schedules were fully revealed Wednesday afternoon, but individual tracks hinted at the changes by releasing their own announcements and press conferences Tuesday and throughout the day Wednesday. Kentucky and Chicagoland Speedway started Tuesday night releasing statements confirming they will not be on the 2021 schedule. Atlanta Motor Speedway was the first to confirm its dates in a release Wednesday morning. Darlington confirmed their dates with a press conference at the SC Governor’s mansion in Columbia later in the morning as did the Circuit of the Americas.
The COVID-19 pandemic could still throw any scheduled race in doubt and force NASCAR to pivot once again. Something they have proven capable of this season. In addition, there has yet to be an official word on fan attendance. Looking at this season however, it is expected that some tracks will allow a minimum number of fans, and perhaps some tracks will still not allow fans in in accordance with local guidelines.
2021 NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE
|Date||Race / Track|
|Tuesday, February 9||Clash (Daytona Road Course)|
|Thursday, February 11||Duel at Daytona|
|Sunday, February 14||DAYTONA 500|
|Sunday, February 21||Homestead-Miami|
|Sunday, February 28||Auto Club|
|Sunday, March 7||Las Vegas|
|Sunday, March 14||Phoenix|
|Sunday, March 21||Atlanta|
|Sunday, March 28||Bristol Dirt|
|Saturday, April 10||Martinsville|
|Sunday, April 18||Richmond|
|Sunday, April 25||Talladega|
|Sunday, May 2||Kansas|
|Sunday, May 9||Darlington|
|Sunday, May 16||Dover|
|Sunday, May 23||COTA|
|Sunday, May 30||Charlotte|
|Sunday, June 6||Sonoma|
|Sunday, June 13||All-Star (Texas)|
|Sunday, June 20||Nashville Superspeedway|
|Saturday & Sunday, June 26-27||Pocono Doubleheader|
|Sunday, July 4||Road America|
|Sunday, July 11||Atlanta|
|Sunday, July 18||New Hampshire|
|Sunday, August 8||Watkins Glen|
|Sunday, August 15||Indianapolis Road Course|
|Sunday, August 22||Michigan|
|Saturday, August 28||Daytona|
|Sunday, September 5||Darlington|
|Saturday, September 11||Richmond|
|Saturday, September 18||Bristol|
|Sunday, September 26||Las Vegas|
|Sunday, October 3||Talladega|
|Sunday, October 10||Charlotte Roval|
|Sunday, October 17||Texas|
|Sunday, October 24||Kansas|
|Sunday, October 31||Martinsville|
|Sunday, November 7||Phoenix|