NASCAR officials have released next year’s Cup Series schedule, introduced three new tracks and six more road courses as well as placed a dirt-track race on the calendar for the first time in more than five decades.
2021 Cup Series remains at 36 point-paying races, starting as it did in 2020 with the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 14 and finishing with the championship final at Phoenix Raceway on November 7. There are schedule shuffles and new venues between those bookends as part of the changes long hinted at by NASCAR officials.
These are several highlights among the shifts for next year:
- May 23: Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, having been host to IndyCar, Formula 1, and IMSA competition.
- June 20: Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee, confirmed for the next year’s schedule last spring.
- July 4: Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, having last hosted the 1956 Cup Series.
- Aug. 15: Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
Next year’s Cup Series will also diversify its schedule with a Bristol Motor Speedway’s temporary conversion to a dirt-track surface for its event on March 28. The last time the top division of NASCAR raced on dirt, Richard Petty won at the dusty half-mile of North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on September 30, 1970.
NASCAR president Steve Phelps indicated in a roundtable on September 1 with reporters that next year’s schedule could be released in segments as COVID-19 safeguards go on to alter normal race-weekend operations.
Phelps said that he was cautiously optimistic that many of the objectives they would have had in a pre-coronavirus world, they would have during their 2021 season. The 2021 slate was planned for a springtime release this year, but the more immediate efforts by racing operations officials to salvage the 36-race timetable for 2020 have taken priority.