After hosting the cup series finale for 18 years, NASCAR moves the championship to Phoenix for the 2020 season. NASCAR will come to Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 22, starting in 2020.
An 18-year run with NASCAR’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will come to an end at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
Sweeping changes to the 2020 schedule will move the November race from Homestead to March 22 with the final race being moved to ISM Speedway in Phoenix.
“Our reaction was really mainly pride,” said Matt Becherer, president of Homestead-Miami Speedway, “and a reflection on what is going to be 18 amazing years with a tremendous partner in Ford Motor Company, tremendous support from our community and our fans, our partners across the South Florida region, and that’s something we always will be proud of.”
Some members in the community were surprised of the news especially considering its success from selling out the last five championship races.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting it so I’ve got to say it was a surprise,” Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace said. “And as successful as the race has been here in Homestead I don’t know the background reasoning for it, but with the success of the race itself couldn’t be the reason because we have done very well.”
Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, complimented Homestead for its years as a championship host and explained the decision for the change, "It is important to note Homestead-Miami has been a terrific host for the championship, but I think equally as important has put on tremendous racing and having full confidence that will continue, allowed us to make a change,” O’Donnell said. “FOX was very interested in having Miami as part of their schedule of events as well so we're able to really enhance the spring portion of our schedule and then also rotate our championship more driven from a competitive standpoint. Going to the same track year in and year out could potentially favor certain drivers so we wanted to take a look at if we had the opportunity to go to another
venue, what would that be and obviously a ton of investment has gone into ISM Raceway. It's a big sports market and we thought it was natural for us to make that rotation this year and see how it works out and also put Miami in a date where we think it works for them as well."
Joey Logano, last year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Series Cup champion by winning the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, is in favor of moving the final race.
"That's a big change and I kind of like that it's moved," Logano said. "I think we should move it around every year like the Super Bowl. I do think moving it to Phoenix will be an interesting change."
Other notable changes to the schedule include more short tracks in the playoffs, the second race at Daytona will be the final one of the regular season, and Pocono will host races on consecutive days.
Logano’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney also likes the schedule changes.
"There is a lot of changes that I did not expect and I think it is going to be good," Blaney said. "We're trying to piece together things and I like how the championship race is being changed around for people in the Phoenix area to enjoy their home track to be the championship race. I like that.
I like to see the championship race move around year to year to give different areas a chance to really highlight the sport and their city.
I think that's pretty neat."
The Homestead-Miami Speedway opened in 1995 with a vision from Ralph Sanchez of having races held in the spring.
“This change allows is to now get back to your roots because when Ralph Sanchez initially built this track he built it with spring racing in mind,” Becherer said. “We raced in the spring in our first seven years of existence. It’s a great time of year. You look out the window right now and there’s a reason why
people are flooded into our market and enjoying South Florida this time of year and now we’re going to be woven into that fabric of our super season with the Tennis Open, Calle Ocho, Ultra Music Festival, and art shows. We’re now a part of that and that’s exciting to me and it should be exciting to our fans. It’s exciting as a business opportunity as well.”
Becherer is confident Homestead’s race will continue to be an attractive destination for race fans with the event still being a large draw.
“I think what everyone has to keep in mind is the championships are a big deal, but they’re not the reason why Homestead-Miami Speedway exists,” Becherer said. “They’re not the reason all of the other race tracks exist. These events draw people from all 50 states, multiple countries.
The geographic draw is huge regardless of where the event is. We happen to have a beautiful race track that races really well in a part of the world that people want to visit. Absolutely we’re not planning on changing on anything like the pageantry, the buzz, the media penetration, the activities for fans, and the things our sponsors are doing--none of that changes. What changes is the size of the trophy we give out at the end of the night and the color of the confetti.
“At the end of the day race weekend delivers tremendous benefits to communities and the people who attend them and that’s not going to change one bit.”