The turn of the calendar year is also the time when we start to turn our attention to the upcoming NASCAR season. It comes up pretty quickly, as the previous season ended just about two months ago. Nevertheless it’s always nice when it is a big part of our conversation.
Such is the case again this year as the DAYTONA 500 is now a little more than a month away. The season “unofficially” starts well before then, however, with the running of Rolex 24 IMSA race and Speedweeks. A new twist has been added this year, with the Daytona Road Course being used for the second weekend of the year, making it three straight weeks in the Sunshine State to open the 2021 NASCAR season.
And as we enter the 2021 campaign, schedules are a big part of the dialogue, as the sport will venture into several new venues that have not previously been a part of the NASCAR docket. In fact, three new tracks have been added to the schedule for 2021, marking the first time since 1969 that the sport has added that many new tracks to the schedule in one year.
The additions for 2021 are Nashville Superspeedway, Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin) and Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
While it will be the first time that Nashville Superspeedway – a concrete oval of 1 1/3 miles – has hosted a Cup Series race, it was the site for both NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series races from 2001-11. Interestingly enough, five of the last seven Xfinity Series winners at Nashville consist of current Cup Series drivers, including Brad Keselowski (2 wins), Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. In addition, each of the past two Camping World Truck Series winners there currently compete in the Cup Series as well – Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon.
Road America has to be one of the most picturesque areas that the circuit will be visiting in 2021. Especially with a July 4 race, the scenery should be perfect as we celebrate our nation’s birthday. The Xfinity Series has competed at Road America each year since 2010, and during that time we have seen some outstanding racing, which has resulted in 11 different winners in as many years. The Cup Series actually did race at Road America in 1956, back when it was called the Grand National Series. That race was won by Tim Flock, the last of his 39 victories in a career which saw him capture two championships.
COTA has been used previously primarily for open-wheel, including the NTT INDYCAR Series, Indy Lights and F1. It also has been the site of several IMSA events, the most recent in 2017. So it will be interesting to see how NASCAR adapts to the 3.41-mile, 20-turn course which includes a signature 133-foot hill at Turn 1.
The NASCAR schedule for 2021 was constructed with idea of creating the most dynamic schedule possible for the fans, and thus the extensive changes that came about in the same year.
In addition to the new venues which will be a part of the schedule for the upcoming season, several other previous sites will be used, utilizing broad modifications.
Bristol Motor Speedway, a staple on the NASCAR circuit since 1961, goes by many monikers, including "Thunder Valley," "The Last Great Colosseum," "The World's Fastest Half-Mile," and "The Bullring." Also the site of past college football games, Bristol will be transformed into a dirt track on March 28. It will be the first premier series race on dirt since September 30, 1970 (North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C.). The Camping World Truck Series has been staged on the dirt of Eldora Speedway in the past, so I’m excited to see what the Cup Series looks like on that same surface.
Since the schedule was announced at the end of September, it was determined that we will also be back at the Daytona Road Course the second week of the season – the weekend prior to Homestead-Miami Speedway. This came as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the ability to race at Auto Club Speedway. The races in all three series on the road course last year provided us a tremendous amount of excitement, and I expect it to be a great primer for the weekend at Homestead.
Daytona International Speedway is the not the only iconic track to host a Cup Series road course race in 2021. Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have the Cup Series compete on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile infield course. The Brickyard has been the site of Cup Series events since 1994, but this will mark a first on its road course. If it’s anything close to the scintillating conclusion we saw in last year’s Xfinity Series race, everyone is in for a treat. In that race, Chase Brsicoe, Austin Cindric and AJ Allmendinger battled for the win in a race ultimately won by Briscoe, an Indiana native.
For our race weekend at Homestead, February 27-28, it has already been announced that we will host a limited number of fans for both our Xfinity Series race on Saturday and the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 on Sunday. While it has yet to be determined what the fan situation will be like for a majority of the 2021 NASCAR schedule, the one thing I can say for sure is that the new and diverse set of courses we will race on this year will provide our fans many thrills, whether they are there in person or watching on FOX or NBC.
HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY 2021 NASCAR WEEKEND
February 27 - NASCAR Xfinity Series race
February 28 - NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400
Tickets: 866-409-RACE; www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com
UPCOMING HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY EVENTS
January 15 - Fast Lane Friday
February 5 - Fast Lane Friday