Chicagoland 2018 race to shift from NASCAR Cup playoff opener to early July

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Among the changes to the 2018 NASCAR Cup schedule announced Tuesday is Chicagoland Speedway will see its traditional mid-September date move to early July.

The 1.5-mile track, located about 50 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, has hosted the opening race of the NASCAR playoffs since 2011.

But come 2018, the track will serve as the first race of NBC Sports’ and NBCSN’s 20-race televised part of the NASCAR Cup schedule. That race will be held on July 1, 2018.

Chicagoland’s spot as the playoff opener will be taken by Las Vegas Motor Speedway (which takes over the former early fall playoff race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway).

Chicagoland’s final playoff opener takes place this Sept. 19 with the Tales of the Turtles 400.

Prior to its first playoff kickoff race in 2011 (won by Tony Stewart), Chicagoland Speedway had its first 10 races in July.

“We’re incredibly excited about the return to July,” Chicagoland Speedway president Scott Paddock told NBC Sports. “We always listen to our fans, and this is something they’ve asked for – a time when the weather in Chicago is perfect, kids are on summer break, and families look to enjoy memorable experiences together, especially around the Fourth of July holiday weekend.”

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