NASCAR moves Cup championship race to ISM Raceway

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The 2020 Cup season will finish at ISM Raceway, marking the first time since 2001 that NASCAR’s premier series has ended its year at a track other than Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The finale will be held Nov. 8. It will mark the earliest end of the Cup season has ended since 1998 when that season ended Nov. 8. The last time the season ended earlier was 1973 when the final race was Oct. 21.

The move further showcases the $178 million renovated facility near Phoenix, Arizona, but also could impact how the championship race is run. Homestead-Miami Speedway was known for multiple lanes at the 1.5-mile track. ISM Raceway’s 1-mile track is tighter and could lead to more contact.

Changing tracks for the championship race also could play a key role in who wins the Cup title.

Kyle Busch has a 2.9 average finish at ISM Raceway since 2016 — best among active drivers. Kevin Harvick is next with a 4.3 average finish. Chase Elliott follows with a 10.1 average finish. Kurt Busch, who has suggested this could be his final season, has an average finish of 10.6 there. Aric Almirola and Martin Truex Jr. are next. Each has an average finish of 10.9.

Harvick (2014), Kyle Busch (2015) and Truex (2017) won titles at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Moving the season finale could challenge some drivers. Reigning series champ Joey Logano has an 18.3 average finish since 2016 at ISM Raceway. That includes his win there in November 2016 but is offset by two finishes of 31st or worse.

Also, Kyle Larson, might not be as dominant figure at ISM Raceway as he was at Homestead (6.0 average finish since 2016). Larson has an average finish of 12.0 since 2016 at ISM Raceway. He has three top-three finishes but also a 40th-place result.

The move could dampen any hopes Jimmie Johnson has of winning a record eighth title should be advance to the championship race. While he has four wins at ISM Raceway, his last win there was in 2009.

NASCAR’s SEASON-ENDING RACES SINCE 1972 (MODERN ERA)

1972 — Texas World Speedway

1973 — North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham)

1974-80 — Ontario Motor Speedway

1981-86 — Riverside International Raceway

1987-2000 — Atlanta Motor Speedway

2001 — New Hampshire Motor Speedway (makeup race)

2002-19 — Homestead-Miami Speedway

2020 — ISM Raceway