New (and old) venues set to scramble 2021 NASCAR schedule

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One of the most compelling schedules in recent years awaits NASCAR in 2021.

The calendar in each of NASCAR’s top three series is more diverse than it has been, thanks to new venues and different layouts on some familiar ones.

Here’s a closer look at those…

Bristol Motor Speedway – Dirt Track

2021 Dates: March 27 – Truck Series; March 28 – Cup Series

Layout: .533-mile oval; Banking – 24-28 degrees in turns

“The Last Great Colosseum” begins its 60th anniversary season by converting into a dirt track for the third time in its history (World of Outlaws, 2000-2001).

Last week, it was announced that the Truck Series will join the Cup Series on the Bristol spring weekend. It will be the first of two dirt track appearances for the Trucks in 2021, while the Cup Series will make its first appearance on dirt since 1970.

Circuit of the Americas – Austin, Texas

2021 Dates: May 22 – Xfinity & Truck Series; May 23 – Cup Series

Layout: Grand Prix – 3.41 miles, 20 turns; Short Course – 2.2 miles, 15 turns

First opened in 2012, COTA is the heart of a 1,500-acre complex outside Austin.

It annually hosts Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix and MotoGP’s Grand Prix of the Americas. It has also multiple other series, including IndyCar, IMSA, and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The track’s signature features include a 133-foot uphill climb into the blind, left-hand Turn 1, as well as a 251-foot observation tower positioned next to the Turn 16-17-18 section.

Speedway Motorsports is promoting the NASCAR weekend at COTA.

Nashville Superspeedway – Lebanon, Tenn.

2021 Dates: June 18 – Truck Series; June 19 – Xfinity Series; June 20 – Cup Series

Layout: 1.33-mile concrete oval; Banking – 14 degrees in turns, 11 degrees on front-stretch

20 years after its creation – and 10 years after its closure – a revived Nashville Superspeedway will finally hit the big time.

In its first run from 2001-2011, the Dover Motorsports-owned track regularly hosted the Xfinity and Truck Series, as well as IndyCar – but never landed a prized Cup date.

In June, that will change as NASCAR’s top division makes its first visit to Middle Tennessee since 1984 at the Fairgrounds Speedway.

It’s the first of two major racing weekends for the region, as IndyCar will also return in August with the Music City Grand Prix street race.

Former Cup champions Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are among the past NASCAR winners at the Superspeedway.

Road America – Elkhart Lake, Wis.

2021 Dates: July 3 – Xfinity Series; July 4 – Cup Series

Layout: 4.048 miles, 14 turns

Nearly 65 years after hosting its first and only Cup race, Road America is back on the top division’s calendar with a plum 4th of July date.

Boasting multiple passing zones and many elevation changes, the Wisconsin road course has often been regarded as one of the best circuits in the world.

Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric won there this past August during a stellar mid-summer run, where he claimed five wins in a six-race span.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course

2021 Dates: Aug. 14 – Xfinity Series; Aug. 15 – Cup Series

Layout: 2.439 miles, 14 turns

One year after the Xfinity Series moved from Indy’s legendary oval to its twisting road course, the Cup Series will follow suit in 2021 – ending the Brickyard 400 as we’ve known it after 27 years.

Cup’s debut on the IMS road course will be part of another IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader weekend. IndyCar and the Xfinity Series will run on Aug. 14, followed by Cup the following day.

Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway

2021 Dates: Truck Series – July 9

Layout: Half-mile dirt oval

The long-time home of the Knoxville Nationals sprint car event will host NASCAR for the first time when the Truck Series arrives in July.

Knoxville Raceway first began as a horse racing track during the late 1870s, and didn’t host its first auto race until 1901.

True to form, Knoxville’s inaugural NASCAR weekend will also include sprint car events for the USAC National Sprint Car Series and the POWRi War Sprints.

Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International

2021 Dates: Aug. 7 – Xfinity & Truck Series; Aug. 8 – Cup Series

Layout: 2.45 miles, 7 turns

The new date at this venerable New York State road course belongs to the Truck Series, which last competed at the Glen in 2000.

The Aug. 7 race will serve as the regular season finale for the Trucks, so expect plenty of aggression among those down to their last chance to make the playoffs.



NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”