March 2019: Inside the Garage, Thoughts on NASCAR’s 2020 Schedule

March 31, 2019

NASCAR recently released their 2020 Cup Series Schedule. While their contract with the tracks currently on the circuit does not expire until 2021, there were significant changes to the makeup of next’s season’s calendar. Including the swapping of traditional dates.

Fans have been clamoring for a schedule shakeup, whether this satisfies the masses remains to be seen. If so expect bigger changes when the 2021 dates and tracks are announced.

Go West Young Man

After the Daytona 500 on February 16th, the series will skip it normal 2nd stop in Atlanta, moving directly to the west coast.  Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, and ISM Raceway will follow in consecutive weeks. Atlanta gets the return from the west coast and probably better weather on March 15th.

The Biggest Change

The Championship Weekend will not be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the end of 2020. It’s moving, more on that later. With South Florida looking for a new date they fall in the week after Atlanta on March 22nd. NASCAR may have missed an opportunity to keep fans in Florida during February. Had they put Homestead-Miami the week after Daytona it would be mighty tempting to just move south for an extra week of sunshine instead of heading home to Michigan, Ohio, or Indiana, and all other points north.

Homestead-Miami Speedway / Lasco Press Photo

Is Texas Motor Speedway Out of Place

Why doesn’t the series stop in Texas on the way back from Phoenix? Makes sense to me. No, the haulers head west again after Homestead for a March 29th date in the Lone Star State. Bristol holds its traditional Sunday date the first week in April. Followed by the Easter break on April 12th.

Richmond Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway, and Dover International Speedway lead up to the Mother’s Day weekend. Always a sacred cow to the sport, Mama wants her boys home for Sunday dinner on “her day.” Martinsville Speedway’s newly installed lights will be put to the test on Saturday night May 9th, the evening before Mother takes over.   follow taking us into the All-Star Race at Charlotte on Saturday night May 16. An early Memorial Day weekend has the 600-mile race from Charlotte running on Sunday, May 24th.

Tradition Abandoned

Michigan International Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, and Chicagoland Speedway follow over the next three weeks, then things get crazy. A weekend doubleheader is set for Pocono on Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28. Pocono keeps their two Cup races but will the fans buy into the back-to-back race weekend?

Michigan International Speedway / Lasco Press Photo

There will be no race at Daytona on the Fourth of July weekend. Indianapolis Motor Speedway gets the prime date, this year on Sunday, July 5th. Hosting races on consecutive holidays is a dream for Indy. Will the date change be enough to return the Brickyard 400 to its previous glory? Kentucky Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway follow to close out July 2020. Then a two-week break, July 26 and August 2, takes the series into the summer northern swing. Michigan International Speedway, Watkins Glen International, and Dover International Speedway.

The Regular Season Ends and the Playoff’s Start

Daytona International Speedway bumps Bristol out of their traditional last week in August date. So, the regular season starts at Daytona and ends there. Bristol won’t mind the change, they are now in the playoffs. Round one of the post-season starts at Darlington on the Labor Day weekend. Then moves to Richmond and concludes Saturday night September 19th at Bristol.

This is a great move by NASCAR. Three tough tracks, two short tracks, and Bristol as the decider for the 1st Round cutoff race. If you thought Joey Logano’s bump and run at Martinsville last year was exciting. Wait for the final laps at Bristol with advancement and elimination on the line.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway / Lasco Press Photo

Round Two of the playoffs features Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway
and the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, October 11th.

The Road to the Championship

The 3rd Round of the playoffs kicks off at Kansas Speedway, moves to Texas Motor Speedway and concludes at Martinsville Speedway on November 1st. By moving the final cutoff race to Martinsville, NASCAR hopes to recreate a Logano vs Martin Trux Jr. type drama at the finish similar to 2018.

Martinsville Speedway / Lasco Press Photo

Where does the Champion Weekend take place? ISM Raceway on November 8th, a week earlier than recent years. Other than the fact that ISM is owned by International Speedway Corporation, the owners of NASCAR, this decision does not make sense.

Why move the championship away from the huge fan base in the Southeast? Darlington, Charlotte, Talladega, even Kentucky seem like better options. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. Hopefully, the reconfigured track in Phoenix will produce an exciting climax to the season. One thing is for sure, we have plenty of time to debate about it.