Speedway Digest Staff
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Dover International Speedway will host America’s best drivers for the “Drydene 400” NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, May 16, 2021, NASCAR and track officials announced today as part of the full 2021 Cup Series schedule release.
Individual tickets, select packages and camping spots can be purchased and reserved beginning Monday, Oct. 5 at 10 a.m. Visit DoverSpeedway.com or call the Dover International Speedway Ticket Office at (800) 441-RACE to order, review your account and receive more information.
Dover International Speedway has hosted NASCAR Cup Series races every year since 1969. The “Drydene 400” will be the 103rd NASCAR Cup Series race at the Monster Mile, one of only 10 tracks in the country to host 100 or more Cup Series events.
“We simply have missed our fans and look forward to hosting all of them back in Dover in May, along with NASCAR’s top series,” said Mike Tatoian, Dover International Speedway’s president and CEO. “The ‘Drydene 400’ continues a tradition established more than half a century ago of America’s premier drivers challenging one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks.”
Nashville Superspeedway, Dover International Speedway’s sister track also owned by Dover Motorsports, Inc., will host a NASCAR Cup Series race on Father’s Day weekend, Sunday, June 20, 2021.
Schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series East will be announced later this year.
Drydene Lubricants, headquartered in Warminster, Pa., has been an automotive product staple in the mid-Atlantic region for decades. Drydene’s reputation as the “hardest working brand in heavy-duty lubrication” is backed up by its complete line of automotive, commercial and industrial lubricants, including engine oils, diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), transmission fluids, grease, racing oil, and hydraulic and gear oils.
Drydene entered into a multi-year agreement to host NASCAR Cup Series races at Dover International Speedway in 2019.
Follow Speedway news and updates on DoverSpeedway.com and via social media at Facebook.com/DoverInternationalSpeedway, or on Twitter and Instagram at @MonsterMile.
Dover Motorsports PR
The NASCAR Cup Series makes its Nashville Superspeedway debut in 2021 on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 20, NASCAR and track officials announced today as part of the full 2021 Cup Series schedule release. The race from Nashville Superspeedway will also kick off NBC’s coverage of the NASCAR Cup Series season.
Individual tickets, select packages and camping spots can be purchased and reserved starting in November.
Fans are encouraged to visit NashvilleSuperspeedway.com to share their contact info to become eligible for an exclusive ticket purchasing pre-sale before seats go on sale to the general public.
In 2021, NASCAR returns to Middle Tennessee and Nashville Superspeedway for the first time since 2011. Schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be announced later this year.
“We look forward to welcoming America’s best drivers and Middle Tennessee race fans back to Nashville Superspeedway in June,” said track president Erik Moses. “I can’t think of a better date for families to enjoy all the excitement and pageantry of the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway than Father’s Day.”
Dover International Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway’s sister track also owned by Dover Motorsports, Inc., will host a NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, May 16, 2021.
Keep track of Nashville Superspeedway’s latest news and updates via social media at Facebook.com/NashvilleSuperspeedway or on Twitter at @nashvillesupers or Instagram @nashvillesuperspeedway.
Nashville Superspeedway PR
“I’m thrilled with the effort and the ideas that went into developing the 2021 NASCAR schedule. This is a tremendous boost for our entire sport. I’m proud of the collaborative effort amongst our team at Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR, along with FOX, NBC and the race teams, to produce something spectacular for NASCAR fans whether they are watching from the grandstands or on television. We made some bold changes with new markets and new speedways, and we’ve also stayed true to our legendary speedways across the country. I’m looking forward to seeing the 2021 NASCAR season unfold along with millions of NASCAR fans.”
Marcus Smith - Speedway Motorsports
For the fourth consecutive year, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is set to host two NASCAR Cup Series events in 2021.
The speedway’s annual spring date, the Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube, returns to its traditional first-week-of-March date and will be run on March 7, 2021. Earlier this year, the race date fell in late February. The 2021 fall South Point 400 again will kick off the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs, on September 26.
NASCAR announced the complete 36-race schedule today with several notable changes, including new events at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, a race at Road America in Wisconsin and a race at Nashville Superspeedway. A dirt race on the high banks of Bristol also was among the slated changes.
“We’re extremely happy to have our spring date moved back into March,” said LVMS President Chris Powell. “It’s better for our fans, partners and everyone involved with our event to have a little separation from the Daytona 500. We feel as though we have the perfect dates for both of our NASCAR Cup Series events.”
The 2020 race was the first after the season-opening Daytona race, but the 2021 event will be the fourth race of the season and the second in the three-race western swing by NASCAR.
The fall South Point 400 has proven to be a pivotal race in the playoff battle since its inception, and the late-September start provides for an excellent fan experience for spectators
Companion events including Xfinity and NASCAR Truck Series events will be announced at a later date. Race times for both the Pennzoil 400 and South Point 400 will be determined later this year.
Annual and individual weekend tickets are available on our website, www.lvms.com, or by calling our ticket office at (800) 644-4444.
NASCAR today announced the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, including the series’ return to Southern California for the third race of the season on Sunday, February 28, at Auto Club Speedway.
The 2021 season for the NASCAR Cup Series will kick off on February 14 with the historic 63rd running of the DAYTONA 500 before heading south to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the second race of the season on Sunday, February 21. Following the weekend in Homestead, the Cup Series will once again make its West Coast swing, beginning in Fontana before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 7 and Phoenix Raceway on March 14.
“We are excited to be hosting the NASCAR Cup Series back here at Auto Club Speedway next February,” said Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen. “It’s an amazing time of year for our fans throughout the country and the competitors across the sport to make the trip to our community here in Southern California, and we look forward to kicking off the series’ three-week West Coast stay.”
Renewals for the Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway are already underway for existing customers and tickets for the event will go on sale to the public in early November. Fans can view the full 2021 Cup Series schedule and purchase tickets at nascar.com/tickets.
The schedule for the NASCAR Xfinity Series 2021 season will be announced in the near future. Start times and television networks for Cup Series races will be also announced at a later date.
For more information about the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway, please visit www.autoclubspeedway.com/renewals or call 800-944-RACE (7223).
For the 11th straight year in 2021, Kansas Speedway will play host to a pair of NASCAR Cup Series events, it was revealed today as the sanctioning body unveiled its complete slate of Cup races for next season.
The track will serve as the site for Cup Series races on Sunday, May 2 and Sunday, October 24. The latter – the Hollywood Casino 400 – will be the second race in the Round of 8 of the Cup Series Playoffs.
Dates for the 2021 Xfinity Series, Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series races will be announced in the near future. Start times and television networks for Cup Series races will be also announced at a later date.
“A tradition has developed over the years at Kansas Speedway, and we are excited to have the opportunity to resume that in 2021,” said Kansas Speedway President Pat Warren. “Our entire staff is also eager to welcome back many of our loyal fans who have not been able to join us this year. The support we have received from them over the past 20 years has been tremendous, and we are thrilled that we will be able to provide them with the same exceptional race weekend experience to which they have become accustomed.”
The full 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule as well as ticket information can be found at nascar.com/tickets.
While 2021 is still several months away, the Kansas Speedway fall NASCAR weekend is right around the corner. The track will be the setting for the first race in the 2020 NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 in each of the three national series – Cup, Xfinity and Gander Trucks – October 16-18. It will mark the first opportunity for a driver to earn his way into the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway, the weekend of November 6-8. In addition as part of that October weekend, Kansas Speedway will play host the Championship race in the ARCA Menards Series.
A limited number of tickets are currently on sale for the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 1:30 pm CT (NBC), and are available by visiting kansasspeedway.com or calling 866-460-RACE (7223).
The following is the complete schedule for Kansas Speedway’s 2020 fall NASCAR weekend:
Friday, Oct. 16: ARCA Menards Series Kansas 150 (150 miles)# 7:30 pm (FS1 or FS2)
Saturday, Oct. 17: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Kansas 200 (200 miles)* 3:00 pm (FOX)
Saturday, Oct. 17: NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 (300 miles)* 6:00 pm (NBCSN)
Sunday, Oct. 18: NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 (400 miles)* 1:30 pm (NBC)
Times are CT
*Denotes first race in Playoffs Round of 8 #Denotes Championship race
For the latest news on everything Kansas Speedway please visit www.kansasspeedway.com.
Fans can follow Kansas Speedway on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kansasspeedway, Twitter (@kansasspeedway) and Instagram (kansasspeedway).
Kansas Speedway PR
63rd Annual DAYTONA 500 to Open 2021 NASCAR Cup Season While Coke Zero Sugar 400 Will Again Serve as Cutoff Race for the Playoffs
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule was announced today, and like 2020, the DAYTONA 500, NASCAR’s biggest and most prestigious event, will kick off the season while
the Coke Zero Sugar 400 will again be final race of the regular season.
The 63rd annual DAYTONA 500, which has had tickets on sale since mid-August, is set for Presidents’ Day Weekend, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. It will mark the 40th straight time (dating back to 1982) The Great American Race has started off NASCAR’s season. Just a week later, on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, NASCAR racing in the Sunshine State of Florida will continue with Homestead-Miami Speedway moving to the second race on the schedule.
Next year’s summer classic Coke Zero Sugar 400 is set for Saturday evening, August 28. Just last month, for the first time in history, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 served as the last-chance, cutoff race for the playoffs and delivered in dramatic fashion. In a “must win” situation, William Byron battled his way to his first career Cup Series win and a guaranteed spot to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
“The DAYTONA 500 is a tradition fans world-wide get excited about. The drivers, teams, media and sponsors come here with so much anticipation and hope of winning our sport’s biggest event,” said Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile. We are also eager to see if Denny Hamlin can rewrite the DAYTONA 500 record book with his third straight victory in The Great American Race. We can’t wait to see fans from all over the world here in February.
“The excitement both our NASCAR Cup Series races bring to fans in unprecedented. The pressure to get into the playoffs is immense, and provides incredible racing on the high banks of our historic track. We’re looking forward to having the same level of excitement in 2021.”
Hamlin can become the first driver in the history of the 2.5-mile venue to capture three consecutive checkered flags in the DAYTONA 500. Currently, he, along with Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95), are the only drivers to claim two straight DAYTONA 500 victories. In fact, with a win, Hamlin would join Yarborough with four total DAYTONA 500 victories, trailing only Petty, who has seven. Hamlin is already a three-time DAYTONA 500 Champion, also winning in 2016.
Race fans travel from all over the globe to attend the DAYTONA 500, and have since its inception in 1959. This year’s DAYTONA 500 in February had attendees representing all 50 states and 45 countries. Tickets for the 2021 DAYTONA 500 classic start at $99 and can be purchased by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or visiting www.DAYTONA500.com.
Fans wishing to attend the 2021 Coke Zero Sugar 400 can take advantage of an early access pre-sale. Available online or by phone, tickets for the general public start at $49 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and younger. Fans who attended the 2020 event can take advantage of even lower pricing when renewing by the deadline of Dec. 4. For ticket information on the Coke Zero Sugar 400, fans can log onto www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
With the DAYTONA 500 and Homestead-Miami Speedway’s event, it marks the first time since 1952-54 that the NASCAR Cup Series season has opened with the first two events in the state of Florida. In both ‘52 and ‘54, the first three events kicked off the season in Florida – Palm Beach Speedway, the DAYTONA Beach/Road Course and Speedway Park in Jacksonville. The ’53 season began at the Palm Beach track followed by road course at Daytona. All three of the venues are no longer in existence.
The full ’21 schedule can be found here or at nascar.com. Schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2021 seasons will be announced in the near future. Start times and television networks for Cup Series races will be also announced at a later date.
Fans also have the opportunity to purchase tickets and multi-day packages with a fresh look for Speedweeks Presented by Advent Health:
- Tuesday, Feb. 9: 43rd Annual Busch Clash At DAYTONA (DAYTONA Road Course under the lights)
- Wednesday, Feb. 10: DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger
- Thursday, Feb. 11: Duel At DAYTONA qualifying races
- Friday, Feb. 12: NextEra Energy 250 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race
- Saturday, Feb. 13: NASCAR Racing Experience 300 (NASCAR Xfinity Series) and Lucas Oil 200 Driven By General Tire (ARCA Menards) doubleheader
- Sunday, Feb. 14: DAYTONA 500, The Great American Race
Premium and extended-stay camping packages include access to general admission seating and the UNOH Fanzone/Pre-race access for each event, excluding the DAYTONA 500. For all other events, children 12 and under are $10 in reserved seating and free in general admission areas and in the UNOH Fanzone/Pre-race access.
NASCAR today announced its 2021 schedule, which will feature a new look in the state of Florida, with two consecutive weeks of racing as Homestead-Miami Speedway moves to the second race of the season on Sunday, Feb. 21.
As is tradition, the season will kick off with the running of the 63rd annual DAYTONA 500, The Great American Race, at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, Feb. 14, before moving further south in the Sunshine State for the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which celebrated its 25th Anniversary this year.
“It’s going to be an incredible month of February for racing in Florida, taking us back to the storied past of the NASCAR Cup Series, plus having fans back to our facility,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Al Garcia. “Having back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series races in the Sunshine State to kick off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season will provide two different kinds of incredible competition. A February race weekend here at Homestead-Miami Speedway affords us many unique opportunities to entertain the South Florida community and welcome fans from across the country, many of whom may be coming from Daytona.”
Fans wishing to attend the historic February Dixie Vodka 400 can take advantage of an early access pre-sale. Available online or by phone, tickets for the general public start at $35 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and younger. Fans who originally purchased tickets to the 2020 event can take advantage of even lower pricing when renewing by the deadline of Nov. 16. For information visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com or call (866) 409-RACE (7223).
With the 2021 DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway and Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it marks the first time since 1952-54 that the NASCAR Cup Series season has opened with the first two events in the state of Florida. In both ‘52 and ‘54, the first three events kicked off the season in Florida – Palm Beach Speedway, the DAYTONA Beach/Road Course and Speedway Park in Jacksonville. The ’53 season began at the Palm Beach track followed by road course at Daytona. All three of the venues are no longer in existence.
“It is with great excitement that the City of Homestead looks forward to Homestead-Miami Speedway hosting the second NASCAR Cup Series race of 2021 next February,” said Homestead Mayor Steve Losner. “We can’t wait to hear the roar of the engines of the magnificent NASCAR machines at the track, which has been a mainstay in our community for a quarter century. With the return of guests in the stands for NASCAR races this past June, Homestead-Miami Speedway showed the nation its place in sports. February can’t get here quick enough.”
As part of NASCAR’s return to racing earlier this year, Homestead-Miami Speedway served as the first venue to have guests back to the track with local military personnel attending the Dixie Vodka 400 on June 14. The race, won by NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs contender Denny Hamlin, was originally scheduled for March 22 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Miami-Dade County and Homestead-Miami Speedway made a statement in June, setting the standard for following public health protocols at major sporting events,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “As we continue moving to normalcy, we anticipate the greatest racing in the world here in Miami-Dade County in February, and look forward to welcoming fans everywhere.”
From 1999 through last year (21 years), Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup Series races in November, including the series’ finale beginning in 2002. This season, the Cup Series race was moved to March, then ultimately to June as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last time one of NASCAR’s national series competed at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the month of February was in 2000 when the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series visited the beautiful, colorful palm-tree-lined, 1.5-mile venue.
After the competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway subsides in February, the ‘21 NASCAR Cup Series schedule shifts to the west coast for a trio of races. The full ’21 schedule can be found here or at nascar.com. Schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2021 seasons will be announced in the near future. Start times and television networks for Cup Series races will be also announced at a later date.
NASCAR will return to Watkins Glen International and New York State for the Go Bowling at The Glen, August 8, as the sanctioning body announced the schedule for the 2021 Cup Series today.
“We are beyond excited and ready to welcome NASCAR back to Watkins Glen International and the beautiful Finger Lakes Region,” WGI President Michael Printup said. “Our dedicated team has worked hard over the past few months in making sure the competitors, teams and fans can safely enjoy our world-class facility for the future. I know our fans can’t wait for NASCAR to make its return to The Glen in what has become a summer tradition for over 30 years.”
Schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series 2021 seasons will be announced in the near future. In addition, start times and television network information for Cup Series races will be also announced at a later date.
Two-time defending Go Bowling at The Glen winner and NASCAR Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott, will look to join four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (1997-99) and Mark Martin (1993-95) as the only drivers to win three-straight Cup Series races at the 2.45-mile road course.
MIKE FORDE: Appreciate everyone hopping onto this press conference after what was really a very exciting day for NASCAR. Day‑long engagement with our fans, which is exactly what we had hoped for, what we really thought about when we were rolling out the schedule today, the biggest schedule announcement in 50 years. Most new tracks since 1969.
To talk about it, we are joined by NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell and NASCAR vice president Ben Kennedy, to answer all your questions. Thanks to Steve and Ben for hopping on.
Steve, a lot went into creating the schedule, arguably the most unique and dynamic schedule we've had in quite some time, at least 50 years. Talk about some top‑line thoughts about the schedule, all the work that went into it.
STEVE O'DONNELL: I want to certainly welcome all the media. Appreciate y'all being on with us. I hope everybody continues to stay healthy. Six more weekends to go. Knock on wood, we've been good on that.
As Mike said, hugely exciting day for NASCAR, really everyone involved in the industry. We said back early in 2019 that we wanted to evolve the schedule. 2020 was going to be a year where we could make some moves within the portfolio of races we had. Really 2021 and beyond you're going to see some really bold changes from NASCAR.
We believe we've delivered on that. We're excited for our fans. It's an historic schedule, as Mike talked about, the most changes since 1969. All of that couldn't have happened, however, really without the cooperation of the entire industry.
Even if you throw COVID in there, I think it probably helped spur some decisions, it helped spur some of the changes that you've seen in the schedule in a good way. We were really able to pivot and do some really neat things for the industry. A lot of cooperation from our broadcast partners, our track operators, certainly our race teams, as we looked ahead for 2021.
The primary goal for us was to continue to evolve the schedule, to continue to build it, to continue to listen to the fans. 2021 we believe is a really bold step in that direction, but we're not done. There's 2022 and beyond where we'll continue to look at making changes that we believe are in the best interest of the sport in key markets and key iconic racetracks as well. We're going to continue the journey.
I know Ben is going to walk you through the specific changes. Again, really appreciate everybody joining us, for being patient with us as we got to this announcement. Look forward to seeing everybody this weekend, or at least saying hello virtually at Talladega.
MIKE FORDE: Ben, maybe walk us through a couple of the major, significant changes. Take us through a few of those in your mind that are some of the most exciting.
BEN KENNEDY: Thank you. Thank you all for taking some time today and supporting our sport.
Certainly to your point, Mike, earlier, historic day for us. A lot of bold changes. I think you saw this really as we went and started building out the 2020 schedule initially. Got to carry a lot of those over into 2021. From the Playoff schedule, Martinsville night race, Pocono doubleheader, we were able to retain a lot of those, but also a lot of significant changes as you think about 2021.
Really nine significant ones that we have announced today. Three new tracks we're going to, world class facilities, Circuit of the Americas, iconic facility at Road America, Nashville Superspeedway, certainly an incredibly important market to us, if you were there for the banquet last year. Certainly neat to see such a big turnout from the fans.
Bristol dirt, another big one, big shake‑up to FOX's portion of the season. We'll see that in March. Indy road course, I think we saw a great Xfinity race there earlier this year. We'll get to see the Cup Series head there in August of next year.
Two races at both Atlanta and Darlington. Certainly important markets to us when you think about the roots of our sport, really where we come from, a lot of fans there, certainly a lot of our partners being based out of those regions as well.
The All‑Star Race moving to Texas to close out FOX's portion of the season. And then last but not least The Clash moving to the road course across the street at Daytona.
A lot to look forward to when you look forward to 2021, to Steve's point a lot to look forward as we think about future evolutions of the schedule. A big and important step for us, but continuing to press forward with it as well.
MIKE FORDE: We'll kick it off to media questions now.
- Steve, it is a radical shift, a lot of change. Is it too much change all at once where you lose Chicagoland, you lose Kentucky, add in more road courses? Seems like you're throwing a lot of things in. Is it too much, do you think?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I don't at all. I think it's an exciting change. I think when you look at the opportunities we've had to pursue a lot of the new markets, iconic racetracks that our OEMs have asked for, our race teams have asked for, our fans have asked for.
It's certainly unfortunate that sometimes you have to move races out of markets to be able to do those things. We still have loyal race fans in those markets. We tried to keep in proximity with new races and new events that fans could go to. For us, we believe it's exciting.
We wanted to be bold. We've had a really solid year this year, to continue building on that momentum. We think the work that Ben Kennedy has done by leading this really continues us on that journey not only for this year but we're going to continue to be bold in '22 as well.
- Steve, great new additions to the schedule. What were the decisions when it came to closing the schedule out for some tracks? Did NASCAR think long and hard about that? When we see tracks going away, it is sort of shocking, even though we understand needed to make change.
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's a very fair question. But it's a balance. You look at some of the things we are criticized for in the past, probably somewhat fairly in terms of going away from our roots, moving races away from a Darlington, moving races away from an Atlanta. It was important for us to introduce new markets but also embrace what got us to where we are.
I think you see a really great balance of that with our schedule where we're able to go to some iconic racetracks, certainly with Road America, COTA, the change at Indy, Nashville, two races at Darlington. Our whole industry loves Darlington. Atlanta, we used to have a championship in Atlanta. Now going back there twice.
For us it was a real balance of trying to kind of embrace the old and also look at some new things. A lot of change certainly, for sure, but we believe it's a good balance for both.
Ben was at the forefront of doing a lot of that. I don't know if you've got any comments to add, Ben.
BEN KENNEDY: I think that's spot on. I think to your point, certainly wanted to be bold with the schedule, really shake it up. I think the move to Atlanta and Darlington will be and has been so far well‑accepted. We'll miss some of those areas. At the same time not running in Chicago, still have a lot of great tracks in the Midwest region, now we have Road America just up the road, Michigan, Kansas. Same thing for Kentucky, as well.
Really looking forward to heading to Atlanta and Darlington, a number of these other events that we're announcing today.
- I was wondering about the All‑Star Race specifically, the move this year from Charlotte to Texas. Why in 2021 did this feel like the right time to do that?
STEVE O'DONNELL: As you can see I'm playing the role of David Hart. I'm out in Texas right now where we just had the All-Star announcement. I think this is an event that Eddie Gossage has always asked for. He said it today, you can't steal one away from his boss, Marcus Smith. Texas is a huge market for us. It’s always felt like an All‑Star market, it does big events and does them well.
So when we looked at the totality of the schedule, and talked to Marcus Smith, and the ability for us to potentially get to COTA, in order to that, we wanted to be in Fort Worth, and we wanted to be in Texas twice as well, how could we do that? The All‑Star Race felt like a natural fit. We’re very comfortable with what the track will do here. You'll certainly see us probably add some things and tweaks to the rules for that race.
For us, it's a good fit, big market, expose some of the great fans out here in Texas to the All-Star, not only the event but the festivities around it.
- You talk about wanting to get to your roots, going back to Darlington, Atlanta. Michigan is a track that has deep roots. Why take a race away from there?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We're still in Michigan. I think if you ask our race fans where do they want to see the sport, they want to see us at as many tracks as possible, where we can showcase the sport. Unfortunately we only have so many dates.
For us, we're going to make that a terrific event in Michigan. Obviously our OEM partners, two of them, are there. It's an important market to them. But in order for us to continue to expand the portfolio of NASCAR, these are some of the moves that we need to make. We think we're making the right ones to iconic facilities.
- Steve, you mentioned at the beginning, you said that this time the COVID‑19 pandemic played a role in speeding some changes along. You talked about the plan was for big, bold changes. How did things get spurred even further during this time because of COVID?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, I'm going to give Ben a lot of credit here. What I mean by that is when you look at 2020, we had a really small group of people that was led by Ben, it was Ben Baker from our broadcast team, Scott Miller, really to find out how the heck do we get back racing in 2020, where can we race, what are the facilities that would even open up.
That process allowed us to not only think outside of the box in 2020, but have Ben push the group on if this potentially works for this year, why not next year, beyond? Why couldn't you go to Darlington twice? Everybody seems to love it, close by, our fans love it.
Small example, Miami, right? Man, we're racing at Miami, terrific. Okay, what if we moved it to the second race? Pretty good momentum when you go from the 500 to what you know will be a good race in Miami.
It really helped us kind of spur those discussions. The biggest thing it did, probably some of these decisions would have been made for 2024, 2025. It was, Let's go, do some things now, be bold, let's learn along the way.
But we think we ended up in a really good place.
- At the start of the revised schedule, the midweek races had a lot of momentum. It seemed like the TV ratings weren't there for them. Obviously we see on the schedule that there's no midweek races. What happened with those? What do you think the future of midweek races could be?
BEN KENNEDY: I think to your point, Steve, I think 2020 was a good opportunity for us to shake up the schedule a little bit, try some midweek races, try some more doubleheaders. I think we saw certainly some excitement around it.
But really as you looked at the 2021 schedule, I think in an effort to get a lot of people to the track, get that weekend experience Friday to Sunday, really a lot of people are accustomed to tuning in on Sunday afternoon. They have it set on their cable box, tune in at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I think that was really important to us from that perspective, really continue to drive that forward.
As we look at future schedules, it will certainly always be on our mind. But for now, wanting to stick to Saturdays and Sundays.
- 2021 has always been the goal you were going to make a lot of changes, try to for this year. Looking forward to 2022, do you still want to make big changes in terms of the volume or is it going to be more pick and choose maybe one or two changes that year?
BEN KENNEDY: I think to that point, it's a good question, 2020 was kind of this next evolution of really starting to think kind of boldly about the schedule. 2021, obviously a lot of big changes. As you think about '22 and beyond, I think even when we set out to build out this '21 schedule, we want to make sure whatever we're doing, it's done with a very measured approach. I think that's what you've seen in this schedule we put together.
'22 and beyond, of course we want to continue to introduce more tracks to the circuit, especially short tracks and road courses always important to our fans. I think you guys saw a little bit of that with the Auto Club announcement just a few weeks ago. We'll certainly keep our eyes on it. We'll continue to look at making bold but very measured changes.
- Wondering with the Northwest, have we given up on that area, which is very under‑served at this point as far as NASCAR goes?
STEVE O'DONNELL: No, we haven't given up. I think you heard Ben just talk about it. This is kind of a journey for us. You look at that marketplace as a potential. But when you look at existing racetracks, those potentially take time. We're going to look within kind of our existing portfolio.
You saw California, bold move, if we can make that happen. Look at some other maybe tweaks within the existing track layouts.
But I would say the Northwest, if we can get there, it's the right time and place, we would certainly do that. But we want to make sure it matches as we go forward. One of the things we're going to look at is that balance, short tracks, superspeedways, intermediate, low downforce, high downforce, road courses, make sure we have an even better balance as we continue to evolve the schedule.
- Steve, we saw that obviously there weren't any street circuits on the schedule for this year. We know you were talking to some potential candidates. Why did you ultimately decide against adding any of those for 2021? Does that become a potential goal for 2022?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's certainly still a goal. Conversations are still ongoing. One of the big things we learned as an industry through COVID is the ability to own racetracks or have partners that have existing facilities gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of your schedule. You saw us be able to be a really nimble in terms of we can't race here, we got to move to Darlington. We're in trouble at this racetrack, we got to move to Charlotte.
It really enabled us to be able to pivot. We have great working relationships with the tracks who have been on our schedule for a long, long time. So our view was let's work with them, let's make changes with them. They understand how important it is for us to be bold. If there's an opportunity where there could be a partnership going forward with one of our existing tracks, to perhaps move an event, we'll certainly explore that.
I think our primary goal now is to work with our existing partners that we have on the schedule, see how that plays out. Where an opportunity may come up, we're certainly interested in having that dialogue for sure.
- Steve, in the past (indiscernible) non‑committal on COTA. How bad did you guys really want to get to COTA and see the Cup cars there, make the changes with the All‑Star Race?
STEVE O'DONNELL: You kind of broke up a little bit, but I think I got the crux of the question of COTA, that we haven't been kind of overly enthusiastic, we're going there.
I think the reason you heard that from me probably specifically was we had a really good partner in Texas Motor Speedway. To be able to go to COTA, we did not want it to come at the expense of Texas. The ability for us to bring the All‑Star Race to Texas, also have a race at COTA was a home run. When that idea was brought to us, we felt like this is the best of both worlds.
Texas, race fans, Toyota just moved here, a huge marketplace for us, our television partners. To be able to come to the state three times was a big win for us. That's why you see the enthusiasm, because it's a marquee facility. It really matches now where it's additive to our schedule versus when we looked at it before, we thought it might have been more of a challenge.
- I'm interested in practice and qualifying. What is your current thinking about what direction you might go there next year? What have you learned from this year that will play into that decision?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We've certainly learned a lot this year, most good in terms of some efficiencies we can see. We want race fans back at the track, right? We want race fans to see qualifying and practice. We also know that as we look forward to 2021, there's still an unknown.
The race teams have asked us, and we've worked closely with them, it's worked for us and our television partners, to be as efficient as we can in 2021 on our journey to the Next Gen car.
What you'll see us do is a combination in terms of what we're going to deliver for our fans. At any of the new tracks, new configurations, we will have practice and qualifying. If you look at Daytona 500, Bristol dirt, the Coke 600, Nashville, COTA, Road America, Indianapolis, then Phoenix, those will all be kind of your typical practice, qualifying. The others we're going to take advantage of what we learned during COVID.
The fans tuned in, they like iRacing, pretty cool. Drivers with their helmets off, seeing drivers in a different world. Follow documents, we've got some of the best in the business with our group out of Charlotte. Doing some things that put the fans kind of behind the scenes, hopefully bring that access to them. Some virtual, but at much as we can deliver on some of the things we learned throughout the 2020 season.
- Talking about the new things you've learned from COVID this year, how prepared are you going to be to pivot on a dime? None of us want this to happen, but if the infection rates go up, closures, do you have a Plan B if that happens? Have you decided which packages are going to be used where yet?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We'll both answer that one.
On the packages, we're going to break up, let's go on the intermediate tracks. You saw us go with the low downforce package on the short tracks. We added Phoenix. The additions that you'll see for next year are Darlington and Nashville. When you look at Darlington, it was kind of one of those in‑betweeners. Working with the drivers, felt like going ahead with the low downforce package next year at that facility will work well.
The others we're really happy with in terms of the high downforce package. We've seen some really good racing. That's kind of the model that we'll employ.
Then I'll let Ben talk about version 1 through 90 for this year. If you're asking if a guy is ready to pivot, has backup plans, what do you say?
BEN KENNEDY: 85 versions. We've only had 39 on 2021. We're under budget on that side (smiling).
No, I mean, I think to what we were talking about a little bit earlier, I think this year is a testament to not only us but the industry being able to pivot on a dime. As you think about COVID, certainly talked about this before, wherever we're racing, we want to make sure it makes sense for that area, that community, for our sport at the end of the day. We'll certainly be ready for all scenarios that are thrown at us.
To Steve's point earlier, a lot of unknowns, uncertainty about not only the rest of this year but 2021. We'll certainly keep tabs on everything and stay fluid with it.
- The midweek races, the doubleheader weekends, there was talk when these were done not only to help all of us get back on schedule, but maybe perhaps at some point able to shorten the season but have the same number of events. We've arrived at a new schedule. Basically the same time. Any thought into shortening the schedule or any thought of that in the future?
STEVE O'DONNELL: That's been discussed, but there really wasn't at the end of the day. Our television partners especially are really happy with the fact that NASCAR carries the season from February all the way through to November. Candidly we're happy with that, too.
I think the break you're going to see with the two weeks due to the Olympics will be cool for the industry. We didn't get to have that this year due to COVID.
We certainly learned some things with the doubleheaders, midweek races. Back to Ben's earlier answer, our sport is built on that big event, not just the race, but the entire atmosphere around a race weekend. We never even got to experience that at Pocono, so let's try that again, see how it works, see what we can learn as we evolve '22 and beyond.
We're certainly open to looking at more. Never say never to shortening the schedule. But it's important right now for our television partners and honestly for our tracks with the weather and everything to kind of keep the schedule in February through November that we have now.
- About Michigan, I spoke with a couple fans that used to go to both of the Michigan races. They were hoping maybe a second weekend would come back to Michigan. Is that something you have considered or is it too early to consider the future right now?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, I think it's early. This will be the first year. What I would say is it is a very important market for us, always has been. So as you look at the schedule as it exists today, Darlington, we moved a race, we came back, Atlanta we did that, we came back.
It will certainly be a facility that we know we have the potential to go to. We've got a lot of Canadian fans that come to that race, too. I think we'll be there and we'll make that race an important kind of milestone on the calendar, as well.
- Discuss adding a second race to Atlanta Motor Speedway. What was involved to get them the second date?
BEN KENNEDY: I think that one we talked about it a little bit at the top here. Again, Atlanta being an important market to us, not only from a fan perspective, having a lot of our partners there, Coke just down the road. Certainly a place that really we want to continue to be at in the future.
A testament to SMI for kind of cooking up this one, working with us and the broadcast partners to make sure this makes sense.
They really want to create a lot of energy and excitement around Atlanta Motor Speedway, around that track. Really working hand‑in‑hand with them, really pulling that one together.
- We know Speedway Motorsports is doing the race at COTA, did Road America buy a date from you guys? Are you renting the track? Explain to me the arrangement there, please.
STEVE O'DONNELL: NASCAR holds the sanction for the Road America date, through Chicago. We'll partner with Road America to run that date. Very similar to how SMI is partnering with COTA.
- Looking at the schedule ahead, what is the ratio of intermediate tracks to short tracks to road courses that you would like to see ideally?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think we're on the journey to a balance. It's been talked about '22 and beyond, we talk about California, the potential there. We're going to get closer and closer to where I think you could ‑‑ now it's 13 or so intermediate, you're up to six road courses, got short tracks in there.
I saw some chatter about the number of road courses, is NASCAR going to become a road course circuit? No. I'd say we're really happy with the number we're at now. Could you see us maybe add one? Sure.
I think the focus will be on trying to have that balance throughout. Superspeedways, intermediates, with kind of the low downforce, high downforce road courses, then short tracks. If we can have that somewhat balanced across the board, we'll be really happy with the schedule. We already are. We think it's the most challenging in terms of racetracks and iconic venues that we've ever had. We're going to continue to build on that.
- Obviously the Brickyard 400 is now gone. One less crown jewel on the schedule. Was that a difficult decision at all?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I don't know how it's one less crown jewel. The Brickyard, we're going to be running the road course. It's a crown jewel. I don't know if you saw the Xfinity race, it was unbelievable. We fully expect the Cup race will be the same. I think it will be a crown jewel on the 2021 schedule for sure.
- We know the second Atlanta race is going to be 400 miles. Can either of you discuss where you are at on deciding the distances for races next year?
BEN KENNEDY: I think we're certainly working through that. To your point, on Atlanta, certainly looking at all options. Even as we think about the second Darlington race, I think we saw some great racing earlier this year, especially when we kicked off our season.
This year is really an opportunity for us, as we talked earlier, to try some different things, not only from a midweek and doubleheader perspective, but different race lengths as well.
Certainly something we'll look at for 2021 and beyond.
- I know you have talked about making bold moves in terms of the schedule. Could you speak to the decision making in terms of making Bristol a dirt track there?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I've seen some commentary about Bristol: Oh, my gosh, what are you doing? I think those same people may have said that about the college football game where there were 110,000 people and it was an absolutely unbelievable event.
If you look at where we've been from a capacity standpoint for that event, the track wanted to look at reinventing, what we could do for that weekend, keep some momentum going for the sport.
When we talked to our television partners about that, the number one thing we wanted to see was can we make that happen. We all got together, worked with the race team, said, Let's give this a try.
A lot of work still to go into this in terms of what the rules package will look like, what the format will look like. I can tell you it was important for us to give this a try. We're going to put our best foot forward.
SMI has a history of doing things bigger and bolder. We feel like we are going to be able to pull this off and it's going to be exciting for the fans.
- Steve, Bristol, when you look at format for Bristol, is it your hope or NASCAR's hope to have it more like the traditional dirt track race with heat races and so forth? Because this would be a Cup event, it would be better to have it be like every other weekend? Are you open to the idea of something like you did with the trucks?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Very fair question. I think we are open to it. Our next step, what we've told the teams is let's sit down together, let's talk about what we believe would be the best format to add the most excitement, still showcase every one of our race teams. How do we do that in an exciting fashion?
We've got some drivers who have a lot of experience on dirt and are going to be pretty vocal on what we need to do. We've got some others who are new to it, are going to kind of dip their toe in the water.
We'll get everybody in the room, beat it up like we did with the stages, hopefully come out with something that our fans are really happy with, it's easy to understand, and especially dirt fans as well, it will kind of mirror what they're used to seeing also.
- Additional races to Darlington and Atlanta, with the desire to enter some new markets, I found it odd that there were some races added to additional markets. Is there a possibility those two races could be place holders for potential races, the two races at those particular racetracks?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Nothing is forever, right? We all know that, but our intent as we put it together was to get back to two races at both those markets, speaking of Darlington and Atlanta. Those are what we believe are iconic markets for NASCAR.
We've learned along the way in terms of some changes we made that some worked really well and some changes our fans said, I miss some of the old NASCAR, some of those venues that built up the sport.
Our intent is to balance the schedule out and keep those marquee venues, i.e., a Darlington and Atlanta, as we look to expand or make changes, I think it could potentially be some of the other facilities that are on the 2021 schedule.
- Steve, you made some folks pretty happy this morning by tweeting about low downforce at Darlington and Nashville. What went into making that decision? Could there be any other tracks we might expect to change?
STEVE O'DONNELL: Those are really the only two. We're actually really happy with the high downforce package as we've seen it at the other facilities. When we looked at Darlington specifically, it was kind of right in between very similar to the move we made at Phoenix. We went with high downforce.
If you kind of go back on our mindset, we wanted to have one rules package throughout. We actually wanted to have two at the time, but we ended up kind of with one throughout.
Through the work with the industry, we were able to tweak that and start mixing and matching where we felt like we'd have the best racing possible. Darlington was kind of an in between. We kind of went through with fingers crossed. You saw a couple races there, some good, some not as good as we would have wanted to see.
The feedback was low downforce we really believe will put on the best race at Darlington. That's why we pulled that lever. Then Nashville Superspeedway kind of mirrors Darlington. We've been there before, feel like that gives us the best chance to go out and really put our best foot forward in a new market.
- Steve, what is the latest status on Iowa? (Indiscernible) this year, apparently next year (indiscernible)?
STEVE O'DONNELL: You broke up. I think it was the status of Iowa and I missed the last part of that.
- As far as getting Gateway in some sort of rotation moving forward. Going back to the question that was asked earlier about having placeholders where you might see introducing Cup to new markets to try to build up that fan base. What's the potential as far as perhaps getting Gateway on the list?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think with Iowa, we've certainly got a number of fans in Iowa, loyal fans, dirt track fans, short‑track racing fans. It's been a challenge for us in terms of that racetrack.
When we looked at potential markets for next year, obviously you can see the decisions we've made, where we want to be. As you look ahead for '22 and beyond, Gateway is certainly a market that's caught our eye. We've raced there a long, long time. The location of the track, certainly right next to St. Louis, a lot of potential for us. We like what the track has done, what they're doing around a lot of their diversity efforts as well.
There's a lot of parallel paths that we're working on and something that does have interest to us in the future, for sure.
- The 4th of July has all the history tied up in Daytona Beach. A lot of fanfare moving Indy to the 4th of July. How did you end up at Road America after one year of Indy? What's the status of Xfinity with that?
STEVE O'DONNELL: The man who made that happen is Ben Kennedy. Ben, you got to take that one, bud.
BEN KENNEDY: We're really excited about Road America. You look at the track, certainly iconic track to us. I think we've seen some really good Xfinity races there. Personally I had the opportunity to run there for a number of years. Such a cool facility.
11 winners over the past 11 years there. Always exciting racing from that perspective. I think having it on July 4th weekend, it just felt like such a natural fit to us. You think about everything that goes around, everything that's synonymous with that weekend, camping, cooking out, really Americana.
Placing it there really made a lot of natural sense. I can tell you talking to the track out there, they're certainly bullish about it, excited about it, really want to lean into us and make it something special. Looking forward to that.
As far as Xfinity goes, we'll follow up in the next few weeks or so and announce our Xfinity and Truck schedules. Working through a lot of things there, a lot of things that we'll reflect off of that Cup schedule. We'll keep you posted as we get closer.
MIKE FORDE: Steve, Ben, thank you so much for your time. Congrats on this fantastic schedule, the great announcement today. A lot of exciting stuff. To all the media who have hopped on here, thank you so much for your time, your coverage. Six races to go in 2020. Looking forward to 2021. If you're going to Talladega, have a safe trip. We'll see you down there.