Officials at NASCAR said before the season they were going to make changes on the track, but now they have made a major revision off of it. The governing body of the sport announced Tuesday they are making major alterations to the 2020 schedule.
The 36-race schedule had become stale in the eyes of NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France and he wanted to do something to try and reenergize the sport, which has seen sagging television ratings and dwindling attendance.
“A lot of that is a product of Jim France, wanting to make some bold moves, wanting to make moves quickly, trying to answer some of the questions or some of the asks of the fans,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “We feel like we were able to do that.”
Changes From Daytona to Darlington
The first part of the moves had to do with the playoffs. The championship race moves from Miami, where it has been since 2002, to the 1-mile ISM Raceway at Phoenix. The track recently completed a $178 million renovation.
Before the championship there will be a 10-race playoff that includes stops at Darlington, Richmond, Las Vegas, Talladega. Martinsville will host the last race of the season on Nov. 1. The final at ISM Raceway will be Nov. 8, a week earlier than in past years.
The regular season will begin and end at Daytona. The three-race West Coast swing starting immediately after the season-opening Daytona 500. Pocono Raceway that will see back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series races on the same weekend at the end of June.
O’Donnell said starting and ending the regular season at Daytona made sense.
“Quite fittingly, the birthplace of NASCAR will host the bookend races to the 2020 regular season,” O’Donnell said. “Racing in Daytona — particularly in the summer under the lights — never fails in delivering intense and unpredictable action. There’s no question this venue will create some incredible drama as drivers make one last push for a playoff spot.”
Holiday Races Get Makeover
Traditionally NASCAR has taken Father’s Day off, but next year they will be at Chicagoland Speedway. Mother’s Day weekend will have the drivers at Martinsville racing under the lights.
The July 4th weekend was the biggest surprise. The annual race had been held at Daytona since 1959, but Indianapolis will now host a race that weekend. Though there were concerns about the summer heat in Indianapolis at that time of year, but Daytona had seen rain in recent years.
The review so far on the schedule has been mostly positive, but most importantly the television executives seen to be happy.
“We enjoyed collaborating with NASCAR and their track partners to create what we think will be our most exciting schedule yet in 2020,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “From the iconic Bristol night race becoming part of the Playoffs, to the new home of the Championship Race at the thrilling ISM Raceway, we believe this innovative schedule will be a benefit to everyone in the industry, and, most importantly, the fans.”
This Week’s Odds, Pick
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 is at Texas Motor Speedway and Kyle Busch is the favorite at 5/2, with another two-time 2019 winner Brad Keselowski next at 7/2.
We like Kevin Harvick, though. He is at 5/1 and it is amazing to us that he hasn’t won this season. He has finished fourth in races using the 550 horsepower engine package, and this could be the week he comes out on top.