Following the intense 2020 season, we can now look forward to a new season in the NASCAR Cup Series. This season will feature a major schedule shakeup. There will be new racetracks, the return to familiar tracks, and the end of two main tracks. 2021 will feature a brand new and exciting schedule with one goal still in mind for everyone. For Chase Elliott, he will be defending his title while everyone else will be looking to take down the champ.
As always the 2021 season will begin at the “World Center of Racing” at Daytona International Speedway. This year’s Speedweeks will be condensed due to the pandemic and the Rolex 24 running a week later than usual in January. On Tuesday, February 9th NASCAR will run its annual clash at Daytona. Instead of running on the Speedway this year, the clash will be run on the Daytona Road Course. This will be the first time in Clash history the race will not be run on the Daytona Speedway.
On Wednesday, February 10th NASCAR will run the Daytona 500 qualifying run. This will determine the front row for the Daytona 500 while everybody else will have to run the duel events to determine their starting spots. Then Thursday night NASCAR will run the two duel races. The first race will start at 7 pm and the second race will follow right after. The first race will feature the inside row while the second race will feature the outside row.
Finally, on Sunday the Daytona 500 will be run. The 2021 season will officially kick off with the “Great American Race” at Daytona. The race will be run on Valentine’s day at 2:30 pm on FOX and the Motor Racing Network. With Florida’s coronavirus laws, this race will be run with a limited capacity. It hurts for the speedway but for the safety of the people it had to be done.
New Races On The Schedule
For the first time since 1970, the NASCAR Cup Series will be racing on Dirt. With the Bristol Motor Speedway struggling to bring people to the racetrack they had to try something new. On March 28th, the spring Bristol race will now be run on dirt. It has been something fans have wanted for a very long time and now it has happened. Kyle Larson will be the clear favorite with his past success in dirt racing.
On May 23rd, NASCAR will make its much-anticipated debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. NASCAR has wanted to race at COTA since the facility opened in 2012. It wasn’t possible due to Texas Motor Speedway putting a ban on racing at any race track in Texas. This contract finally expired and NASCAR took full advantage of it by finally adding COTA to the schedule.
With Texas Motor Speedway losing one of their races to COTA they were able to still have two race weekends. June 13th Texas Motor Speedway will host All-Star weekend. This will be the first time ever that All-Star weekend will be held in Texas and it looks like this will be the permanent home for the All-Star race.
XFINITY Series Racetracks Make Their Way To The Cup Series
Then one week later, NASCAR returns to Nashville Speedway. This is the first time NASCAR has run at Nashville since 2011. The racetrack used to be used by the NASCAR Nationwide Series (Now known as the Xfinity Series). It is something the local fans have been begging for the last nine years and their wish finally came true.
Two weeks later the NASCAR Cup Series will make their debut at Road America in Lake Elkhart, Wisconsin. This will be the first time ever that the Cup Series will run at Road America although NASCAR has run the Xfinity Series there for many years. It will be the new 4th of July tradition taking over for the Coke Zero 400 which has been moved to the regular-season finale.
August 15th will have the most shocking change to the 2021 schedule. NASCAR will no longer run the Brickyard 400. Instead, NASCAR will run on the Indianapolis Road Course. This came as a shock to fans but this is the newest attempt to help bring fans back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last year the NASCAR XFINITY Series ran on the Road Course and that race was won by Chase Briscoe. The race was loved by the fans and hopefully, this helps bring fans back to the famous Brickyard Motor Speedway]
Key Regular Season Dates
The toughest part of the 2020 season was not being able to head to certain racetracks due to restrictions. On June 6th NASCAR will return to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota SaveMart 350. The road course is beloved by many fans and people were very disappointed by the 2020 race being canceled. But even though NASCAR plans to return to northern California, there is still the possibility of the race being canceled.
California already canceled the February running of the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California (just south of Los Angeles) due to COVID-19. As of now, the Sonoma race is still on but is not guaranteed for this upcoming team.
The same will apply when NASCAR gets to return to upstate New York in August at Watkins Glen. New York has been very strict with their COVID-19 restrictions but as of now, the race is scheduled for August 8th. Watkins Glen has been a fan favorite for many fans for years and NASCAR fans are anxious to return to the famed road course.
Pocono Doubleheader Back For 2021
Due to the Summer Olympics being postponed until 2021 NASCAR will stick to the same idea as last season. Initially, in 2020, Pocono Raceway was planned to host the doubleheader, and then NASCAR would get two weeks off to prevent a rating war with NBC.
NASCAR has used that same plan for the 2021 season as Pocono will host the doubleheader June 26th-27th. Before the pandemic ticket sales were great for the doubleheader and if the restrictions lighten up we may see the same situation for both races in 2021.
Regular Season finale at Daytona
Last season NASCAR ran the regular-season finale at Daytona. The race was one of the best races in recent memory. Playoff spots were on the line and the 24 car returned to victory lane when William Byron won his first-ever race that night. It was also Jimmie Johnson‘s last chance at going to the playoffs. He sadly could not advance after being involved in a late-race wreck. With all on the line for the playoffs, NASCAR will continue racing the finale at Daytona.
Round of 16
The round of 16 will kick off at “The Lady in Black” Darlington Motor Speedway on September 5th, the night before Labor Day. Then NASCAR will go Saturday night racing at Richmond Motor Speedway on September 11th. Then the elimination race will be at Thunder Valley at Bristol Motor Speedway for a Saturday Night Showdown on September 18th.
Round of 12
Sunday, September 26th NASCAR will begin the Round of 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This may be the most important race with 2 very challenging races to wrap up the Round of 12. Sunday, October 3rd NASCAR’s most unpredictable track, Talladega Superspeedway will host the second race of the Round of 12.
This race could determine if you move on to the Round of 8 or face elimination. The final race of the Round of 12 will take place at the Charlotte Roval. The Roval is another track that can be very tough and it is the elimination race.
Round of 8
The Round of 8 will kick off October 17th at Texas Motor Speedway. The week after NASCAR will head to Kansas for the second race of the Round of 8. This may be the most crucial race before heading to the very difficult Martinsville Speedway. Then Halloween NASCAR will run at Martinsville for the final race to determine who will advance to the championship race at Phoenix.
The Championship Race
November 7th NASCAR will crown a champion. For the second straight year, NASCAR will run the Championship race at Phoenix. All the changes coming to the 2021 schedule will be all the hype for the biggest race of the year. The goal for everyone going into 2021 is a championship and a champion will be crowned at Phoenix in 2021.
Chicagoland & Kentucky
With all the changes to the 2021 schedule, 2 tracks did not make the cut. Chicagoland and Kentucky did not make their way to the schedule. Both mile and a half racetracks were not fan favorites and both race tracks had problems. Chicagoland struggled to bring fans and the track was not supported by the town of Joliet.
Kentucky had issues since being added to the schedule in 2011 had major traffic issues and had trouble drawing fan interest outside of the Kentucky area. Both produced great races but may never be apart of the NASCAR schedule again
The 2021 schedule shakeup is like no other and for many fans, it has been positive. Some big questions still loom going into the 2021 schedule due to the pandemic. NASCAR hopes to bring back fans but needs to get approval from the local governments. While 2020 was a tough year, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2021 season.
(All Scheduled Times- Eastern Time Zone)
NASCAR 2021 Calendar
Busch Clash at Daytona Road Rad Course 2/9 7pm
Duel 1 at Daytona 2/11 7pm
Duel 2 at Daytona 2/11 Right after Duel 1
Daytona 500 2/14 2:30
NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona Road Course 2/21 3pm
Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami 2/28 3:30
Penzoil 400 at Las Vegas 3/7 3:30
NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix 3/14 3:30
Folds of Honors QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta 3/21 3pm
Food City Dirt Race at Bristol 3/28 3:30
Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville 4/10 7:30
Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond 4/18 3pm
Geico 500 at Talladega 4/25 2pm
NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas 5/2 3pm
NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington 5/9 3:30
Drydene 400 at Dover 5/16 2pm
NASCAR Cup Series at Circuit of the Americas 5/23 2:30
Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte 5/30 6pm
Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma 6/6 4pm
All-Star Open at Texas 6/13 6pm
All-Star Race at Texas 6/13 8pm
NASCAR Cup Series at Nashville 6/20 3:30
Doubleheader 1 NASCAR Cup Series at Pocono 6/26 3pm
Doubleheader 2 NASCAR Cup Series at Pocono 6/27 3:30
NASCAR Cup Series at Road America 7/4 2:30
Quaker State 400 at At Atlanta 7/11 3:30
Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire 7/18 3pm
Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen 8/8 3pm
Big Machine 400 at Indianapolis Road Course 8/15 1pm
FireKeepers Casino 400 8/22 3pm
Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona 8/29 7pm
September/Round of 16
Cook Out Southern 500 9/5 6pm
Federated Auto Parts 400 9/11 7:30
Bass Pro Shops Night Race 9/18 7:30
Round of 12
South Point 400 at Las Vegas 9/26 7pm
YellaWood 500 at Talladega 10/3 2pm
Bank of America Roval 400 10/10 2pm
Round of 8
AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive too at Texas 10/17 2pm
Hollywood Casino 400 10/24 3pm
XFINITY 500 at Martinsville 10/31 2pm
NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix 11/7 3pm