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Schedule shuffle: Fontana races move to Daytona road course

Chase Elliott wins the GoBowling 235 on the Daytona Road Course for his second NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season.

Sixty-eight days before it begins, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season already has its first schedule changes.

NASCAR announced two adjustments Tuesday, citing “challenges resulting from the ongoing pandemic and the need for significant advance planning” in a statement.

The Cup and Xfinity Series races scheduled for Feb. 27-28 at Auto Club Speedway, as well as the Camping World Truck Series race scheduled for Feb. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, all will move to the Daytona International Speedway road course on Feb. 19-21.

MORE: Updated 2021 NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck schedules

The shuffle moves Homestead-Miami’s Cup and Xfinity races back by one week to Feb. 27-28. These will be the third races of 2021 for each series. Homestead will host a limited number of fans that weekend.

Exact dates and times for Xfinity and Truck races at the Daytona road course and Homestead-Miami have not been announced.

Homestead-Miami has confirmed that its new weekend will include a limited number of fans in attendance.

The Daytona road course will now have two events in February. It will host the Busch Clash exhibition race Feb. 9 as a prelude to the Feb. 14 Daytona 500.

With the Daytona road course hosting the first of seven road course points races on the 2021 Cup calendar, the Clash becomes a de facto test session for the drivers eligible to run in it.

However, that group of 24 includes some who do not plan to compete full-time in Cup in 2021 or have yet to announce their 2021 plans - including Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Ty Dillon.

The Daytona road course made its NASCAR debut in August with the Truck, Xfinity and Cup Series.

All three winners that weekend - Sheldon Creed in Trucks, Austin Cindric in Xfinity, and Chase Elliott in Cup - went on to win their respective series championships.

As for Auto Club Speedway, its 2-mile oval will not host NASCAR action for the first time since opening in 1997.

In a statement from Auto Club Speedway, it said efforts will continue on a planned reconfiguration of its 2-mile oval to a short track, but noted that “timing for approval will occur at a later date based on the impacts from COVID-19.”

The statement continued: “This will allow fans and the industry the opportunity to properly close the history books on the storied 2-mile, D-shaped oval for what could be the final race on its original surface in 2022.”

Alex Bowman won this season’s race at ACS after leading a race-high 110 laps and finishing first and second in both stages.