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Questions remain with 2021 NASCAR Cup schedule

NASCAR America breaks down the intense finale at the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona, Jimmie Johnson's final season and if Kyle Busch can rally from the bottom of the field and defend his title.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps made clear Tuesday that work remains on the 2021 NASCAR Cup schedule and notes that elements tried this year could return next year.

Phelps discussed the schedule, among various topics, with media Tuesday afternoon.

Phelps said the plan remains for the 2021 NASCAR Cup schedule to begin Feb. 14 with the Daytona 500.

I don’t see that changing, but I guess never say never,” he said.

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Daytona road course

Another topic was the possibility of the Daytona road course joining the schedule as a points event. The Daytona road course was used in place of Watkins Glen in August. The Cup Series will race on the Daytona road course in the Busch Clash on Feb. 9, 2021.

“I think the event itself from a driver’s standpoint, from a fan’s standpoint, from a ratings standpoint, those were all successful,” Phelps said. “… I’ve heard some discussion of, ‘Hey it was so great, (the Daytona road course race should) take the place of the second oval, the race we just had this past weekend.’ I don’t see that happening.”

Phelps also said about the Daytona road course: “I think it is great that is an option that we have, if you will, in our bag of tricks to be able to have compelling racing. ... We want to make sure that wherever we go to race that the fans are getting the best show they can get. If that’s what it is and it is determined that makes sense for us to do, then you will see it on the schedule moving forward, but, again, nothing to announce.”

Midweek races

Phelps said midweek races remain possible. NASCAR scheduled five midweeks Cup races after returning from the COVID-19 break in May: Darlington in May, Charlotte in May, Martinsville in June, the Bristol All-Star Race in July and Kansas in July.

I would say the opportunity for us to do midweek racing in the future is viable, whether we’re going to have that for the 2021 schedule, I don’t know,” he said.

He said avid fans liked the midweek races, but casual fans did not tune in as much as a weekend race.

“We’ll collaborate with our broadcast partners and our teams,” he said. “But it’s phenomenal to know that that there is that opportunity. We have shown that we can do it. So it is an option. Whether it’s going to be a part of the ’21 schedule or not, I would say its probably on the lower end of probability but again nothing has been finalized.

2021 schedule release

Phelps gave no timetable for when the 2021 NASCAR Cup schedule will be announced. He noted that NASCAR might announce only a partial schedule for 2021 because of the uncertainty with the coronavirus.

2021 schedule plans

As for what officials might consider for the 2021 Cup schedule, Phelps said:

“Do we want to continue to look at potentials new venues? The answer is yes,” he said. “Do we want to look at potential format changes? Yes. Do we want to consider continuing of one-day shows in some form or fashion? Probably.

“That’s something that we have to weigh, obviously, with all the stakeholders in the industry, the tracks themselves, our broadcast partners and … the teams.”

New venues on 2021 schedule

One new venue next season will be at Nashville Superspeedway. The 1.333-mile track in Lebanon, Tennessee, has a four-year sanctioning agreement to host Cup races. One of Dover’s two Cup dates will move there. Nashville Superspeedway’s Cup date is tentatively set for June 21, 2021.

Could there be other new venues? Phelps said yes.
“But I have no idea what that is going to look like at this particular point,” he said. “There are still lots of discussion that are happening and we’re trying to accelerate them as quickly as we can.”