When the 2021 schedule was unveiled last Fall, NASCAR said that they didn’t expect to have much of a difference between the 2020 and 2021 schedules in terms of on track activity. What they meant by that was the build up to the races with practice and qualifying.
See, during the pandemic, 31 of the 32 Cup Series races ran didn’t have qualifying as the Coca-Cola 600 was the only event that featured single car qualifying to set the field. They did so on the day of the Memorial Day weekend race. None of the other races had qualifying.
Also, none of the 32 had any practice.
But, last Fall NASCAR also said that some races in 2021 would feature both. Some tracks needed to have them with there being some new circuits on the schedule.
As expected, NASCAR has confirmed on Friday that eight key races on the Cup Series schedule will include practice and qualifying this season.
NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell indicated such a move late last year following the unveiling of the 2021 schedule. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, most of the schedule will be contested without activity before the green flag, as explored last year. But with new venues and track configurations oncoming this year, NASCAR will give teams proper time to prepare.
The eight races are:
• The Daytona 500 (Feb. 14)
• Bristol Motor Speedway dirt (March 28)
• Circuit of The Americas (May 23)
• The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (May 30)
• Nashville Superspeedway (June 20)
• Road America (July 4)
• Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (Aug. 15)
• Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 7)
Daytona and Charlotte are two of the sport’s crown jewel events, while Phoenix is the championship weekend host. There was no practice or qualifying before the ’20 season finale.
Cup Series teams will compete on dirt for the first time in over 50 years when Bristol is transformed in the spring. COTA, Nashville, Road America, and the Indianapolis road course are new to the schedule.
Whether practice and qualifying will be held for the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series has not been determined. Official weekend schedules for this coming season that would include details such as formats and allotted track time have not yet been released.
NASCAR did say that they expect to go back to more traditional weekend schedules in 2022 since the new car will debut. That would obviously alter setups for every car on every track and need time to get used to. For 2023 and beyond would be the difference.