NASCAR releases 2022 schedule, my main takeaways

NASCAR today announced the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, a slate that spans 39 total events. The 2022 schedule builds on the steps taken in 2021 by adding more new and dynamic venues which will host NASCAR’s premier series for the first time.

 

Yesterday NASCAR announced that the Clash – NASCAR’s prelude event to the DAYTONA 500 since 1979 – will take place somewhere other than Daytona International Speedway when NASCAR visits the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 6, 2022.

 

The NASCAR Cup Series will visit another track for the first time when the green flag flies at World Wide Technology Raceway just outside St. Louis, Mo. on June 5.

 

The 1.25-mile asymmetrical oval has hosted 21 Camping World Truck Series races since 1998 and was also a part of the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule from 1997 – 2010.  Numerous NASCAR legends and champions have visited Victory Lane over the years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998, 1999), Kevin Harvick (2000, 2001, 2010), Kyle Busch (2009) and Brad Keselowski (2010) earned wins at World Wide Technology Raceway early in their careers.

 

“As we demonstrated last year, we are committed to creating the most dynamic schedule for our fans, long term,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “With the addition of new and unique venues like the Coliseum and World Wide Technology Raceway, each in markets with passionate NASCAR fans, we’re continuing to build on bold changes to deliver the best racing in the world.

 

“This latest iteration of the schedule should lend itself to another season filled with drama and great racing on the track, starting with the DAYTONA 500 and culminating with NASCAR Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway.”

 

In another move – and a nod to recent history – Homestead-Miami Speedway will return to the Playoff mix. The popular 1.5-mile destination track will be a key venue when it hosts the second of three Round of 8 races on Oct. 23. In addition, Texas (Sept. 25) and Las Vegas (Oct. 16) will swap dates and lead off the Round of 12 and Round of 8, respectively.

 

In addition, Kansas will move up in the Playoffs schedule, becoming the second race in the Round of 16 (Sept. 11).

 

The 2022 season will officially kick off with the running of The Great American Race – the DAYTONA 500 – at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, Feb. 20live on FOX – an event that will also host the regular season points race debut of the Next Gen race car. The Cup Series will then immediately head back out West, beginning with a stop at Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 27 – the first time NASCAR will visit the high-speed two-mile oval in nearly two years – followed by Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 6) and Phoenix Raceway (March 13).

 

The Bristol Dirt Race returns to the schedule, this time under the lights on Easter Sunday Night (April 17). The NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race will also return to Texas Motor Speedway in 2022. The annual event featuring NASCAR’s biggest stars will shift to earlier in the season when festivities get underway on May 22.

 

After a natural off-week (June 19) following the conclusion of FOX Sports’ Cup Series coverage, Nashville Superspeedway will again kick off the NBC Sports’ portion of the schedule on June 26. The action in the Music City will immediately be followed by another fan favorite, Road America, which will highlight Fourth of July festivities for the second consecutive season.

 

Watkins Glen International will host the penultimate race of the regular season (Aug. 21) followed by an intense regular season finale under the lights at Daytona International Speedway (Aug. 27) – two distinctly different but equally pivotal tracks in determining the NASCAR Playoffs field.  

 

As previously announced, Phoenix Raceway will be the home to NASCAR Championship Weekend for the third consecutive year, Nov. 4 – 6.

 

Start times and specific networks will be announced at a later date, as will the 2022 schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Camping Truck Series.

My Take

My first thoughts when seeing this is that obviously the Clash being moved to Los Angeles in a football stadium is interesting. Since the events inception in 1979, this has always been at Daytona. In turn, the days of Speedweek”s” is down to Speed “days.” You have the Duels on Thursday, Truck race Friday, Xfinity Series race on Saturday and the Daytona 500 on Sunday. That’s just four days of racing.

My second instinct is the Daytona road course as well as Homestead are out of February with the west coast swing being moved back up again. Fontana will be Feb. 20, Las Vegas on March 6 and Phoenix on March 20. Then, you get COTA essentially in the old Texas slot in the spring on March 27 with a stop in Atlanta the week prior.

The season though has six road courses (COTA, Sonoma, Road America, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Charlotte ROVAL), four superspeedway’s (Daytona/Talladega x2 each) a dirt race and nine tracks 1-mile in length and shorter. They’ll also have four races on 1.33-mile tracks or near there with two at Darlington, Nashville and Gateway on the docket.

Another takeaway is we’re racing on Easter for the first time since 1989 and doing so at Bristol on the dirt. It will be a night race which could be vastly better on track conditions than running on a dirt track during the day. A primetime Easter race could be big.

While taking my next scan through the print, I notice a five race span with four short tracks. Richmond (April 3), Martinsville (April 9), Bristol Dirt (April 17) and Dover (May 1) make up that trend with Talladega (April 24) between.

From there you get the All-Star race moving back to May but not back in Charlotte. Texas will get two races in 2022 but like 2021, one is the annual All-Star event and this year’s moving from June to May 22. It’s exactly a week before the Coca-Cola 600.

Following the ‘600 is another first time event at World Wide Technology Raceway (June 5). This next span can change some things with an inaugural race (Gateway), a second year race in Nashville (June 26) followed by another second year race at Road America (July 3). This is the first time since Daytona that the Fourth of July weekend will have a return trip since we went from Daytona to Indy between 2019 and 2020 and Indy to Road America from 2020 to 2021. This year, it stays put at Elkhart Lake. It also tells me with Daytona serving as the regular season finale (Aug. 27) again, that with how Road America went this past year and how strong Daytona’s been in late August, this may be the future of both events on these dates.

Pocono is down to one race weekend and is back in July (July 24) while the Indy road course moves up from August now to July 31. This is the fourth straight year the Brickyard weekend has been moved in going from September in 2019, July 5 in 2020, Aug. 15 in 2021 and now July 31. 2017’s race was held in July too, but not this weekend, so this is the fourth time in five years this race has been moved and the second year it’s on the road course.

August completely changes with Michigan in early August, Richmond out of the playoffs to Aug. 14 as a day race, Watkins Glen back a couple of weeks followed by Daytona to wrap things up. In the case of Richmond, this is NASCAR admitting that the night race isn’t working there so now both races will be run in the heat of the day with hot and more slick conditions.

The playoffs change a lot too. Darlington kicks it off, but half of the postseason is altered. You get a Round 1 of Darlington-Kansas-Bristol. This year was Darlington-Richmond-Bristol. Round 2 now will be Texas-Talladega-Charlotte ROVAL. That changes in Texas moving from the Round of 8 where it’s always lived to the second round.

The Round of 8 will now be Las Vegas (Oct. 16), Homestead (Oct. 23) and Martinsville (Oct. 30). A major change there with Vegas going from an opening round race, to the second round to now the third round. Homestead is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2019 but this time it won’t serve as the season finale. Phoenix (Nov. 6) will once again serve as the championship race again.

While the playoffs change a lot, the cut races remain the same – Bristol (Round 1), ROVAL (Round 2), Martinsville (Round 3), Phoenix (Championship).

With all the recent changes in the last couple of years, I feel like the 2022 schedule is pretty much going to be the next staple of the future. Daytona will likely always stay in its President’s Day weekend date. The west coast swing seems best to go to after. Atlanta and Darlington having two dates seems to be right. The others are finding a niche on where they belong.

I don’t see many other major changes from this point forward but again, I didn’t fully see all these drastic changes either. The next drastic steps that could be taken would be visiting larger metropolitan areas like they’re doing for the Clash in Los Angeles. Do they tryout football stadiums? Do they add a street course race? Nevertheless, the next path is getting clearer and that’s getting in front of more fans in downtown spots.

Also, my final takeaway is that there’s no rest for the weary. We’ll see 17 straight weeks of action to start the year including the All-Star race on May 22. The first and only break comes between Sonoma (June 12) and Nashville (June 26). Once we get to Nashville in late June, there’s no more breaks. We’ll go 20 consecutive weeks to the finish. You can rest assured that this is certainly going to take a toll on the drivers, teams and crews for this next season. 38 weekends between the Daytona 500 and Phoenix and 37 of them will feature racing.

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