On Tuesday morning Phoenix Raceway announced some good news. They’ve once again sold out Championship Weekend for this November. Another part of the news was the fact that Phoenix and NASCAR came to an agreement to have the 1-mile Arizona oval host the season finales for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series’ too. That brought out a question in the sense should Phoenix host the championship now every year?
From 2004 through 2019, the championship was always decided in South Florida at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2020, it was moved to Phoenix. At that time, most thought that this would spark a revolving door of championship venues.
The NCAA moves their Final Fours around in basketball. The College Football championship game gets moved each year too. So does the Super Bowl. Should NASCAR adopt a similar model?
“I said this before and I’ll say this again, that it needs to move every year,” said Joey Logano last Fall. “I think it should be like the Super Bowl where it’s something that moves around. The cities should bid on it like the Super Bowl does. I don’t see why we can’t do that.”
His Team Penske teammate of Ryan Blaney agreed.
“I’ve always said, I think it should move around each year,” he said. “I think you can give other tracks and areas different opportunities to showcase a championship race. I think it’s good for the tracks. It’s good for the community. It’s good for the you never know what you’re going to get each year. You look at every other sport, that’s what they do. You don’t get the Super Bowl in the same spot every year. They move it around.”
Phoenix will now have hosted the finale race in 4 straight years. They’re starting to settle into the final race of the year. But, should it be?
“I don’t think anybody should be a long-term host,” Chase Elliott said on Thursday of championship weekend last November. “I think this deal should move around. This is a great racetrack. Yes, it’s a great area. Yes, the weather is good. Yes, it has all the right ingredients to be a good final weekend for us.
“But we should share this weekend with other places around the country.”
Both Blaney and Logano also agreed that if they do rotate the final race of the season, that they’re also limited in how many places that they can do so at.
“I know we’re kind of limited. That time of year you can’t really have it east or north,” said Blaney. “You’re kind of limited to some of the track that you can go to. I’d like to see it move around.”
NASCAR owns the old ISC tracks. They’re not going to let SMI take over the reigns of the season finale so you can cross off – Las Vegas, Atlanta, Bristol, Charlotte, COTA, Sonoma, Dover, Nashville, Texas and New Hampshire from ever happening.
Independent tracks like Pocono, Road America and Indianapolis aren’t viable at at all.
NASCAR’s tracks are – Daytona, Homestead, Phoenix, Martinsville, Richmond, Talladega, Kansas, Darlington, Watkins Glen and Michigan. This is the list you have to work with. Then, you have to break it down by climates.
NASCAR wants to end the season in warmth and preferably not rainy either. Nothing worse than a rain delay or even a rain out for your season finale.
In saying that, Daytona, Talladega, Homestead and Phoenix is all you have left. Martinsville is the final race of the Round of 8, but a November race there is iffy. Richmond is in the same boat. Darlington isn’t giving up the Southern 500 from Labor Day again and they don’t need two playoff races there. Watkins Glen and Michigan is too cold and Kansas is too blah.
So, among the four you have, Daytona and Talladega aren’t good spots to end at under this format.
That leaves Phoenix and Homestead.
“Obviously being late in the year kind of ties our hands to some of the more northern race tracks can’t do that unfortunately but I think it should move around,” said Logano. “That’s something that the fans would like to see. I think bringing the championship race to them. As we keep adding more and more race tracks to the schedule that are bringing the races to the fans, lets bring the championship race to the fans too.”
As far as should they visit the race track from the Championship 4 multiple times a year, neither driver thinks that is an issue one way or the other. Homestead, annually had one stop each season on the calendar, so from 2004 through 2019, the Championship 4 stood out on its own since that was also their first stop to the 1.5-mile track on the season too. But in Phoenix, when they show up in November to compete for a championship, they can rely on past notes from the spring race too.
“I do like racing there (Phoenix). I don’t mind if it’s racing there once or racing there twice for a championship race track at least,” Logano said on that topic. “Homestead we only went to once a year and that went fine. Last year we went to Phoenix twice and that went okay too.”
“I’ll tell you right now, every single team is really focused on Phoenix this weekend just because if you do make it to the Championship 4 then you need a pretty good notebook on going back there,” Blaney said. “I think it’s pretty neat that you go to the championship track earlier in the year because you can kind of focus on it.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps discussed this subject during this annual state of the sport press conference on Friday.
“I know there’s been a lot of conversation over the years about doing that. I think the move from Miami to here was an important one after 20 years. I think thus far it’s worked out very well.
“The community here has embraced us. I think you see that. The question to me is really more about the competition, right? We’ve been embraced by this community. Would we be embraced by other communities? I suggest we probably would be.
“So what is the best place to host or championship? Would we be open to rotation? Yes, we’d be open to rotation.
“I would say every single option out there we look at. I think you’ve seen that over the last 18 months, that we are going to not be afraid to maximize the opportunity to create the best racing that we can in the best market we can and at the best racetracks that we can.”