2023 NASCAR Cup schedule released, what’s on it and my takeaways

For the first time in 3 years, the NASCAR schedule unveiling wasn’t as big of a deal of the last 2. That’s because there weren’t many radical changes like we’ve seen in years past, plus the ones that were occurring, had already been announced.

NASCAR today announced the 2023 schedules for the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series. During the organization’s 75th anniversary season, NASCAR’s national series will visit an exciting mix of history-rich venues, short tracks and road courses, with the sport reaching a new level of excitement with the already-announced Chicago Street Race – a bold, first-of-its-kind addition in a globally renowned city.

“As we prepare to celebrate our 75th anniversary season, we are committed to delivering a schedule that acknowledges the deep history and tradition of our sport while establishing a bold future that brings the best racing in the world to new markets and new fans,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development and Strategy. “The 2023 schedules are a product of continued collaboration across our industry and partners. We are incredibly proud of what our sport will have to offer fans next season, and excited to celebrate this milestone season with the most diverse compilation of tracks in motorsports.”

The 2023 Cup season will get underway with “round two” of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, which will take place in East Coast primetime on Sunday, Feb. 5 on FOX. Two weeks later, on Sunday, Feb. 19, the 65th annual DAYTONA 500 will unfold live on FOX from Daytona International Speedway.

Additional highlights to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule include:

  1. NASCAR will head west for the final race on the two-mile version of Auto Club Speedway (Sunday, Feb. 26) before visiting Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Mar. 5) and Phoenix Raceway (Sunday, Mar. 12).
  1. As previously announced, NASCAR’s annual All-Star Race (Sunday, May 21) will be hosted by North Wilkesboro Speedway – the first time the track will welcome the Cup Series since 1996.
  2. The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will once again begin at Darlington Raceway (Sunday, Sept. 3), with the NASCAR Championship Race set for Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 5.

For tickets to 2023 NASCAR events, please visit www.nascar.com/2023schedule.

The FOX Sports and NBC Sports family of networks will again broadcast the 2023 NASCAR season. Networks and start times will be announced at a later date.

Below are the full 2023 NASCAR National Series schedules (Playoff races in bold font):

2023 NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE

DateRace / Track
Sunday, February 5Clash (L.A. Memorial Coliseum)
Thursday, February 16Duel at Daytona
Sunday, February 19DAYTONA 500
Sunday, February 26Auto Club
Sunday, March 5Las Vegas
Sunday, March 12Phoenix
Sunday, March 19Atlanta
Sunday, March 26COTA
Sunday, April 2Richmond
Sunday, April 9Bristol Dirt
Sunday, April 16Martinsville
Sunday, April 23Talladega
Sunday, April 30Dover
Sunday, May 7Kansas
Sunday, May 14Darlington
Sunday, May 21North Wilkesboro (All-Star Race)
Sunday, May 28Charlotte
Sunday, June 4World Wide Technology Raceway
Sunday, June 11Sonoma
Sunday, June 25Nashville Superspeedway
Sunday, July 2Chicago Street Race
Sunday, July 9Atlanta
Sunday, July 16New Hampshire
Sunday, July 23Pocono
Sunday, July 30Richmond
Sunday, August 6Michigan
Sunday, August 13Indianapolis Road Course
Sunday, August 20Watkins Glen
Saturday, August 26Daytona
Sunday, September 3Darlington
Sunday, September 10Kansas
Saturday, September 16Bristol
Sunday, September 24Texas
Sunday, October 1Talladega
Sunday, October 8Charlotte Roval
Sunday, October 15Las Vegas
Sunday, October 22Homestead-Miami
Sunday, October 29Martinsville
Sunday, November 5Phoenix (Championship)

1 Date At Texas Best Case

I don’t think we totally ignore Texas but them going from 2 dates to 1 is ideal. It’s a terrible track with terrible racing so going there once is better than not at all and largely better than going there twice a year. It’s the first time since 2004 that we’ll go to Texas just once.

I wish more tracks would go down to 1 date. It makes the race weekend of an added importance because if you skip it to go somewhere else, you’ll have to wait a full year for them to come back.


Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick battle for the win in overtime of Sunday’s Verizon 200

Indy Shifted Again

I’m not sure why they keep doing this but for the 5th straight year, Indy gets a different weekend. In 2019, the Brickyard 400 was the final race of the regular season. In 2020, it was moved to the Fourth of July weekend. For 2021, the race was moved to the road course and in mid August. This past year it was moved up a couple of weeks to the end of July. Now, the race will be moved back to August again.


End Of Regular Season Madness

The final 3 weeks to the regular season are all wildcard races with Indy, Watkins Glen and Daytona. That should make for some sleepless nights in the NASCAR garage.


AVONDALE, ARIZONA – MARCH 13: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem – Capitol Container Toyota, races during the the Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 13, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Playoffs Unchanged

There’s no changes to this next year’s playoff schedule from this. That’s the first time in a few years that the postseason will remain intact. The one thing I don’t like about that is without changing, some drivers can find advantages at tracks that may suit them or not. However, for the most part, I do like keeping it the way that it is.

Also, for the 4th consecutive year, Phoenix hosts the season finale. We already knew that but it’s notable because originally NASCAR was open to revolving it. They held it at Homestead between 2004 and 2019 and Phoenix now from 2020 through 2023. Do they run it back again in 2024?


All-Star Race Revolves

To the point above, the All-Star race is moved again. North Wilkesboro becomes the 4th different venue in the last 5 years to host the All-Star race. It’s the 2nd short track however.

North Wilkesboro will become the fifth host of the All-Star Race next May. Texas hosted the last 2 which came after Charlotte hosted 34 of them prior beginning in 1985. Atlanta hosted in 1986 before moving back to Charlotte from 1987 through 2019. The race was held at Bristol in 2020 before going to Texas in 2021 and again in 2022.

Does this open the door up to move this event around?

They do so in most other professional sporting leagues which is why this move could really open the possibility up of rotating this event.

In saying that, SMI seems to own the deal in the fact that they’ve only raced on SMI tracks. Does the Nashville Fairgrounds come into play soon too?


Richmond/Martinsville Swap Day-Night Races

Martinsville’s spring race was moved to night this year but because of the cooler temperatures, NASCAR felt it was best to move that race back to a day time event next April. However, it’s not like we’re losing a night race because Richmond moves up to end of July but will be a night race instead.

It differentiates between the 2 stops there because the spring race is a day time event and now the summer race is at night.


BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – APRIL 17: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet, and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Racing On Easter Again

After decades without doing so, NASCAR returned to racing on Easter this past year at Bristol. They’ll do so again in 2023. I think the TV ratings showed a reason to run it back.

Bristol Dirt produced over 4-million viewers this past April which was up 28% over last year and the highest rated Bristol spring race since 2016. The number peaked at 4.5-million which is the No. 2 watched race this season behind only the Daytona 500. Even the Truck race was up 87% from last year with 1.1 million people watching on a Saturday night before Easter. That’s a massive number for Easter Night and Easter weekend in general and one that will show that NASCAR has likely found a new date to race on.

However, the drivers still don’t like it one bit though. Kyle Larson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this past spring that with windshields, that these cars won’t put on the best show possible. He wasn’t a fan of racing a Cup car on dirt anyways. While he says that the race ran well on Sunday, he’s still not sold on it.

Neither was Kyle Busch or Chase Elliott or anyone else for that nature that was willing to talk. Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano questioned why were were wasting a much needed holiday weekend to race.

They said the TV number better make it worth it.

Well, it was.

These were some of the more important TV numbers of the year for NASCAR. While all the television numbers are beneficial, this set of numbers will likely make or break the future status of dirt at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway and dirt in the Cup Series in general.

As far as to why?

We saw a thrilling show and a last lap pass in the final corner for the win. It provided an unlikely finish/winner. The second year of the experiment I think exceeded most peoples expectations because of that. Mine, as well as a lot of other fans honestly had low expectations for this race coming into the weekend. If you were going to race on dirt, why not a track specifically made for dirt? Also, dirt races need to be done at night and choosing a night race on the day of Easter isn’t the best of dates to do so on.

There’s a reason as to why NASCAR has avoided racing on Easter over the years. The last time it’s happened was 1989 but that wasn’t a scheduled one. Specifically on Easter weekend, they’ve ran 20 times now, but 17 of them were between 1952-1971. Among those 17, 11 were on Easter itself and 8 on the Saturday before.

Now I think they’ve found something.


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – APRIL 03: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford, leads the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 03, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Day Racing Stays The Same – NASCAR Values Sunday’s

Martinsville’s race this year was further proof on why NASCAR has went forward with more Sunday races than Saturday night. Nearly 4 million (3.958-million) people tuned into FOX a week prior to that one for the Richmond race. The Martinsville race was more than half of the amount of people tuning in.

From 3.958-million to 1.8-million. That’s a stark drop. Hell, the Truck race on dirt almost had as many people watching than the Cup race at Martinsville a week prior.

While some could say a race on FS1 will naturally drop off than one on FOX, you don’t lose 3-million people because of that and the Truck race was on FS1 too.

Atlanta had 4 million tune in, Phoenix had 3.991 million, COTA had 3.7-million. Richmond was 3.9 and now Bristol 4.5 million. That says a lot I feel with new races having over 4 million and Sunday’s being the better of the days to race on.

Primetime TV for sports is declining in general. It’s a fundamental shift that NASCAR is working on again and they’re not hiding behind that fact either. Richmond and Atlanta as an example next summer will race under the lights on Sunday night instead of Saturday night. Kansas will be a day race against the NFL this Fall. Why Sunday’s and not utilizing Saturday night’s anymore?

“I think from a fan perspective our fans, again, are accustomed to tuning in on Sunday afternoon and seeing NASCAR Cup Series racing,” Ben Kennedy said last year on this topic. “For a fan going out there to the track, to have the biggest event of the weekend on that Sunday afternoon I think gives them something to look forward to and builds anticipation around the weekend.

“I would say a lot of our fans, myself included, are accustomed to turning racing on, NASCAR racing in particular, on Sunday afternoon. I think we all have that habit. Certainly helped us kind of drive the decision to move that there.”

In both 2009 and again in 2010 we had 10 scheduled night races on the schedule. They were at Phoenix, Richmond (x2), Darlington, Charlotte (x2), Daytona, Chicago, Bristol and Atlanta. This year, that number is down to six (Martinsville, Bristol (x2), Charlotte, Darlington and Daytona). Out of those 6, half will take place on a Sunday night at that. That’s down from 8 of 10 in 2010.

Plus, among the past tracks with lights, Phoenix and Atlanta doesn’t use theirs anymore for Cup with both visits now being day races. Chicago is also gone.

The shift is clear. Lights are basically a backup plan now for tracks for the event rain pushes them to night to complete. However, they’d prefer not to have to use them and get them all done in a Sunday afternoon window.

Just 2 of the races in 2023 will be on Saturday night with 2 more on a Sunday night.


No Rest For The Weary

Once NASCAR starts at Daytona, there’s no off week until June 17-18. That’s the only off week of the entire season. 38 races (Counting All-Star race and Duels) in 39 weeks…

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