NASCAR has dumped its Cup races from Chicago and Kentucky for its 2021 season, added road courses, and plans to turn one of the two Bristol races into a dirt track event.
The race at Indianapolis next year will be on the road course that uses part of the oval and the infield and races are planned for the Austin, Tex. road course used for the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix and the Road America course used by Indy cars and sports car races.
Martinsville, the closest cup race, keeps its two dates, including one in the Race for the Cup that helps define the season championship.
For its March 2 races at Bristol next year, the paved short truck will be covered with dirt. The last Cup race run on a dirt track came 50 years ago when Richard Petty won on the dusty half-mile event at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
“We developed the 2021 schedule with one primary goal: Continue to take steps to create the most dynamic schedule possible for our fans,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president, and chief racing development officer. “Extensive collaboration between NASCAR, the race tracks, race teams, and our broadcast partners allowed NASCAR to create what promises to be an exciting 2021 schedule of races.”
What is still unknown is whether or not spectators will be allowed in the stands or it COVID-19 will keep the races TV-only events.
Charlotte again loses the annual non-points All-Star race, this time to Texas Motor Speedway. The race was run at Bristol this year and in Atlanta in 1985.
Other highlights and the full race schedule:
— The NASCAR All-Star Race will move to Texas Motor Speedway for the first time, with the annual invitational set for a June 13 date. The non-points exhibition has been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway for 33 of 35 runnings, with only single All-Star events taking place at Atlanta Motor Speedway (1986) and Bristol Motor Speedway (2020).
— Darlington Raceway will play host to two Cup Series races in 2021, slotting in at May 9 and Sept. 5 on the schedule. The 1.366-mile South Carolina track held three Cup races this year as competition officials gave priority to events within driving distance in its return after the COVID-19 outbreak. It had held one event annually from 2005-19. Darlington’s annual Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend will again serve as the opener of the 10-race playoffs.
— Atlanta Motor Speedway also expands to two annual stops on the Cup Series schedule, set for March 21 and July 11. The 1.54-mile track has been a part of the NASCAR calendar since 1960 and has held one race each year from 2011-20.
— The 10-race postseason schedule remains largely intact, with Bristol Motor Speedway (Round of 16), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Round of 12) and Martinsville Speedway (Round of 8) returning as the elimination races. Only Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway trade places in the postseason lineup, with Texas (Oct. 17) aligned as the Round of 8 opener with Kansas (Oct. 24) to follow.
— Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway have been removed from the Cup Series schedule. Chicagoland had been on the Cup calendar from 2001-19 and served as the playoff opener from 2011-16. Kentucky Speedway hosted 10 Cup Series races from 2011-20.
The full 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule:
Feb. 14 — Daytona International Speedway
Feb. 21 — Homestead-Miami Speedway
Feb. 28 — Auto Club Speedway
March 7 — Las Vegas Motor Speedway
March 14 — Phoenix Raceway
March 21 — Atlanta Motor Speedway
March 28 — Bristol Motor Speedway
April 4 — Easter holiday
April 10 — Martinsville Speedway
April 18 — Richmond Raceway
April 25 — Talladega Superspeedway
May 2 — Kansas Speedway
May 9 — Darlington Raceway
May 16 — Dover International Speedway
May 23 — Circuit of The Americas
May 30 — Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 6 — Sonoma Raceway
June 13 — Texas Motor Speedway, All-Star Race
June 20 — Nashville Superspeedway
June 26 — Pocono Raceway
June 27 — Pocono Raceway
July 4 — Road America
July 11 — Atlanta Motor Speedway
July 18 — New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Aug. 8 — Watkins Glen International
Aug. 15 — Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
Aug. 22 — Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 28 — Daytona International Speedway
Sept. 5 — Darlington Raceway
Sept. 11 — Richmond Raceway
Sept. 18 — Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 26 — Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Oct. 3 — Talladega Superspeedway
Oct. 10 — Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval
Oct. 17 — Texas Motor Speedway
Oct. 24 — Kansas Speedway
Oct. 31 — Martinsville Speedway
Nov. 7 — Phoenix Raceway