Another year, another NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule with minimal changes.
OK, maybe not minimal, necessarily, or at least it’s not like that every year. For 2017, the Cup schedule consists mainly of a few date swaps, with much of the discussion directed toward the changeover of Talladega Superspeedway’s fall race from the sixth race in the Chase to the fifth, allowing for the race to no longer be the final event in the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs (making moving on to the next round less of… what’s the word… a crapshoot).
But in 2017 — and this is true across the board for all three NASCAR national series — no new tracks will be added to the series schedule, and none will be dropped. You’ll see the Cup Series at the same speedways and road courses, which is probably a relief for those who tend to purchase tickets for those tracks each season — so if that’s the case, hey, good for you.
However, the 2017 schedule does mark one thing: that it’s now been six years since the Sprint Cup Series last added a new track to its schedule. Though to be fair, before then, it took 10 years, so we’re still not quite there. Not yet. Give it time, probably.
Though it’s not like the series schedule has ever been a malleable, ever-changing entity. Think about it: five of the current tracks appeared on the circuit for the first time before 1960, and six more before the ’70s. NASCAR has often been a sport of tradition to some degrees, and its reliance on tracks that have been around for half a century or approaching that mark, and it’s tracks like those that would cause outcry among many fans if they left the schedule entirely (though Rockingham and North Wilkesboro have been gone for a while now, lessening the blow a bit).
What are, at this point, the Cup Series’ newest tracks? You may be surprised by a few of them, because they’re so ingrained into our understanding of how NASCAR operates as a whole, so much of an expectation each and every season, that it’s tough to even imagine a series without them.
The easy one, since it’s only been on the Cup schedule since 2011. That came after a multi-year battle to see the Kentucky track with Cup cars thundering around its 14-degree banking; it’s been on the Truck schedule since 2000 and XFINITY a year later. Think of it like the Iowa Speedway of yesteryear, perhaps. Well, sans the lawsuit the track filed against NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation claiming that both companies violated antitrust laws by not giving Cup dates to tracks like — hey, look — Kentucky Speedway. Only three drivers have won a Cup race in the track’s history; Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch have two each, with Matt Kenseth at one.
One of two tracks added to the schedule in 2001, Kansas Speedway began its NASCAR-sanctioned career with a victory by Jeff Gordon, who won the first two races held at the track. But Kansas’ Cup history also coincides with the year 2011, like Kentucky; after hosting just one race its first 10 years, 2011 marked the addition of a second date for the track. Unlike Kentucky, however, Kansas’ first Cup race came in its inaugural season as a track at all, rather than waiting a few years, due to its ownership by ISC, which operates in conjunction with NASCAR. An IndyCar Series event was also contested that year.
The other speedway NASCAR added in 2001 to its Cup schedule was situated a few states away in Illinois — though, admittedly, nearly 50 miles from Chicago proper. Chicagoland was yet another ISC-owned speedway basically build with the express purpose of hosting NASCAR and IndyCar. But to this day, the Illinois track is a little more of a novelty than its Kansas counterpart, because it’s only run at once a year. A pity for the soon-to-be-retired Tony Stewart, one reckons; he has three wins there.
You have to go back into the last millennium for the debut of the next track on the circuit, the one that takes place as the current season finale for all three NASCAR national series. Good thing, too, because November is cold almost everywhere but Florida. The 1.5-mile track originally came to NASCAR prominence as part of the XFINITY schedule; its series finales have been run at the speedway since 1995. Cup cars were added in 1999 with a Tony Stewart victory, and Homestead took its place at the tail end of the Cup schedule three years later in 2002.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
If all these tracks listed seem eerily similar, it’s because they are — at least by total mileage. We’re talking 1.5-mile circuits all around, and the same is true for Las Vegas, which opened in 1996 and contested its first Cup event in 1998 after previously holding some open wheel races. Mark Martin was the first winner. Oh, and it holds an EDM festival, too.
About the author
Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.
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Not one of them should have been added.