Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: Phoenix Shouldn’t Host Another Race If It’s the Championship Venue

With the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series heading to Phoenix Raceway this weekend, it gives teams an opportunity to figure out which setups work and which won’t. And this weekend is crucial to figure out setups, as if teams find one that works, they can use that same setup when they return to the track in November for the championship race.

While it’s impossible to tell this early in the season who could be a part of the Championship 4 in either series, it raises a question that has probably been asked in prior seasons: Should Phoenix be hosting another race if it’s the site of championship weekend?


Back when Championship Weekend was at Homestead-Miami Speedway, part of the appeal of the race was the fact that the only data that teams could work off of for the race was from the previous year, not a race earlier in the season. Veteran drivers wouldn’t know how to race rookies on the track because it would be the first time a rookie raced the track in the Cup Series. There was really no previous setup from earlier in the season that the teams could go to either; the best possible solution was to run the closest 1.5-mile setup that matched the way Homestead runs.

In recent years, when Phoenix took over Championship Weekend, the approach to the weekend changed, especially for the Championship 4. There were now setups from earlier in the season that the team could run, especially if it helped them to a good finish in the spring race. On top of that, any driver who is good in the spring race is carrying some form of confidence and momentum into the championship race, which might mean they sail away with a Phoenix sweep and the title.

Here’s the point: Phoenix should not host a second race weekend if it is going to host the Championship Weekend.

When Phoenix took over Championship Weekend, it should have been immediately rendered NASCAR’s version of a “neutral site,” similar to Homestead. Aside from the MLB, NBA and NHL, almost every other American professional (and even collegiate) sport utilizes a neutral site for its championship game/series, and NASCAR used to be that way when Homestead was the season finale.

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Right about now is where the comments will be filled with something along the lines of, “NASCAR isn’t a stick-and-ball sport,” to which I agree. But the idea of letting drivers experience a track that will then play host to a championship race seems a little unfair, and is begging for a snoozefest in the championship race because one of the contending drivers has the track figured out from the spring.

I get it. Track conditions are wildly different between the second weekend of March and the first weekend of November. So? If a driver is good at a track, he’s good at a track.

A perfect example for this scenario would be Kevin Harvick, the winner of a Phoenix race nine different times. If Harvick were to win the spring race and then make the Championship 4, people might change the channel. On top of his skill at that circuit, he and his team would have data from the spring that would almost make their advantage unfair.

Not to mention, Phoenix could benefit from selling out every NASCAR race it hosts if it just runs one weekend’s worth of races. We’ve seen it with other tracks that move from two race dates to one: More tickets get sold because it’s now a one-weekend only event instead of fans getting a choice of which race to go to. From a ticket sales standpoint, a move to just one race could make sense.

But with Auto Club Speedway not on the schedule for 2024, the removal of a Phoenix race would mean NASCAR has to find two tracks to fill the schedule, and since the idea of a “West Coast Swing” is somehow still relevant in NASCAR’s eyes, finding two west coast races to keep that concept alive would be difficult. However, we’ve seen tracks like Portland International Raceway that could be viable replacements for one track, and maybe another short track like Irwindale Speedway is added to the schedule too. Who knows?

One thing’s for sure: Phoenix only needs Championship Weekend. Otherwise, the potential for advantages and loopholes from the spring race could result in low attendance and low ratings for the championship race.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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What on Earth are you on about? How exactly is it unfair if ALL of the drivers get to run the track twice?

Your other point about attendance sounds reasonable as long as you ignore the fact that unless there is rain in the forecast Phoenix either sells out or nearly sells out both races every year!

Look ,I get it. I blog too and coming up with new stuff to write about gets difficult. But logically impaired nonsense like this really isn’t the way to do it.


Agreed. This site seems to value quantity over quality. Two of the articles posted today are arguing points that aren’t up for debate. Not one breath needs to be wasted on whether Elliot gets his waiver or not. And this drivel. Nobody, and I mean nobody ever said “gee, one of the reasons having the championship at Homestead is so great is they only go there once a year.” And nobody ever complained about going to Atlanta twice when the championship was held there.


WTF are you talking about. I guess you really don’t have a clue do you and this article proves it. You don’t think that teams have books on each track? Oh, wait they have the info readily available. Wow, just wow on a comment and article like this. Oh, and I love your champion ship four BS, NOT.

Bill B

Doesn’t really matter where they run the final race, the fact that one race ultimately decides the champion is a bigger issue. Since whoever gets off pit road on the final pit stop ends up being the champion why should we care about the track. Add in the fact that all the non-contenders get out of the way of the chosen 4 and it seems silly to worry about the track.


While it has been already argued below that the spring and fall races are in totally different climate, but the “spectacle” aspect of having a final race at a track only visited for the finale was lost when moving from Homestead to Phoenix. The Rose Bowl, Augusta for the Masters, Indy 500 (oval) are examples of what were special events, in part because of the single time use during the entire season. But is the Daytona 500 ‘cheapened’ by the existence of the Firecracker 400? Is the Southern 500 ‘cheapened’ by their spring race?
To me, the season should end with the Daytona 500, but the Playoffs system we are married to makes that ridiculous.

K sutton

Your full of crap!
Dont rain on Phoenix

Frank A

Always been one of my least favorite tracks. Crappy racing there.

Bill B

I’ve also hated the races there because they are short, only 300 miles. Seems the race that should determine the champion should be ” a grueling ordeal that tests the limits of machine and man”. Instead we get a 300 mile sprint to the finish.

Kevin in SoCal

Definitely agree, the last race should be 400 miles, but AZ like calling it a 500 kilometer race for whatever reason.

Mike Kalasnik

I’d say its fair to everyone since everyone gets to run there. I believe Atlanta was run 2x in a year when that was the final race. Yet is it really “fair” that you collect points all season up until the last race and then its just whomever finishes ahead of the other 3?

The race is usually uneventful unlike Homestead. But the track seems to fill the stands so, I doubt its going anywhere.


The biggest problem with the championship being there is the racing is no good on that track.

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