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Fire on Fridays: 5 Ways NASCAR Could Shake Up the 2024 Schedule

Earlier this week, FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass tweeted that the 2024 NASCAR schedule is still likely around two-three weeks out from being released, dropping some hints as to what might be expected when it is released.

The fact that the schedule is being released later and later is a problem of its own. The schedule used to be released in early to mid-August, and because of NASCAR’s efforts to shake up the schedule in recent years, we are now at the point where the schedule will be released in late September to early October.

Why is NASCAR waiting so long to figure out scheduling? One would think that once the checkered flag flies on the Daytona 500, NASCAR is already trying to figure out the next year’s schedule. If Formula 1 and IMSA can release their schedules in the middle of the summer, NASCAR should be able to at least release the Cup schedule around that time as well.

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Nevertheless, with NASCAR’s commendable effort to diversify the schedule, everyone wants to speculate on what it should or shouldn’t add to the schedule. Here are five bold changes NASCAR should make to the 2024 schedule.

1. Move Sonoma Raceway Up to the West Coast Swing; Fill Its Summer Date with an International Race

Auto Club Speedway has essentially gone inactive after its 2023 race. There are plans to convert it to a short track, so it wouldn’t have been ready for 2024 anyway. But my colleague Stephen Stumpf snapped a picture of the track from one of his flights, and there has been minimal progress on its conversion.

Auto Club was the third and final leg of the annual West Coast Swing that NASCAR would travel to after the Daytona 500. If NASCAR wants to keep that tradition intact, Sonoma Raceway would be the perfect option to fill Auto Club’s shoes. Not only would it give NASCAR an early road course, it encourages strategic setups for teams who don’t make the journey all the way back to Charlotte in-between West Coast races.

Not to mention, Sonoma in the spring is arguably much more beautiful than what we see on TV in its current summer slot. That dirt and dust that surrounds the pavement is actually grass in the spring thanks to the cool rains that hit the area.

And NASCAR has now proven that rain tires are a possibility at road courses, something that was up in the air until around 2018 or so. So there’s no sense in keeping Sonoma where its at now when it could be logistically possible to race there in the spring. Plus it will keep fans and drivers from sweltering in the California summer heat.

So what better time to try an international race than the early summertime? Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal is rumored to be the leading option for an international race, but Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, could be a nice secondary option based on prior Craftsman Truck Series races there.

Or even a race in Mexico.

Mexico City is home to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, where the NASCAR Xfinity Series used to compete. With NASCAR having a full-time Cup Series driver from Mexico in Daniel Suarez and no full-time current Cup driver from Canada, I think it would be cooler to give Suarez a home track on the schedule.

2. If the Chicago Street Course is Returning, Send the Lower Series to Chicagoland Speedway

Following some great racing in its final years, some fans have been requesting for Chicagoland Speedway to return. While NASCAR is currently contracted to run the Chicago street course and may not be ready to commit to a Chicagoland return, perhaps it can test the market by sending the Xfinity and Truck series to the 1.5-mile circuit in Joliet, Illinois.

Similar to the Truck Series competing at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park while the Xfinity and Cup series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this could give NASCAR an idea of how the racing is at Chicagoland and what the attendance would look like, especially for lower series racing. Plus, any Cup teams who pit the Xfinity and Truck series teams don’t have to drive far to do that if the all three races are in the same weekend — it’s only an hour between the street course and the speedway.

In the same vein, it gives the Xfinity and Truck series their day(s) in the sun, which leads me to my next point.

3. Diversify the Schedule with More Standalone Races for Xfinity and Truck Series

NASCAR could kill two birds with one stone: Put more tracks on the NASCAR schedule by sending the Xfinity and Truck Series to different racetracks than the Cup Series.

When you spread the three series throughout the United States, not only does the respective series get more recognition, but the state/track its competing in gets more attention. For example, I love the Truck Series having standalone races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (no, not because I’m an Ohio native … OK, maybe a little bit) because it’s the lone NASCAR premier series race in the state of Ohio. Same with Xfinity competing at Portland International Raceway in Oregon.

But I think NASCAR can amp it up a little bit. Instead of giving the two lower series a second date at some tracks, why not spread the love a little bit? Send Xfinity back to Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado. Have the Truck Series compete at Evergreen Speedway in Washington as a companion race with the ARCA Menards Series West. Send both series back to Iowa Speedway — make that a companion race weekend with the NTT IndyCar Series.

Or what about another companion race with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut? How about giving the Xfinity Series a dirt race at Fonda Speedway in New York? There are so many different options that NASCAR could try to work with. Sure, some tracks need some work to be ready for a national NASCAR series to invade, but standalone races can help give the Xfinity and Truck Series their own identities.

Diversifying the NASCAR schedule can also give NASCAR insight into whether or not a Cup race could work at a respective track down the road. It also can help eliminate some of the Cup drivers Busch-whacking the lower series, something that some fans wish to see less of.

At the very least, can we get rid of the non-competitive pit stops at standalone races? I’m not a fan. But that’s a story for another time.

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4. Ditch Texas Motor Speedway and Spring Bristol Motor Speedway Races For North Wilkesboro Speedway and Rockingham Speedway

One of the rumors that has circulated is that North Wilkesboro Speedway will receive a points-paying race at the expense of the spring race date at Bristol Motor Speedway, which I’m okay with. Bristol’s spring race has long been a conflict of interest with attendance, and despite the move to dirt, attendance is still nowhere near where it is for its summer/playoff race.

But another track that should make a points-paying return is Rockingham Speedway. Some people have called for Rockingham to be the site of the 2024 All-Star Race, but I believe it deserves a spot as a regular season or playoff race.

But in order for that to happen, what track would lose a date?

Texas Motor Speedway has not been a site for good racing really since its first year of competition. It was arguably a great site for the NTT IndyCar Series, but then the repave in 2017 combined with the addition of PJ1 on the racetrack has made the track a one-groove parade in both series.

Texas was already on older fans’ hate list because it was given a date at the expense of the abandonment of North Wilkesboro. North Wilkesboro got its karma on the track by stealing its All-Star Race, which produced wildly uneventful racing at Texas in the two years it was held there, and that seemed to be the final straw for fans on Texas. The track can barely hold a solid attendance figure based on crowd size at the track, so it might be time to ditch it altogether.

If the 2012-13 Truck Series races at Rockingham were any indication, as well as the final Cup race there in 2004 (a photo finish between Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne), a return to the 1.017-mile track could be greatly welcomed.

But what about the All-Star Race? Where should that be?

5. Move the All-Star Race to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Give Bowman-Gray Stadium the Clash

What better place for NASCAR’s all-stars to compete than in a city full of stars? The LA Coliseum could be a great venue for the race. The current Clash format at the Coliseum is similar to the All-Star Race format, just tweak it a little bit to what the current All-Star Open/Race format is now: All non-winners in the Open, the two stage winners plus the fan vote move on to the All-Star Race, which would consist of previous season and current season winners plus former All-Star winners and series champions.

Meanwhile, let’s move the Clash closer to home. Bowman-Gray Stadium is just an hour up the road from where most teams are based in Charlotte. For the exhibition race, take all pole winners and previous Clash winners and put ’em on the quarter-mile for 150 laps in a knockdown, drag-out affair on a Saturday night. It saves teams money on travel for an exhibition race and allows more team members that don’t travel weekly to come watch their driver race.

Some of these ideas are pure fantasy, while others could be very realistic. But NASCAR has shown in recent years that it wants to be bold in its schedule, straying away from what its schedule looked like throughout the 2000s and 2010s. If it really wants to be bold, maybe there are some ideas it could glean from to make the 2024 schedule one unlike any other.

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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John

Texas is exploding in population now and the northwest corner of Dallas/Fort Worth looks like a contractor’s paradise. That huge chunk of land is right in the middle of a booming residential area. I’m guessing the condos that overlook turn 2 could become a risky investment. I’ve been to both and IndyCar and Cup race there and its a great venue with a huge population center to draw from. They need to grind that PJ1 slime off the track at a minimum. Certainly, this summer the track has had an opportunity to “heat age.” This track requires the attention of the Smith family as the profit potential far outweighs North Wilkesboro or Nashville Fairgrounds or The Rock (which suffered from being in a poor area with no supporting infrastructure. I don’t know if that has improved.
Armadillo races won’t bring in the fans, but maybe Kyle Larson at a World of Outlaws race on their beautiful dirt track on Friday night could bring in some local interest. Let’s hope this doesn’t become another Texas World Speedway.

DoninAjax

They could schedule the East Coast events to get the green flag at 1:00 PM EST!

Echo

But that would make sense.

Terrence

Change the Stage Racing format. First two rounds combine for 50% of the race, with Stage 3 being the final 50%. If an odd number of laps are required for the official race length, extend the third stage by 1 lap.
Race 400 laps
1. 100 laps
2. 100 laps
3. 200 laps

If it is 401 laps then stage 3 is 201.
First stage is started by qualifying position.
Yellow flag denotes period between round 1&2.
Second stage by finishing position in first. After second stage, RED FLAG.
Red flag rules apply in the pits.
Give all teams 1 minute to fuel and change tires, make repairs, or adjustments.
Stage 3 lines up according to the number of points accrued in the race thus far. Any ties between teams positions are determined by qualifying position. The better you qualify, the more ties get adjudicated in your favor.
The aim here is to reengage the pit crew into the race more than they are now, without disrupting the fan experience.

Bill B

You lost me on the red flag at the end of stage two.
You mean,,,, like a half-time?
No thanks.

Most would like to see the cautions at the end of the stages disappear.

DoninAjax

So basically there are three “races” and the fans “experience” an example of Brian’s product but not a real “race” without the TV time outs and control tower breaks for extra commercials.

Don Edwards

They need to not have yellow flags at the end of stages. All they do is more yellow flags. It seems at ever restart there is a wreck. Also your penalizing fast cars. Don E

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