Iowa Speedway deserves a NASCAR Cup Series race.
I’ll get that out of the way.
The 7/8th-mile short track in Newton, Iowa, co-founded and designed by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, should have gotten a visit from a full field of the sport’s best — rather than via teases from Busch whackers — a long time ago.
On Tuesday (Oct. 3), it became a reality when NASCAR and the state of Iowa announced next year’s Cup race set for June 16.
The track became the latest facility from NASCAR’s boom era that was initially overlooked for a Cup date to finally be rewarded one-two decades later.
Fans who supported the track from its inception should be excited. I’m happy for them, and I hope to get to cover that race.
Yes, there’s a “but.”
The Iowa news slightly dampened my already-reserved expectations for the 2023 Cup schedule.
By all indications from those I respect, Iowa getting a Cup date 18 years after it opened in 2006 only happened because of something that didn’t.
Unless there’s a surprise — and I hope to be surprised — the rumored trip north of the border to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal isn’t on the table for 2024.
That means we’ll have to wait even longer for the Cup Series’ first International race of any kind since the last of three exhibition races in Japan 25 years ago in 1998.
It would also be the first NASCAR national series other than the Craftsman Truck Series to race on foreign soil since the NASCAR Xfinity Series last competed at Montreal in 2012.
Showing off NASCAR’s premiere series to foreign audiences should, to me, be a priority over finally sending Cup to Iowa, where it will likely be competing to attract an audience from the same geographic bucket that a second Chicago Street Course race and the third trip to St. Louis (World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway) would be in the same window on the calendar.
Though, Iowa would admittedly get a bump for being an inaugural event.
A possible trip to Montreal going poof isn’t the only reason I’m now tempering my expectations for the 2024 Cup schedule.
First, let’s turn back the clock to 12 months ago.
The setting: the Sports Business Journal World Congress.
The person: NASCAR President Steve Phelps.
The subject: the 2024 schedule.
The 2024 schedule would “probably be the most aggressive schedule that we’ve ever had in terms of continued schedule variation.”
Since Phelps said that, here’s some of what’s been solidified about next year:
The Busch Clash at the L.A. Coliseum will return for a third year: status quo, but still aggressive.
The Bristol Dirt Race experiment is over: retraction.
The Chicago Street Course is coming back (?)
The All-Star Race will be held on a repaved North Wilkesboro Speedway: status quo, but a facility upgrade.
The Brickyard 400 will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval after three years spent on the track’s road course: retraction, but hopefully the Next Gen car will deliver a good race.
After rumors that maybe its tenure was also coming to an end, Marcus Smith appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Tuesday and said Speedway Motorsports is “committed” to the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL — which will be used for the sixth time this weekend: status quo.
In addition to all that, with the Olympics being held next year, a rumor popped up that a doubleheader could be in the works due to there being two consecutive off weeks in the summer. That rumor has since quieted down.
When you add up what we know, one new — but familiar — track, the removal of Bristol dirt and a few experiments sticking around doesn’t necessarily feel “aggressive.” At least it’s not a full reversion to the 2019 schedule.
In fairness to Phelps, a lot can change in 12 months.
And again, I’m hoping for some surprises once the schedule drops (which could be today).
Though, I would avoid making such schedule declarations so far in advance.
You don’t want to be like Disney and the Star Wars franchise.
One day you’re hyping up a much anticipated “Rogue Squadron” movie, complete with a fancy video including director Patty Jenkins and an X-wing starfighter.
Then, two years later, said movie is quietly shelved.
2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com.
The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.
You can email him at email@example.com.
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