Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: If You Build It, They Will Come … Eventually

Aside from a few date changes and Bristol Motor Speedway losing its dirt race for a second concrete race, the 2024 NASCAR schedule for all three of its premier series remains pretty status quo, much to the dejection of some fans who were hoping for a huge shakeup in the schedule, as NASCAR President Steve Phelps said a year ago.

The big shakeup in both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series schedules is the addition (or in the case of Xfinity, return) of Iowa Speedway, a 7/8-mile racetrack in Newton, Iowa, that has been yearning for a Cup date for years.

See also
Iowa Back on NASCAR Schedule

The track was designed by 1989 champion and 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace, who was present at the announcement that Iowa will return. It certainly helps for a track hoping for a Cup date to have a Hall of Famer in your corner to help push NASCAR toward that direction.

The track opened in 2006 and welcomed both the Xfinity and NASCAR Craftsman Truck series beginning in 2009. The racing there was generally favored, specifically by those in the Iowa community who really didn’t have much notable racing in the state outside of Knoxville Raceway.

Iowa has had its eye on a Cup race since the Xfinity and Truck races became a success among the local fans. However, NASCAR didn’t really seem interested in sending its top echelon of racing to the cornfields of Iowa, instead content with keeping the two lower divisions there.

After COVID-19 forced NASCAR to take Iowa off the schedule to work out its scheduling nightmare for the 2020 season, the track did not return to the NASCAR schedule until its triumphant announcement on Oct. 3 that included the Cup Series making its debut at the track.

See also
NASCAR Releases 2024 Cup Schedule

With that, Iowa Speedway, Iowans and even some drivers got their wish — 17 years later.

It’s an unfortunate issue that NASCAR has placed upon itself. Tracks that welcome the Xfinity and/or Truck series are certainly thinking about wanting the Cup Series to compete there, too. But time after time, NASCAR drags its feet or even leaves the track altogether before returning to let the Cup Series race there.

One of the most recent examples of this was World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Having hosted the Xfinity and Truck series since the late 1990s, as well as the NTT IndyCar Series, the track and St. Louis fans had been eyeing a Cup race for a long time. However, NASCAR never pulled the trigger to send the series there.

Instead, in 2010, NASCAR left the track completely following its brief closure in 2010-2011 when demolition was all but certain. The track went under new management in 2011 but could not coax NASCAR to come back until NASCAR tested the waters with an annual Truck race beginning in 2014.

Even then, it took eight years for NASCAR to send the Cup Series to the 1.25-mile venue, with its inaugural race in 2022, 25 years after NASCAR first hit the track in 1997 with the Xfinity Series.

See also
2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series Schedule Revealed

Kentucky Speedway had a similar issue as well. The Xfinity and Truck series competed there regularly after opening in 2001, yet it took a whole decade for NASCAR to send the Cup Series there, which happened in 2011. Cup competed there from 2011 until 2020.

It appears that Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be the same way … eventually. After rumors swirled for months that Montreal could be the track to replace Auto Club Speedway, it fell through in place of Iowa, seemingly all of a sudden. Montreal had hosted the Xfinity Series exclusively from 2007-2012, and now over a decade later it reportedly has a chance to host a Cup race in 2025.

Road America was more or less the same. Competing there since 2010, the Xfinity Series always put on a show, leading locals to want the Cup Series to visit. It took over a decade to get their wish, and even that wish was short lived, as the Cup Series competed there for just two seasons in 2021 and 2022.

Even formerly closed tracks had to claw their way back to relevancy for NASCAR to entertain sending anyone there. Such is the case with North Wilkesboro Speedway and Rockingham Speedway. Both tracks had closed down following 1996 and 2004, respectively. It took years for NASCAR to even pay attention to them.

NASCAR made an attempt to return to Rockingham in 2012 and 2013 by sending the Truck Series there, about which fans were elated and turned out for a third-tier race.

See also
2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Schedule Unveiled

Now Rockingham has been floated around for a potential comeback, just as North Wilkesboro was for a few years before finally returning for the Cup All-Star Race in 2023.

I could go on and on. Nashville Superspeedway? That’s another one. It hosted the Xfinity and Truck series for about a decade, yearning for a Cup date before closing down in 2011, with all hope seemingly lost. Then the track got the funding it needed to come alive again and has hosted all three series since 2021.

Why does NASCAR and its track owners wait so long to send its top echelon to a particular track? Sure, one could argue a track isn’t Cup ready; maybe there isn’t enough seating or parking is a nightmare (the first Cup races at Kentucky and Nashville can back that up). Not to mention, standalone races are great for the sport and give the Xfinity and Truck series their own identities.

Why does NASCAR drag its feet for so long? The sanctioning body can usually tell pretty quickly if the racing in the Xfinity and Truck series is good enough to where the Cup Series can also put on a show there; it shouldn’t take a decade or more.

And what could be next? Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is not returning to the schedule after hosting the Xfinity Series from 2013-2019 and the Truck Series in 2022 and 2023, but that’s likely because the track is getting a repave.

Why is Mid-Ohio repaving at this time? Could it be for a Cup race in the future? After NASCAR spent over a decade sending the lower divisions there, maybe Mid-Ohio is one of the next tracks to finally get a Cup date.

It seems a little weird just how many tracks the Cup Series have now gone to that have essentially had to wait their turn. Iowa isn’t the first, and based on the tracks that NASCAR is rumored to go to, it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

But many would really appreciate it if NASCAR sent the Cup Series to their home track sooner than it normally seems to.

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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Kevin in SoCal

Stand-alone races sound good to the fans, but they’re a logistical and financial nightmare for the teams and the TV crews. Its not easy to haul all that equipment there, set up, and tear down, for what is realistically only 24 hours. Its more sense to have multiple races on the same weekend.

Chris A

Kevin is absolutely correct on this. It cost a small fortune. Get rid of the Clash because it does nothing in California but cost teams a fortune both ways. Also get rid of the Circuit of the Americas and replace that with Rockingham so you could have a Triple Header Weekend.

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