Sorry, everyone, but if you were hoping that NASCAR was going to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Rockingham Speedway or Radiator Springs according to a Joe Gibbs Racing joke tweet, then the 2024 schedule will disappoint you (count me in with the group wanting a Rockingham return).
NASCAR released next year’s schedules for all three national series. While there was plenty of movement with the upcoming schedule, it was pretty tame, a far cry from the “most aggressive schedule” Steve Phelps alluded to in 2022.
Had Phelps not have made these comments, the expectations for the schedule may not have been as high. Remember, NASCAR didn’t make drastic changes to the schedule for eons and eons, as my high school athletic director used to say (maybe not quite that long).
So, without further ado, here is the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Two Bristol concrete races: Kyle Larson got his wish. There will be no dirt race in 2024. That reality is a bit disappointing, as a race on a true dirt track could have a lot of potential, but a return to two Bristol Motor Speedway concrete races will likely be largely applauded.
Of course, there are still unanswered questions about what the Next Gen car can do on short tracks. Plus, can Thunder Valley draw a good crowd for the spring race consistently? Overall, however, one of America’s favorite tracks has two dates on the regular surface once again.
Iowa Speedway: “If you build it, they will come.”
When Rusty Wallace helped design Iowa, his goal was to have Cup races on it one day. 18 years after its opening, it will host just that. The 7/8-mile track was a fixture on rumor mills for years before it seemed that it would never happen. But with Auto Club Speedway on hiatus for a possible reconfiguration and Montreal falling through, the opportunity opened.
“But Iowa is a short track.” Iowa may fall under the short track category, but its racing is much different from a place like Martinsville Speedway or Phoenix Raceway. It presents multiple racing grooves along with tire fall-off. NASCAR also made it a day-to-night transition race, adding more intrigue to the race. I like this move.
Playoffs at The Glen: That’s right, Watkins Glen International is coming to the playoffs. This also should appeal to fans looking to attend the race, as New York weather in September is typically beautiful. As far as racing goes, we get a true road course in the playoffs as well.
I’m far from the first guy who wants more road courses or multiple road races in the playoffs (more on that later). But if there is going to be such a track in the playoffs, which I believe there should be, then Watkins Glen deserves it. The strategy and speed of the track should make for some interesting storylines in the Round of 16.
Richmond under the stars: Remember how I said preferences are affected by location? Here is where my Virginia boy feelings come in. As someone who has attended night races at Richmond since the first grade, NASCAR stripping Richmond of a night race was tough. Now, not only is one back, they’re both back.
Richmond falls into two categories in this, but the fact that night racing returned to a track that hosted it for so long is a good step. The track saw some progress in its races with the Next Gen car, and the short track package will very likely be updated for next season. The question will be if Richmond can return to its former glory once again.
Chaos, chaos everywhere: I absolutely agreed with Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he said Atlanta Motor Speedway was the hottest ticket in his book. The new-look Atlanta quelled many doubts this year, especially with the summer race. That being said, should it be in the playoffs? I wouldn’t be against Atlanta in the playoffs if Talladega Superspeedway wasn’t there already. Put me in the crowd who enjoys superspeedways, but there is also a literal price to pay for destruction.
With Atlanta opening the playoffs, there will be three superspeedway races in seven weeks. My larger concern is the playoff picture. The playoffs already receive enough criticism for entertainment rather than rewarding a full-season champion. What happens if a title favorite is wiped out at Atlanta? Execution is vital in the playoffs, but drivers can only control so much at a superspeedway. Atlanta deserves two dates, just not in the playoffs with another drafting track.
Sonoma stays put: With Auto Club’s temporary (hopefully) absence, the West Coast swing goes with it in 2024. Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway remain back-to-back, but the three-week stay is no more. However, this was the perfect opportunity to shift Sonoma Raceway to that section. Instead, NASCAR kept it in June. My lone problem with this surrounds the facility itself. Search for a picture of Sonoma in March versus June, and let the photos speak for themselves.
The Labor Day effect: Put this in the category of unfortunate timing. It’s moreso the circumstances of the Olympic dates than NASCAR’s scheduling that lands Darlington Raceway in this section. The track should undoubtedly carry much intensity and intrigue in its new role as the regular season finale host.
Still, there is some pain to the fact that a track that embodied many of the characteristics of the playoffs will not get to do so again next year. I do applaud NASCAR for keeping Darlington with its Labor Day weekend tradition, but I sure do hate to see it leave the playoffs.
Roll on ROVAL: Speculation had been that the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL would be replaced with the oval layout. Two years ago, that may have been unwelcomed. However, with the classics the Next Gen car has provided the Coca-Cola 600, as well as improvements on many intermediates, this was a missed opportunity.
The ROVAL was a fun experiment, but with the unproductive road course racing of the Next Gen car and staleness over time, it has run its course. Plus, two road courses during the playoffs carry some of the same issues the superspeedways do.
Easter tradition broken again: Listen, I’m not so much against breaking tradition as I am reading the room. Teams will get two off weeks in 2024, but they are consecutive and won’t arrive until August. That makes a schedule that many have cited as grueling even more strenuous. Additionally, many within the motorsports circle want to observe Easter by attending church and spending time with their families. Richmond is only four hours away from Charlotte, but this needs to be a break.
Welcome to normalcy, Daytona: By keeping Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend and moving Atlanta to the playoffs, Daytona was pushed back to become the penultimate race of the regular season. There will still be a level of desperation and intensity, but the race doesn’t feel as special.
What made Daytona stand out before was its longstanding spot as the Fourth of July race. When that got moved to the regular season finale, it took time, but it was finally settling in as an epic track to set up the playoff field. Now, there really isn’t much that separates it from other races other than the drama it still provides.
Dryness in the desert: It has been known for months that Phoenix will host Championship Weekend again in 2024. That still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Phoenix has done a tremendous job of making it a facility to welcome many fans and host the title races. Despite this, the championship race has been dull as far as Cup is concerned. In three attempts thus far, none have been instant classics. Add in the Next Gen struggles and the racing has not fit the bill. If this year is no different, then a new venue in 2025 needs to be booked.
There is plenty I could go into. Saturday night Cup action continues to be rare, with only two such events again in 2024. The return to the Indianapolis oval needed to happen, but will it last? Will Chicago hold to its commitment with NASCAR through January?
Ask a group of fans about their schedule reactions and you will get more answers than at a Bill Belichick press conference. What it all boils down to is how these moves will shape up over 2024.
About the author
Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for the majority of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over "The Underdog House" column in 2021. In addition to being a college junior, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, racing go-karts, and helping at his high school alma mater.
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