Race Weekend Central

Cup Drivers React to the 2024 Schedule

CONCORD, N.C. – After a long and anxious wait, the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule was unveiled to the public on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

The biggest change was the addition of Iowa Speedway, which will replace the departing Auto Club Speedway. Iowa will be run on Father’s Day, which was the lone off weekend in the 2023 schedule. The Cup teams won’t have a break until mid-July, but they will have a full two weeks off as NBC covers the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

There were rumors that, due to the extended Olympic break, a track like Richmond Raceway could host a doubleheader. That did not come to fruition, and the season finale at Phoenix Raceway – which was originally announced for Nov. 3 – will instead be run on Nov. 10.

The extra week pushed back to the start of the playoffs, and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway will serve as the regular season finale after serving as the playoff opener in 2023.

Atlanta Motor Speedway will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, while Watkins Glen International will make its playoffs debut. They replace the aforementioned Darlington and Texas Motor Speedway, the latter of which will return to April for the first time since 2019.

See also
Bullpen Roundup: What Cup Drivers Had to Say Before the Charlotte ROVAL

There were reports that the Cup Series would make its debut at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, but that deal fell through at the last minute. The Cup schedule will ultimately lose a road course after returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, but the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL survived the cuts to be featured on the schedule for a seventh-straight year in 2024.

A hot topic during Saturday’s (Oct. 7) media availabilities was the aforementioned schedule changes. Here’s what Cup drivers had to say on the matters:

Cup Debut of Iowa

Martin Truex Jr.: “Based on what I’ve seen there over the years, I think it’ll be a really good place. I still think we need to fix the short track package, but that’s another story for another day. …

“It’s like, I’ve never been there. I tested there once back in like 2007, but I’ve watched a lot of races there and it looks like a really good racetrack.”

Chris Buescher: “I’ve been waiting for that announcement for 10 years, I feel like. So, I’m pumped about that one, I think that would be great. I know [the surface] is significantly rougher than it was when I was there in the past, and that was seven to eight years ago. So, certainly going to be a lot different than I remember. …

“Fun track, it’s put on some really good racing. Loved it back then, fans turn out in massive numbers there, they always have for whatever race that’s going on. So, I think that’s a home run. I’m really excited about that one, I think that’d be really neat. I feel like that’s been a track that’s been deserving of a date for a long time.”

Atlanta & Watkins Glen in the Playoffs

Kyle Busch: “I mean, [the Round of 16] is unique. There’s a lot going on right there. So, Atlanta, kind of a crapshoot speedway race but Watkins Glen, road course, you know, we run fairly well at the road courses. And Bristol this year was a struggle, but it’s my favorite track. So, [it] should be fun.”

Joey Logano: “I don’t know if I agree with putting two superspeedways (Atlanta and Talladega) in the playoffs.”

Michael McDowell: “Yeah, I mean, really just the way that the rounds kind of play out there are really good, we have a road course in each one and then having Atlanta and having some superspeedways mixed in there, it’s obviously good for us too.

Ty Gibbs: “I honestly haven’t really sat down and had a good look at it. There were some changes for the first round of the playoffs, but I’m sure that NASCAR is making the right calls on that.”

Ross Chastain: “Honestly, I just glanced at [the playoff schedule]. I didn’t look into it enough to really speak on it. I did see that there was Atlanta in the playoffs, but other than that, I think I need a little bit more time to download all that.”

Erik Jones: “[Round of 16] makes it tough, it’s tough on a team, tough on a driver. But it’s exciting. I mean, the championship is supposed to – at the end of the day – be about versatility, and if you can get through that round with those two tracks in there, I feel like you’ve shown you’re probably a contender.”

Martin Truex Jr. (in response to Denny Hamlin’s comments about the new Round of 16 testing luck rather than skill): “Yeah, I think there’s something to that. Certainly, there’s guys that are really good at superspeedway racing, and they seem to make their luck a little bit better than others. But I mean, anyone can cause the Big One. So yeah, for sure. It’s definitely a wild card.”

Return of the ROVAL for 2024

Christopher Bell: “I’m disappointed.”

Austin Cindric: “You know, I think you would expect my answer to be different, but I think that the oval has put on some really great racing. The Coke 600 the last couple of times has a lot of usable lanes. So, I would say that’s probably favored, but [the ROVAL] is a unique track on the schedule. It obviously provides race fans in the Charlotte area something different to watch through both events throughout the year. So, I’d say there’s pros and cons. But you know, for this car, I think we put on some really great racing on the oval.”

Kyle Larson (in response to whether he hated the ROVAL after a practice crash): “I don’t know. I mean, I don’t really like the oval. … But yeah, [the ROVAL] is a tough place and I’ve had some mistakes here I guess, but it’s still a fun place, I enjoy coming to it.

Ty Gibbs: “I think it’s good going and doing the road course. But honestly, I really like the [Charlotte] oval a lot. But sometimes, it’s having two of the same races back-to-back. You know, every year … everybody gets a little bit used to it. So, having a roval and keeping it a little bit different is cool.”

Olympic Break & Schedule Shifts

Kyle Busch: I think it is important, as NASCAR said, to keep the Darlington race on Labor Day. So, that was a good move. Just the Olympics kind of messed everything up, you know? So, I look forward to the two-week break. That’s another positive, so we’ll take that too.”

Future of NASCAR Racing in Canada

Austin Cindric: “I love racing in Canada, I’ve always loved racing in Canada. Canadian race fans are really passionate and usually very well informed. It’s reminded me of when I’ve raced in Australia as well. So yeah, I think it’d be really cool to have a Cup race there in the future. I’ve never raced in Montreal; I actually went to the F1 race last year during the off week. But yeah, I think it that would be something really cool in the future.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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