With the 2023 CARS Tour season in the rear view mirror, attention now turns to what’s ahead.
As the offseason progresses, many questions are still yet to be answered for 2024.
One thing we know is that Solid Rock Carriers will no longer be the title sponsor. So now questions about who will replace it have begun to swirl.
We also know that silly season is in full swing, with the championship-contending duo of Carson Kvapil and Brenden Queen already announcing they will be back with their respective teams. There were also the announcements that Connor Hall will move over to the Nelson Motorsports No. 22 and Landon Huffman will make the move to Jimmy Mooring Racing for the 2024 season.
However, possibly the biggest question still yet to be answered is that of the 2024 schedule. With it now being over a week past the typical championship weekend release date, many have begun to wonder what is taking so long and what should we expect when the schedule finally is announced.
The schedule release being delayed has been a head scratcher to some. In years past, the schedule for the next season had been released around the weekend of the final race of the current season — at least over the past couple of years. The 2023 schedule was announced four days after the final race of the season last year. In 2021, the schedule for 2022 was announced on the day of the last race of the season.
Leading up to the end of the season, the general assumption was that we would see more of the same this year, with the 2024 schedule being released around the weekend of the North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway. But that was not the case. So what could be the cause of this?
The most obvious answer is the influence of the new series Executive Director Kip Childress. Childress is a longtime veteran of the motorsports industry who most recently worked various officiating roles in NASCAR over the past 14 seasons. With the knowledge Childress holds from working in the biggest motorsports industry in the country, there’s no doubt that he is influencing the timetable of the series’ new schedule, most notably by not wanting to compete with NASCAR.
The idea that the series doesn’t want to compete directly against NASCAR and rather work with it is nothing new, especially with the new ownership group consisting of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Justin Marks. However, with Childress having the particular experience he does with NASCAR, he can help the series better align its schedule compared to NASCAR’s and lead to more success in the future.
If that is the case, that means plans were most likely not starting to come together until after the release of NASCAR’s schedule in order to see what changes would be made in that aspect. That way it could see where the CARS Tour could possibly work with NASCAR as well as where it needed to avoid scheduling a competing race that could hurt the viewership, both in person and in the streaming numbers on FloRacing.
With the extra time being taken on the schedule, what should we expect when the schedule finally does come out? What should we expect to be on it?
Well for starters, we know for sure that the Tour will return to North Wilkesboro Speedway on the Wednesday before the NASCAR All-Star Race (Sunday, May 19) as part of NASCAR’s week-long All-Star festivities at the legendary short track. Both the Pro Late Models and Late Model Stock Cars are set to return following massive fields of cars for both series in 2023.
From there, nothing else is 100% set. But there are some things that just happen to be tradition and most likely won’t change.
One of those is the second date at Hickory Motor Speedway, which has been the home of the Tour’s throwback race since the inception of the idea. The second Hickory race has been scheduled in the last days of July/first week of August since 2017 for the first throwback event and should once again take its late summer spot on the calendar.
Speaking of summer, the “Virginia in June” trip to Langley Speedway and Dominion Raceway should also hold its traditional spots on the calendar barring any unforeseen changes. Since the two tracks made their debut with the series back in 2019, they’ve had back-to-back spots in the middle of June every season, minus the COVID-19-riddled 2020 season.
Finally, if the trends keep trending, then the series will be headed to Southern National Motorsports Park for the season opener in 2024. Southern National was the very first track that the series visited back in 2015 and was once again the season opener for the 2016 season.
SNMP was then absent from the series for both 2017 and ’18 before returning to the season-opener spot in 2019 and ’20. The track was once again missing from the schedule in 2021 and ’22 before opening the 2023 season, meaning the series should once again be headed there for the 2024 opener if the trend holds up.
Now that we’ve established what should stay the same, what could change? Both the New River All-American Speedway date and the first trip to Caraway could have new spots on the schedule in 2024. The rumor circulating around New River is that the track would like to return to the April spot on the schedule that it once held rather than the early September spot that the track had this year.
As for Caraway, the return of a midweek event is certainly not off the table at all, but the date could change due to the scheduling of the Virginia Triple Crown event at South Boston Speedway. Many teams weren’t happy this past year about having to race on a weeknight just days before one of their biggest races of the season, so the team’s influence could lead to a change in dates for Caraway.
Another race that could potentially change spots is the Tour’s trip to Florence Motor Speedway in South Carolina. It’s already been discussed how Childress’ NASCAR effect could influence changes in the series, and Florence presents a perfect opportunity for the series to replicate its success at North Wilkesboro and work hand-in-hand with NASCAR.
Florence already hosts Prelude to Darlington Raceway events on the weekends of both NASCAR weekends at Darlington, and Florence sits less than 20 minutes south of the big track. The Southern 500 weekend is home to the Locked-In 150 event that sets the pole for the South Carolina 400 at Florence, but the spring date doesn’t exactly hold any significance. This is all speculation, but the opportunity is there for the CARS Tour to take over that date and draw a big crowd both in the stands and on the entry list.
Another big one that everyone would like to know is which track will host the Old North State Nationals in 2024, the CARS Tour’s highest-paying race of the season by far. This decision most likely comes down to the status of Orange County Speedway in 2024.
Should Orange County return to the schedule in 2024, then it could very well regain the race simply due to the fact that it was the original host of the event. However, negotiations between the series and the track haven’t always gone to plan in the past, and if Orange County doesn’t return, then the race most likely returns to Tri-County Speedway in 2024.
Finally, there have been rumblings of one major addition to the schedule that is certain to catch the attention of many, so what could that possibly be? Well with a little reading between the lines, hints can be found from one of the series very own, and the big surprise could possibly be a Pro Late Model race at Martinsville Speedway.
Upfront, this seems crazy, especially considering the somewhat second-tier nature of the Pro Late Models compared to the Late Model Stock Cars. And there have been zero hints given out by series officials, as this big announcement has been kept top secret by many.
However, anyone who listens to the Dale Jr. Download knows that one of the series’ owners, Earnhardt himself, has brought this idea up multiple times on many occasions. Earnhardt has said for quite some time that he’d like the Pro Late Models to have its own big event to the caliber of the Old North State Nationals, and we just might get it in 2024.
Much of this is simply speculation, and in fact only one of these races has even been confirmed, that being the aforementioned North Wilkesboro event on NASCAR All-Star week. The series could release the schedule at any point and time, and only then will we have the true answers as to where the series will be 100% headed in 2024.
But for now, a little bit of educated guessing never hurt anyone.
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