By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
NASCAR did not make as many bold moves for its 2022 NASCAR Cup Series plan as in 2021, but the moves it made will focus on the goal of keeping the schedule fresh and a new responsibility for racing primarily on Sundays.
The biggest change comes in the previously announced preseason event, where Busch Clash is being moved from the Daytona International Speedway to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
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Here are the key changes for the regular season 2022:
NASCAR has added a race at St. Louis Market at the World Wide Technology Raceway, commonly known as the Gateway. It is a 1.25 mile long asphalt track across the river in Madison, Illinois.
– The Gateway race comes from Pocono Raceway, which had two cup races in one weekend for each of the 2020 and 2021 seasons. It will now have a Cup race. The Gateway event takes place on June 5th.
– NASCAR has only three Saturday night races (there were four scheduled for 2021), while the rest of the Cup events will be on Sundays. Richmond’s downhill run, which was in the playoffs, will be a Sunday afternoon run in August.
– Among these Sunday races, there will be an event on Easter Sunday where the Bristol dirt race runs in prime time.
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The switch to Easter Day may be the most controversial of moves, as NASCAR has typically avoided the solemn holiday weekend. Racing at night should allow for possibly better track conditions, but why not Saturday night instead of Sunday?
“[It] will be something very special to have a lot of families who are at home, hanging out with each other, the ability to get together and line up for a NASCAR race or get out to Bristol for Easter Day – I really think will give a special event, “said NASCAR Vice President Ben Kennedy.
Kennedy said NASCAR feels that Sundays are the best for NASCAR events. After experimenting with some midweek races in 2020 and the Pocono doubles in Cup races on back-to-back days in 2020 and 2021, NASCAR did not see a rating increase for non-Sunday events.
It was part of the decision to take a trophy run from the Pocono doubleheader weekend.
“Our fans and I are used to turning on the television on Sunday afternoon and expecting NASCAR races,” Kennedy said. “And they like to go out on the field, watch their truck series, the Xfinity series lead into their Cup series as the biggest, big event on Sunday.
“We felt it was important for us to really get back on Sundays where we could, and I don’t think that was the whole reason for our decision, but it was definitely something that went into our calculation when we thought about Pocono [and] just double heads in general too. “
NASCAR has also juggled some of the playoffs:
First round: Darlington-Kansas-Bristol. Kansas moves from third round to first round and replaces Richmond moving to the regular season.
Second round: Texas-Talladega-Charlotte roadway. Texas moves from third round to second round and replaces Vegas in that round.
Third round: Las Vegas-Homestead-Martinsville. Vegas moves from second round to third round, replacing Texas in that round; Homestead moves from the regular season to the third round and replaces Kansas in that round.
The championship remains in Phoenix.
“We felt it was an opportunity to update the playoffs, but we didn’t want to change the landscape completely,” Kennedy said. “That said, as Miami is a great racing product for us, the Miami market is a big market for us. … [The cutoff races] all performed really well and got a lot of positive feedback from fans and industry.
“We would keep them intact, but also continue to update and keep the schedule new.”
The switch to Gateway comes in the middle of NASCAR, which has closed Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., And no longer has national convention car events at its Iowa Speedway — so to go to St. Louis. Louis helps with the market in the Midwest.
“How strong the fan base in the Midwest is … we will continue to keep them entertained and give them racing action that they can get to,” Kennedy said. “It was definitely part of the calculation and the decision we had. We’re really happy to go there.”
The race on the Gateway comes from Pocono, and for the first time in decades, NASCAR moved a sanction deal to a new location without it being part of a deal with the track that lost a race. Next year, a Cup race is approx.
Gateway owner Curtis Francois bought the plant, which typically had Xfinity and truck races from Dover Motorsports about 10 years ago and has revised the complex, including a repave and SAFER Barriers for the asphalt oval. It’s had a NASCAR truck race for the last eight years. It has also hosted the best IndyCar series on the track as well as the best NHRA series on its drag strip, showing that it can host top-level racing events in a market that is also home to one of NASCAR’s biggest sponsors, Anheuser -Busch.
“We will invest every new dollar that comes into the facility,” Francois said. “This is about making St. Louis is proud to host the Cup race and make sure the fans’ experiences here are the best they can be on the racetrack.
“We are certainly very proud of what we have done here, but we have come here by making investments in the field and will continue to do so.”
Kennedy said taking a race from the Poconos was a product of NASCAR that would go to more markets.
“Ultimately, some of these new numbers we’re going for, the dates have to come from somewhere,” he said. “In this case, it was Pocono.”
NASCAR may try to compensate for taking a Pocono race by adding a New York race in future seasons. It explored racing on the Meadowlands to give the New York City market an event. But that deal did not materialize, nor has NASCAR sought to hold an event on the streets of Chicago. They would both be part of NASCAR’s vision to expand its reach as well as racing in new venues.
“We have had a few conversations there [with the Meadowlands]”Kennedy said.” Very tentative and I’m not sure what can happen there at all. But I really think we’re still thinking about some of these new markets and think Los Angeles is a good example of that – a really strong market for us, and one we want to be in.
“The New York market is also really strong. And Chicago on top of that. We’re going to continue to explore all of our options that are out there and ultimately see what turns into something.”
Some other notable elements of the chart:
-There is only one free week coming between the FOX and NBC parts of the schedule in mid-June. The FOX season opens with the preseason event at the LA Coliseum and ends with the race at Sonoma. The NBC section begins with Nashville in late June and runs through the finals in Phoenix.
– The Circuit of the Americas race moves from the end of May to the end of March.
-All-Star Race remains in Texas, but moves back to its traditional weekend, the week before Memorial Day weekend.
NASCAR is announcing its truck and Xfinity schedule in a few weeks, Kennedy said.
2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule
February 6: Clash at the LA Coliseum
February 20: Daytona 500
February 27: California (Fontana)
March 6: Las Vegas
Mar 13: Phoenix
March 20: Atlanta
Mar 27: Circuit of the Americas
April 3: Richmond
April 9: Martinsville
April 17: Bristol dirt
April 24: Talladega
May 1: Dover
May 8: Darlington
May 15: Kansas
May 22: All-Star in Texas
May 29: Charlotte
June 5: Gateway
June 12: Sonoma
June 26: Nashville
July 3: Road America
July 10: Atlanta
July 17: New Hampshire
July 24: Pocono
July 31: Indianapolis Highway
August 7: Michigan
August 14: Richmond
August 21 – Watkins Glen
August 27: Daytona
September 4: Darlington
September 11: Kansas
September 17: Bristol
September 25: Texas
October 2: Talladega
October 9 Charlotte Roadway
October 16: Las Vegas
October 23: Homestead
October 30: Martinsville
November 6: Phoenix
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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