Evolution of Tracks Included in the Chase for the Sprint Cup 

nascar_loudon_nscs_92213_fieldA never-ending debate in NASCAR has to do with which tracks host Chase for the Sprint Cup races. NASCAR has made some changes to the playoff schedule over the years. However, those adjustments have left fans hungry for more.

I’m on board with changing the lineup one day. Keeping it the same will keep those who succeed the same and the time for change is here.

With the Chase for the Sprint Cup right around the corner, I’ve decided to take a look at how the tracks included in the final ten races have evolved over the years. A lot has changed since the inaugural Chase season of 2004 and will change heading into the future.

2004

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  2. Dover International Speedway
  3. Talladega Superspeedway
  4. Kansas Speedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Martinsville Speedway
  7. Atlanta Motor Speedway
  8. Phoenix International Raceway
  9. Darlington Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

The 2004 schedule featured a good mix of tracks. What is clearly missing compared to today’s lineup is the amount of 1.5-mile facilities. Instead of going to five like we will this fall, NASCAR only raced on three. This seems to be a perfect amount because it does not overwhelm the Chase with “cookie cutters” like the case is today.

Eight of the ten tracks that hosted a Chase race in 2004 remain in it today. Darlington Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway are the two exceptions. It confuses me as to why they are no longer included because each produces spectacular racing.

2005

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  2. Dover International Speedway
  3. Talladega Superspeedway
  4. Kansas Speedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Martinsville Speedway
  7. Atlanta Motor Speedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Speedway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

In 2005, Texas Motor Speedway took Darlington Raceway’s place in the Chase. Why? I don’t know. Maybe a logistical problem developed that forced the change, but I was not a fan of the sport at the time to know the exact answer. The move would likely be very unpopular today as the racing at the two speedways differs greatly.

2006

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  2. Dover International Speedway
  3. Kansas Speedway
  4. Talladega Superspeedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Martinsville Speedway
  7. Atlanta Motor Speedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

Talladega Superspeedway’s move from the third to fourth race is the only change from 2005 to 2006. The unpredictability of restrictor-plate racing makes the event one of the most dramatic in the final ten races. With it moving one race closer to the season finale, it becomes even more of a wild card race.

2007

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  2. Dover International Speedway
  3. Kansas Speedway
  4. Talladega Superspeedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Martinsville Speedway
  7. Atlanta Motor Speedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

This schedule features no changes.

2008

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  2. Dover International Speedway
  3. Kansas Speedway
  4. Talladega Superspeedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Martinsville Speedway
  7. Atlanta Motor Speedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

Once again, there are no changes.

2009

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  2. Dover International Speedway
  3. Kansas Speedway
  4. Auto Club Speedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Martinsville Speedway
  7. Talladega Superspeedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

The 2009 schedule featured two important changes. NASCAR took Atlanta off in favor of Auto Club Speedway – giving California a place in the playoffs. Fontana’s addition moved Talladega from the fourth slot to the seventh. This began the trend of the Alabama speedway playing a big role in the outcome of the championship due to its game-changing nature.

2010

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  2. Dover International Speedway
  3. Kansas Speedway
  4. Auto Club Speedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Martinsville Speedway
  7. Talladega Superspeedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

Another season without change. This won’t last for long as a big shakeup is ahead.

2011

  1. Chicagoland Speedway
  2. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  3. Dover International Speedway
  4. Kansas Speedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Talladega Superspeedway
  7. Martinsville Speedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

This is where the modern Chase schedule originated. NASCAR took a big swing to start the final ten races by replacing New Hampshire Motor Speedway with Chicagoland Speedway. This also moved the pre-Chase media session from New York City to Chicago. Eliminating NYC’s place in NASCAR altogether.

The addition of Chicagoland replaces Auto Club Speedway and returns the Chase to having half the schedule filled with 1.5-mile facilities.

2012

  1. Chicagoland Speedway
  2. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  3. Dover International Speedway
  4. Talladega Superspeedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Kansas Speedway
  7. Martinsville Speedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

More change! However, it was not permanent. As Kansas Speedway underwent a major reconfiguring project, they asked for additional time between their races to complete the job. This pushed Talladega Superspeedway back up the schedule, close to its original position. Its wild card factor didn’t play as significant of a role due to this change.

2013

  1. Chicagoland Speedway
  2. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  3. Dover International Speedway
  4. Kansas Speedway
  5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
  6. Talladega Superspeedway
  7. Martinsville Speedway
  8. Texas Motor Speedway
  9. Phoenix International Raceway
  10. Homestead-Miami Speedway

For the first time since NASCAR placed Chicagoland Speedway –a facility Jimmie Johnson has yet to win at– atop the Chase schedule, the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet SS team returned to their throne atop the sport.

The schedule remains the same in 2014 despite fans wanting change more than ever. What new curve ball could NASCAR throw in? A road-course? Another short-track? These thoughts all seem hopeful; however no talk of major change currently exists.

The new Chase format should prompt change as keeping the same schedule could allow for the same drivers and teams to succeed in the title fight. Its easy to ask for change without knowing the logistics. However, the thought of producing the same story in the Chase every season should scare NASCAR a little.

Since the new format is NASCAR’s “next big thing,” a radical change to the Chase tracks needs to come sooner than later. All focus will be placed on these races so its time to ramp up the excitement.

 

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman

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3 thoughts on “Evolution of Tracks Included in the Chase for the Sprint Cup 

  1. Darlington, and The Southern 500 (not the Rebel 500), was removed as a result of the Ferko lawsuit, headed by an SMI shareholder, with the work being done by Johnnie Cochran and his associates. The Cochran Firm lists taking Darlington off and giving Texas that race as an accomplishment on their Web site. And from what seemed to be a squabble between Fox and NBC for Darlington’s date, it would seem logistically, something will have to happen in the future.

    Chicago, in an ironic way, is a true return to American motorsport roots. The first ever motor race in the United States was an open-road race in 1895 from Chicago to Evanston, and back. The 55-mile race took over seven hours to finish.

    What I’d like to see is an overhaul – remove Loudon, Chicago, Texas, Kansas (move Loudon and the two Midwest races up, and strip Texas of the race unmerited in court), while moving Watkins Glen to first on the schedule (500km on the full Grand Prix course, 91 laps) on the classic USGP at The Glen date, then race the Harvest Auto Racing Classic (Indianapolis), before heading to Martinsville (move the Cup and Late Model races back to traditional dates), then to Dover, Charlotte, and Phoenix, before starting the final run with Homestead, Talladega, Bristol, and Darlington.

    The final stretch would be three crazy races — and instead of a “four for one,” the Chase would return to 12 for all ten races, and the final four races would be the four toughest — Homestead (classic Atlanta feel before Bruton changed it), Talladega (always wild), Bristol (high banks in November), and Darlington (why not, provided the Rebel moves back to a Sweeps date).

  2. The Chase schedule I’d like to see:
    1. Richmond*
    2. Watkins Glen
    3. Loudon
    4. Kansas
    5. Martinsville
    6. Charlotte*
    7. Talladega
    8. Texas
    9. Phoenix
    10.Las Vegas

    * = night race

  3. The Chase schedule I’d like to see:

    1. Richmond*
    2. Watkins Glen
    3. Loudon
    4. Kansas
    5. Martinsville
    6. Charlotte*
    7. Talladega
    8. Texas
    9. Phoenix
    10.Las Vegas

    * = night race

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