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AJ Appeal and Zach Bell React to the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule Changes

Exhibition Races: Busch Clash on the Daytona Road Course, Texas All Star Race

AJ -NASCAR's exhibition events are some of the most important on the schedule for the premier series of stock car racing. I believe that having the Clash on the road course sounded great at first. They were making a new event out of an iconic one. With the addition of the road courses in the regular season, there isn't as much of a need to do this with the Daytona Clash, though. I'm not let down, but I would have preferred it left alone. With the All-Star moving to Texas in 2021, it marks the third consecutive season the All-Star event will be held at a different track. In my opinion, they should keep this a tradition and move it somewhere new every year. Good move for short gain, but PLEASE don't keep it in Boss Hoss's back yard.

Zach - When the Daytona Road Course was announced as the Busch Clash I was excited, but after NASCAR ran the Daytona Road Course this season I'm a bit down on this race, but maybe under the lights with a smaller field it could work. The Texas All Star race should be interesting the low expectations of the racing at Texas means that the potential for something exciting is high.

Segment 1: Daytona 500, Homestead, Auto Club, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Bristol dirt, Martinsville

AJ - The Daytona 500 is one of the most significant sporting events in the world. In my opinion, it carries prestige just shy of the Indianapolis 500 and the Super Bowl. Regardless of where we each rank the 'Great-American Race', there's no arguing that it is the premier series' most anticipated each season. There have been small talks in last couple of years about the potential of moving this race to another spot on the cup schedule. While just rumours, that topic comes up every year on social media or by independent writers. I'm thankful each time NASCAR sticks with the tradition and keeps it at the start of the race season. The other big moments in this schedule segment include the final running of Auto Club's 2.0 mile configuration as the track will transition into a high-banked short track beginning in 2022. Bristol's change to dirt will be one of the most discussed changes by far in 2021. I don't believe this type of event belongs on a national touring series calendar, but I believe I'm in the minority on that. I'll go into detail on my opinions another time.

Zach- The first eight races of the schedule remain relatively unchanged from the 2020 schedule except for Homestead moving up the schedule, and the Bristol dirt race. Moving Homestead up is a fantastic idea with the shortening of the Daytona Speed Weeks is almost like a Spring Break road trip. The Bristol dirt race will absolutely be the most hit or miss event on the schedule. I tend to think it will be a miss because the fans know how great Bristol is on its own, and for the dirt race to be a success the best case scenario is that it is equal to a regular Bristol race.

Segment 2: Richmond, Talladega, Kansas, Darlington, Dover, Circuit of the Americas (COTA), Charlotte, Sonoma, Nashville

AJ - This portion of the schedule is interesting to me because it introduces two tracks to NASCAR's cup schedule that have never been involved in the history of the sport. NASCAR executives promised big changes to the schedule over the last couple of years and we were offered Charlotte's Roval. While there is no harm in adding the Roval event, the addition of brand new tracks is significant. Cota and Nashville will be embraced heavily by local fans, and the action they're sure to bring will be received well by the TV viewer as well. I am excited to see how NASCAR on Fox handles the coverage of this, as they haven't had a major shakeup in their broadcasting schedule in many years (outside of the Covid inspired iRacing events in 2020).

Zach - This part of the schedule features three major changes; Darlington gets its second race back and the new tracks of Circuit of the Americas, and Nashville. COTA is the highlight here for me, and its simple we get a new racing opportunity in Texas, its the best racing facility in the U.S., and its another road course. Nashville is more of a long term plan track in my opinion, and I think its to test fan interest in the area to get a race date at the famed Nashville Fairgrounds, and if that is where this goes I'm in on Nashville.

Segment 3: Pocono Double Header, Road America, Atlanta, New Hampshire, Watkins Glen, Indy Road Course, Michigan, Daytona

AJ - I believe in and respect the Igdalsky and Mattioli families for their hard work and interest in promoting one of NASCAR's longest operating tracks in Pocono Pennsylvania. That being said, if I was asked which track on the circuit is least interesting to me, the answer would be 'The Tricky Triangle'. I've said for many years that Pocono should be removed from the Cup Schedule. I believe that it is a more endurance themed track that rewards pit strategy...and NASCAR's stage system has almost no pit strategy remaining. Unfortunately for my take, Pocono gets a weekend double-header with inverted starting lineups. A yawn of a race weekend to me personally, but a good decision for fans who enjoy their product. Three road courses in this portion of the track become the true headliner with the addition of Road America and the now traditional Brickyard 400 being replaced with a Indy Road Course event, it will be hard to promote Daytona's summer race against these races. It's interesting to me when Atlanta may be the least exciting race in a group of 8.

Zach - This segment features three track changes again, and those are the additions of a Road America, a second Atlanta race, and moving from the Indy oval to the Indy Road Course. Adding Road America is massive for the Cup Series. The Xfinity Series has been putting on fantastic shows at Road America for a few years, and I'm curious what the Cup guys will do there. I am not too keen on a second Atlanta race, and I think Atlanta is remembered so fondly for what it was then what it is now. However; if Atlanta is supposedly trying to invest in this massive entertainment center then Atlanta deserves two dates. Lastly the Indy Road Course, and I am incredibly excited with this. I hope to see a great race there, but if we're being honest I doubt it will be worse than the oval was the worst few years. Losing the tradition of the Brickyard 400 is sad, but I think this is a chance for NASCAR to commit to a new tradition.

Segment 4: Darlington, Richmond, Bristol, Las Vegas, Talladega, Charlotte Roval, Texas, Kansas, Martinsville, Phoenix

AJ - We get back into the basics here. There's nothing wrong with any of these events..I see many fan favorite tracks and the return of two Darlington races is special for fans and race teams. No critique or comment outside of that.

Zach- The playoffs remain unchanged except Kansas and Texas are flipped. I have enjoyed the playoff races so far this season, and assuming everything else remains roughly the same 2021 should be a success here. I think keeping the playoffs the same works well. If NASCAR looks to change the playoff schedule I expect those to to happen in 2022.

Best Schedule Change:

AJ - It's possible the best schedule change is a short-lived decision. From approximately 2000-2010, the two standard road course events of Sonoma and Watkins Glen were the least popular for fans. Something changed at the start of the decade and fans started embracing the left and right-turned endurance courses. I credit Aussie driver Marcos Ambrose and wild child AJ Allmendinger for the new-found fan love. Most fans seem to appreciate and want more road courses on the schedule, and NASCAR delivered big time. The question is...will fans get bored or lose interest if we aren't seeing the same side-by-side memorable finishes. If we have a race won by 15 seconds...will fans still be happy? I believe the best schedule change was to add more road courses. I'd love even more, personally. I'm intrigued to see if it is a temporary boost in revenue and ratings, or ends up being a dud.

Zach- The best schedule change is undoubtedly the addition of Circuit of the Americas. COTA I think has the potential to be the best road course on the calendar, and has crown jewel event upside. COTA is arguably the best racing facility in the world, and NASCAR needs to be there. Leaving a 500 mile Texas race for the potential of COTA is the best part of the whole deal.

Worst Schedule Change:

AJ - The worst event on NASCAR's schedule in my opinion is the Bristol dirt race. I don't believe this is what NASCAR's touring series needs included in their schedule. They've tried it in ARCA and Truck events already and I simply cannot understand how these can be considered as part of the championship. The events are fun, exciting, competitive..I'm not bashing the promotion or the drivers. The issue I take is that stock car racing, for 50 years has been known for racing on asphalt and concrete. Millions of dollars are invested into research and development for these cars, and now there is going to be a saturday night bull-ring on dirt? It seems silly to me. I hope the fans enjoy it that attend and the drivers have a safe and exciting race, but I don't want it to stay on the schedule.

Zach- In my opinion the worst schedule change is the Bristol dirt race. I have a long of apprehension coming into this race, but I hope it works. We know the Bristol spring race has been struggling with attendance, so it could work but I am definitely curious to see how it works. I know it will initially be fun, but the longevity is my major concern here.


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