NASCAR schedule set for 2020 with several changes

Photo: NASCAR / MGN
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 26, 2019) – A champion crowned in the desert. The Last Great Colosseum becomes a postseason factor. A tricky doubleheader. The birthplace of NASCAR bookends the regular season.

NASCAR today announced significant, dynamic changes to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, with intriguing shifts during both the regular season and the Playoffs.

Most notably next season, NASCAR’s championship will transition from the beaches of Miami to the desert near Phoenix, Arizona, following the renovation and reconfiguration of ISM Raceway. These recent changes delivered a new and exciting form of racing just a few weeks ago, reinforcing it as the perfect stage for the 2020 championship finale. As part of the new schedule, a champion will be crowned on Sunday, Nov. 8 – a week earlier than in previous seasons.

Fans have expressed their desire for more short tracks in the Playoffs, and as a result, the iconic Bristol Night Race will become a part of the 10-week title battle as the first cut-off race on Saturday, Sept. 19. Bristol will join the Charlotte Roval (Sunday, Oct. 11) and Martinsville (Sunday, Nov. 1) as cut-off races, creating some of the most intense and pressure-packed “win-or-go-home” cut-off race scenarios in NASCAR Playoffs history.

Another race rich with history will also join the post-season fold, as the “Lady in Black,” Darlington Raceway, will be the first race of the NASCAR Playoffs on Sunday, Sept. 6 with Las Vegas becoming the first race of the second round on Sunday, Sept. 27.

“The fans and the industry as a whole have been vocal about the desire for sweeping changes to the schedule, and the 2020 slate is a reflection of our efforts to execute against that feedback,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “These changes are a result of unprecedented consensus-building with our race tracks and broadcast partners; something we look to continue into 2021 and beyond.”

The Great American Race, the Daytona 500, will once again open the NASCAR season during President’s Day weekend on Sunday, Feb. 16, but NASCAR’s second visit to Daytona will come with much more on the line than in previous seasons. Under the lights on Saturday, Aug. 29, the superspeedway will set the Playoffs field as the last regular season race of the year.

“Quite fittingly, the birthplace of NASCAR will host the bookend races to the 2020 regular season,” O’Donnell said. “Racing in Daytona – particularly in the summer under the lights – never fails in delivering intense and unpredictable action. There’s no question this venue will create some incredible drama as drivers make one last push for a playoff spot.”

Following the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s trip to the West Coast will commence immediately with stops in Las Vegas (Sunday, Feb. 23), Auto Club (Sunday, March 1) and ISM Raceway (Sunday, March 8). Atlanta will move to Sunday, March 15 followed by Miami on Sunday, March 22.

Martinsville will move back in the schedule to take the spotlight – quite literally – on Mother’s Day Weekend when cars hit the track under the lights for primetime racing on Saturday, May 9.

Pocono Raceway will make history when it helps kick off NASCAR’s summer portion of the schedule. On Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28, the Tricky Triangle will host back-to-back premier series events, creating a bucket-list, can’t miss destination weekend for NASCAR fans.

Finally, a tradition continues, with a passing of the baton from one iconic race track to another during the July 4th Weekend. Indianapolis Motor Speedway moves to a cornerstone weekend on the NASCAR calendar with a race at the Brickyard on July 5, a spot previously occupied by Daytona International Speedway.