The NASCAR Cup Series will run at a very different distribution of tracks in 2021 than in any year past. Here’s the first in a series of posts looking at schedule changes and how they might impact drivers in 2021.
Let’s jump right in and start off by looking at the distribution of track types for 2021. What I call ‘Other’ tracks are Fontana, Indy, Michigan and Pocono.
The largest part of the NASCAR schedule are short tracks — tracks less than a mile-and-a-half in length. They make up a third of the schdule.
The next biggest class are the intermediate tracks. We won’t visit Kentucky or Chicagoland this year.
Comparison with 2019
I’m not comparing the changes in the schedule with 2020 just because 2020 was weird and the schedule had to change on the fly. So let’s compare 2021 with the last normal season.
Two types of tracks haven’t changed
- There are still four superspeedway races
- Short tracks still make up a third of the schedule.
But we see significant shifts in other track types
- Road Courses more than double, going from 8.3% of the schedule to 19.4% in 2021. That’s a total of 7 road course races in 2021.
- Intermediate-track races are down from 30.6% to a quarter of the schedule.
- ‘Other’ tracks do the reverse of the road-course tracks, going from 16.7% to 8.3%
- Finally, we’ve got NASCAR’S first Cup-level dirt race in 2021. The ‘2.8%’ label was too big to squeeze into that little piece of the pie.
A Historical Look at Schedules
I went back to 1990 and looked at how the number of races and the types of tracks run have changed over the years. The result is the waterfall graph below.
I like this graph because you can really see how NASCAR changed in the 2000s with the addition of more intermediate tracks. The number of short tracks hasn’t gone down in absolute numbers, but it has gone down in real numbers because the number of races run in a season has gone up.
I’ll look at which drivers (current and historical) have dominated at each type of track. The first up is the superspeedways.