The 2024 NASCAR schedule shows a continued pull-back in the overall number of road courses, no dirt tracks and the return of the Chicago Street Race. But the tracks in the playoffs have undergone their own changes. Here’s how the 2024 NASCAR schedule is similar to and different from the 2023 schedule.
2023 v. 2024
Below, I compare the overall track-type distribution for 2024 (left) versus 2023 (right)
You can see right off that there are the same number of short tracks (1- to 1-49 mile ovals, like Phoenix) and intermediate (1.5-mile) tracks. But there are two more less-than-a-mile tracks thanks to return of the spring Bristol race to pavement and the addition of Iowa. Iowa is a 7/8-mile track that has run Xfinity and Truck races, but never a Cup Series race.
The Indy road course is gone, replaced by the oval. That leaves the number of 2+ mile ovals at three. That drops the number of road courses to four, down from a high of seven.
Regular Season Track Distribution
The pie charts below compare the track-type distribution of the first 26 races for 2024 and 2023. They mostly mirror the changes in the overall schedule, with more of the short tracks making up a larger percentage of the regular season than the total season.
The number of short tracks is also up due to Iowa and the spring Bristol race both being in the regular season. But shifting one of the superspeedway races to the playoffs (for a total of two in the playoffs decreases the percentage in the regular season.
The same thing for the pair of graphs below: Comparing the composition of the 10-race playoffs according to track types.
NASCAR has created a more even distribution of tracks for the playoffs. There is still a higher percentage of intermediate tracks in the playoffs than in the regular season, but it is 10% less. Darlington is now the final race of the regular season and that leaves only one short track (Phoenix) in the playoffs.
Road courses have about the same representation in the playoffs as they do in the regular season. My least favorite thing about this schedule is having two superspeedways — Atlanta and Talladega — in the playoffs. For me, that just ups the chances that a driver who was strong all season gets taken out by factors beyond his control.
And I’m not sure how I feel about having a superspeedway and a road course in the first round of the playoffs. That gives drivers who are only strong on those courses a possibly easier path to the next round. I’ll say more about that after I’ve had some time to ponder the new schedule.
The 2024 NASCAR schedule is finally out. Media members can now scrabble for cheap hotels and fans can plan vacations. But let’s not forget that we still have five races to go before we determine this year’s champion!