The schedule for 2011 Sprint Cup Series has not been officially released yet, but many race dates were announced for the next year. These announcements confirmed the predictions about major changes for the next season. Dramatic changes are featured compared to 2001, when Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway hosted the first races. For nine years, the same tracks hosted 36 NASCAR races every season.
The 2011 Sprint Cup championship will open at Chicagoland Speedway, as Chicago has become the second largest media market for the Sprint Cup tour. The opener was hosted by New Hampshire since 2004.
Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California lost its fall date while Atlanta Motor Speedway lost its spring date. Atlanta will only host a race on Labor Day weekend. Kentucky Speedway got its Cup date on the second Saturday night in July. The track owner promised to improve the facility by adding seats, camping and access.
The track at Sparta, Cincinnati will host a four hundred mile race on July 9, a week after the annual July 4 weekend race at Daytona International Speedway. The organizers want promised to create a spectacular event in 2011.
NASCAR took the second race date from Atlanta Motor Speedway and gave a date to Kentucky as bad weather and traffic caused low attendance in Atlanta. And since expanding an already long 36 race schedule was not an option, Kentucky had to take away one from the other tracks.
Atlanta Motor Speedway opened in 1960 and has had two Cup series every year. Next year one NASCAR racing weekend will take place on September 2-4. Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted the first Labor Day racing weekend in 2009, a change from the traditional October date.
Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, California will have just one Sprint Cup race in 2011. This two mile track will host the Cup and Nationwide teams at the end of March, a month later than the traditional February date. It will be the fifth year’s race, after Daytona Beach, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Bristol. This change might provide the opportunity of showing off the beautiful weather in the area. There has been poor attendance over the last years and there have been rumors about moving one of the dates for the last few months.
Phoenix International Raceway will be hosting two Cup Series weekends in 2011. Texas Motor Speedway’s spring race will take place on April 9 in order to avoid a conflict with the Masters tournament of golf professionals.
The season will end with 17 consecutive races, starting with the last weekend in July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ending with the third weekend in November at Homestead Miami Speedway.
The most important reason for the changes is probably television. The large audience is coming from fans sitting at home and watching TV, more than people in the grandstands. The official schedule will be announced in September but the likely winners and losers are already preparing to cope with the changes.