Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – In 2022, the NASCAR Cup Series will return to the Last Great Coliseum after visiting one of the first great coliseums for the first time.
The series will make its first trip to the shores of the Mississippi under the shadow of the Gateway Arch.
And the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will have a new look, with Homestead-Miami Speedway moving back into the postseason and each round featuring a shakeup of the participating tracks.
For the first time in its history, the Clash, the season-opening exhibition race, will leave Daytona International Speedway in favor of the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a February 6 event for qualifying competitors.
Subsequently, the series will return to Bristol Motor Speedway—billed as the Last Great Coliseum—for a reprise of this year’s inaugural dirt race (April 17) as well as the traditional Night Race (Sept. 17) in the Playoffs.
World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, which has undergone a major transformation under the ownership of Curtis Francois, will host the Cup Series for the first time on June 5.
“I set some ambitious goals when I took over the racetrack, and to see them come to fruition is a dream come true,” Francois said.
“Thanks to the hard work of our team, corporate partners such as Dave Steward and World Wide Technology, and sponsors like Bommarito Automotive Group, I am proud to welcome the NASCAR Cup Series to the St. Louis region. I can’t wait to celebrate this incredible victory with our fans.”
The series Playoff will open Sept. 4 at Darlington on the traditional Labor Day weekend date, but from that point on, there are noticeable differences in the positions of the races on the schedule. Kansas moves into the second position in the Round of 16 (from the current Round of 8), with the Bristol Night Race remaining the opening-round cutoff race.
Texas Motor Speedway replaces Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the Round of 12 opener, with Las Vegas now kicking off the Round of 8. Richmond Raceway exits the Playoff, as Homestead-Miami Speedway now hosts the second race in the Round of 8, with Martinsville once again serving as the cutoff race.
Daytona International Speedway once again will hold the cutoff race for the Playoff on Aug. 27. Phoenix Raceway will remain the host venue for the Championship 4 event (Nov. 6).
“As we demonstrated last year, we are committed to creating the most dynamic schedule for our fans, long-term,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “With the addition of new and unique venues like the Coliseum and World Wide Technology Raceway, each in markets with passionate NASCAR fans, we’re continuing to build on bold changes to deliver the best racing in the world.
“This latest iteration of the schedule should lend itself to another season filled with drama and great racing on the track, starting with the Daytona 500 and culminating with NASCAR Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway.”
The Clash at the Coliseum will mark the competitive debut of the series’ Next Gen car, whose introduction was delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic. Two weeks later, the Next Gen cars will appear for the first time in a regular-season points race—the season-opening Daytona 500.
After the Great American Race, the West Coast Swing returns in full for races at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.), Las Vegas and Phoenix. The race at Auto Club will be the last on the 2.0-mile circuit before its conversion to a half-mile track for 2023.
The 2022 schedule also features six road courses, including a return on July 3 to Road America, which enjoyed a hugely successful Fourth of July weekend Cup debut this year. Watkins Glen hosts the penultimate regular-season race on Aug. 21, the latest-ever point in the schedule for the renowned road course in New York’s Finger Lakes District.