With NASCAR’s release of the 2022 Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series schedules two things are clear:
First, the sanctioning body is committed to bringing the sport to as many different venues as possible. Second, Ben Kennedy still has a deep love for the truck series.
The introduction of Portland International Raceway on the Xfinity calendar on June 4 marks the return of NASCAR to the Pacific Northwest for the first time since trucks competed at the 1.964-mile track in 2000. International Speedway Corporation tried for years to procure property in that underserved region.
“It’s been an important part of our country that we felt like is important for us to be in,” Kennedy said. “We’ve seen a lot of growth from a fan perspective in the Pacific Northwest. It’s important for us to get back there and do it in a meaningful way with Green Savoree Production and the rest of the teams out there.”
Kennedy was one of several NASCAR representatives who conducted site visits at Portland and other venues throughout the summer. Ultimately, Portland—one of the fastest-growing communities in the Northwest—won out.
“We looked at a number of different options both in the Portland area and the Seattle area,” Kennedy said. "Ultimately we narrowed it down to that (PIR).
“Again, we’ve got a really growing fan base in that part of the country and we wanted to get there as soon as we can.”
Unfortunately, however, PIR debuts the same weekend as the NASCAR Cup/Truck doubleheader runs at World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis. Xfinity also returns to Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 26 after a two-year hiatus, Nashville Superspeedway (June 25) and Circuit of the Americas (COTA, March 26).
In addition to kicking off the NXS season at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 19, the seven-race Playoff run commences at Texas Motor Speedway (Sept. 24) with the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8) and Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 29) serving as the elimination contests leading into the season finale at Phoenix on Nov. 5.
The expansion of the truck tour to 23 races with returns to Lucas Oil Raceway (LOR) and Sonoma Raceway are delightful additions. Like NXS, the trucks also return to COTA and Nashville—as well as Bristol Dirt and Knoxville (Iowa). While Mid-Ohio has been a mainstay on the Xfinity calendar for the last eight years—with the exception of 2020—the 2.258-mile road course will enjoy its truck debut on July 9.
Truckers kick off their postseason charge at LOR one of three short tracks in the seven-race Playoff schedule. While the ARCA Series has maintained a presence at the .686-mile track for the past nine seasons, neither trucks nor NXS has competed there since 2011.
“One our fans are really looking forward to and have been asking for, for a long time, is Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis,” Kennedy said. “An iconic short track. We’ve obviously been there in the past with the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series. Excited to go to the track.”
Truck elimination races include Kansas Speedway (Sept.9) after the first round and Homestead-Miami Raceway on Oct. 22—with a week off prior to the Nov. 4 season finale at Phoenix.
NASCAR will not be returning to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2022. Kennedy cited the pandemic as muddying the waters.
“Unfortunately won’t be going back there in the ’22 season,” Kennedy said. “A big reason for that is because of the current COVID restrictions and a lot of the planning, logistics and lead time that are required for our teams and our industry to travel outside of the country.
“We felt like it was in our collective best interests to go ahead and not have Canadian Tire on the schedule. That said, we’ve got great partners…the entire team up in Canadian Tire. Look forward to continuing to have conversations with them about what the future may look like.”
Speaking of future venues, a constant buzz continues around the revitalization and return of North Wilkesboro Speedway. Kennedy said historic venues such as the .625-mile track—located an hour north of most of the NASCAR teams--remain under consideration if they meet proper criteria.
“That’s something we’ll constantly continue to look at,” Kennedy said. “Both in terms of does it make sense from a strategic point of view for the future of the schedule? Is it a market that we feel like is important to us and is not over-saturated? Is the facility in the condition that we feel like would put on a great race and be a great fan experience for our fans as well?
“I think North Wilkesboro and a handful of other venues that have been mentioned are something that we continue to look at. Lucas Oil I will say is one that a lot of our fans have reached out to us over the past couple years, them really hoping to see that as a part of the future iteration of the Truck Series schedule. Excited to deliver that one.”