After years of staying the course with the NASCAR schedule, the next generation of leadership has embraced the philosophy of taking the product to the fans--rather than waiting for spectators to come to the race track.
Next year’s NASCAR schedule continues in that direction.
On the heels of the Clash at the Coliseum announcement on Tuesday, NASCAR revealed the 2022 Cup schedule on Wednesday with the introduction of World Wide Technology Raceway to the premier series lineup on June 5, 2022.
“I'm sitting in downtown St. Louis right now,” NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation Ben Kennedy told RacinBoys.com. “I'm only a five-minute drive from World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. It's an opportunity to bring the racing action to our fans and to bring some new fans out to the track to sample our sport and sample the Cup Series that haven't had the opportunity to do so before. I think that's part of the calculus.
“On top of that, as well, going to the Los Angeles market, we're excited to be back out in Fontana Auto Club Speedway again in late February of next year, but also going to downtown Los Angeles, which is another five-to-10-minute drive from the Los Angeles Coliseum.
“I think it brings an opportunity to really bring the racing action to the fans that are in these larger markets where you have a lot of fans and give them the opportunity to not only come out and experience the race but also come out for the first time to even see what it's like."
Like many major league ballparks and stadiums, WWTR is a quick commute from dozens of hotels. The track formerly known as Gateway—prior to Dave Steward and his team from World Wide Technology coming on board—has experienced a renaissance under the direction of owner Curtis Francois and track president Chris Blair over the past decade.
In addition to acquiring the 1.25-mile super speedway and a quarter-mile dragstrip, Francois added a 2-mile road course, a karting facility and a 14-acre dirt off-road course on the 600-acre complex.
“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.
“Hosting the premier series from each of the major motorsports sanctioning bodies is a tremendous honor—and earning a NASCAR Cup Series race is like having the All-Star Game, Stanley Cup Finals and World Series here, every year,” said Francois. “It’s Cup time!”
The NASCAR Cup date joins WWTR’s existing offerings, which include IndyCar and NHRA—the only venue to offer the trifecta of motorsports. According to a study by Maryville University’s Rawlings Sports Management Department, the Cup race is expected to produce an economic impact of more than $60 million to the metro St. Louis market.
“The dedication Curtis has shown to the sport of auto racing is one of many factors that led to bringing an event to the Gateway City,” Kennedy said. “The corporate and civic leadership from St. Louis and southern Illinois has been truly welcoming to NASCAR, and we cannot wait to see the NASCAR Cup Series in action at World Wide Technology Raceway.”
While new markets such as Austin, Texas, and Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, were introduced to the Cup schedule last year—and Nashville Speedway was revisited—the Northeast has lost three races since 2018. New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Dover Downs and now Pocono each have a single date.
When asked whether the Midwest was now saturated with racing, Kennedy pointed to the multitude of dirt tracks and the passion of the grassroots fans throughout the region.
“We saw a shift from Dover to Nashville Superspeedway, which is a big market for us,” Kennedy said. “Now with the addition of World Wide Technology Raceway to the schedule, (it's) something that we've seen in particular in St. Louis, but the Midwest region as well. A lot of fans are based out of there. It's growing, as well.
“If you think about the number of local short tracks that we have and dirt tracks throughout the Midwest region, we have a ton of fans in this area, and we feel like it was deserving of bringing another race here.”
Speaking of dirt, another departure from the norm was NASCAR scheduling the Bristol Motor Speedway spring date on Easter Sunday. While racing on Mother’s Day and Easter were once considered taboo, no more. With the NFL and NBA playing on Thanksgiving and Christmas, nothing appears to be off the table.
From a strategic standpoint, NASCAR broke up the three-consecutive 750-horsepower tracks in the first round of the Playoffs. Richmond, which featured a lackluster event last weekend, moved up to August 14. The often frigid, late fall Kansas Speedway race will now be Sept. 11, the second date in the Round of 16.
After an 18-year stretch hosting the season finale, Homestead-Miami Speedway was replaced by Phoenix Raceway. Phoenix retains the championship determiner—although many feel undeservedly—Homestead returns to the fall as the middle race in the Round of 8 on October 23.
Over the last three years, NASCAR has evolved from a series oversaturated with ovals to offering a wide variety of tastes for every motorsports appetite across the country. From dirt to a potpourri of road courses and shorter tracks, the sanctioning body continues to operate outside of the box to the benefit of its fans.
2022 NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE
Date Race / Track
Sunday, February 6 Clash (L.A. Memorial Coliseum)
Thursday, February 17 Duel at Daytona
Sunday, February 20 DAYTONA 500
Sunday, February 27 Auto Club
Sunday, March 6 Las Vegas
Sunday, March 13 Phoenix
Sunday, March 20 Atlanta
Sunday, March 27 COTA
Sunday, April 3 Richmond
Saturday, April 9 Martinsville
Sunday, April 17 Bristol Dirt
Sunday, April 24 Talladega
Sunday, May 1 Dover
Sunday, May 8 Darlington
Sunday, May 15 Kansas
Sunday, May 22 All-Star (Texas)
Sunday, May 29 Charlotte
Sunday, June 5 World Wide Technology Raceway
Sunday, June 12 Sonoma
Sunday, June 26 Nashville Superspeedway
Sunday, July 3 Road America
Sunday, July 10 Atlanta
Sunday, July 17 New Hampshire
Sunday, July 24 Pocono
Sunday, July 31 Indianapolis Road Course
Sunday, August 7 Michigan
Sunday, August 14 Richmond
Sunday, August 21 Watkins Glen
Saturday, August 27 Daytona
Sunday, September 4 Darlington
Sunday, September 11 Kansas
Saturday, September 17 Bristol
Sunday, September 25 Texas
Sunday, October 2 Talladega
Sunday, October 9 Charlotte Roval
Sunday, October 16 Las Vegas
Sunday, October 23 Homestead-Miami
Sunday, October 30 Martinsville
Sunday, November 6 Phoenix