Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
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NASCAR is predicting an aggressive schedule in 2024, and with the Championship 4 venue only secured for 2023, which tracks could host it beyond then?
The NASCAR Cup Series schedule has changed in recent years, from the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to a 2022 season featuring sellout after sellout and new venues in the process. But with the arrival of the Next Gen car, the racing experience is vastly different in the premier series.
Several tracks have seen a completely different style of racing due to the new car. The Xfinity Series and Truck Series do not always follow suit, making it difficult to expect the same type of on-track product when all three series compete at the same track.
But one staple of the sport has been championship weekend, as each series concludes its season at the same track. After Homestead-Miami Speedway served as the host from 2002 to 2019, the event was moved to Phoenix Raceway. Attendance was compromised in 2020 by the pandemic, but 2021 and 2022 saw sellouts.
With NASCAR predicting an aggressive schedule for 2024 and Phoenix Raceway only committed to next year as the host of championship weekend, here are three possible replacements for the Championship 4 venue.
Possible championship replacement – No. 3 – Bristol Motor Speedway
If NASCAR can improve the Gen 7 car for short track racing, Bristol Motor Speedway should be a heavily considered option to replace Phoenix Raceway.
The Truck Series and Xfinity Series always put on entertaining races for fans. The Xfinity Series saw a chaotic finish in 2021 when Austin Cindric wrecked A.J. Allmendinger across the finish line on the final lap.
The latest Cup Series races with the old package also produced entertaining finishes, such as Chase Elliott’s run-ins with Joey Logano in 2020 and Kevin Harvick in 2021. But the first race on the concrete surface with the Next Gen car was less than stellar.
The persistent tire issues that affected races all season long became a factor, with numerous leaders randomly blowing tires. Additionally, with a lack of passing, there was a drastic difference in the style of racing.
High speeds into the corners made for an almost impossible passing situation, leaving the race to rely on blown tires or pit road miscues for lead changes.
However, if NASCAR can adjust the Next Gen car to improve the racing on short tracks, the concrete oval could be the perfect location for the Championship 4, and under the lights.
The significance of the race on the concrete surface was already raised when it was added as a playoff cutoff race, and awarding the track a championship race would only raise the stakes even higher.
With such chaotic finishes potentially being thrown into the mix, some may view that technicalities are thrown out the window for a championship.
But with the recent Cup Series event selling out and an opportunity at a short track for drivers to etch their names into NASCAR history, it could create an instant classic for stock car racing.