The 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup will kick off at Chicagoland Speedway, Tom Jensen of SPEEDTV.com is reporting. Contacted for comment, Chicagoland officials neither confirmed nor denied its 2011 slot in the Chase.
"As of now, we're still working through the 2011 scheduling process with NASCAR," a track spokesman said in an email to SPEED.com. "Once we receive confirmation from NASCAR about our 2011 schedule, we'll go ahead and make an announcement."
If Chicago's date does move from July to September, New Hampshire would most likely become the second Chase race. New Hampshire's summer race date may also be safe because Jensen also reports that Homestead will keep the 2011 finale, presumably shutting Las Vegas Motor Speedway out of a second date.
The Sprint Cup schedule will reportedly be released on Aug. 18, but the dots are already beginning to be connected. Atlanta Motor Speedway announced Wednesday that it would only be hosting one Sprint Cup race in 2011. Kentucky Motor Speedway will benefit from Atlanta losing the date. Kentucky will announce on Aug. 10 that it will host a Sprint Cup race in 2011, and that race will likely be sometime in the summer.
With Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosting the Brickyard 400 at the end of July and Kentucky presumably getting a summer date, it makes sense for Chicagoland to move to a different part of the schedule. Given sagging attendance and worries of market oversaturation, that wouldn't be a good solution for the midwest to have a glut of races within a few weeks of each other.
Kansas Speedway, an ISC track, will likely get a second date as well, given that the state approved plans for a casino to be built outside the track. (ISC promised to request a second date if the plans for the casino were approved.) Since Kansas' original date is during the Chase, the second date will be in the first half of the schedule and most likely come from Auto Club Speedway, which has struggled with attendance ever since adding a second race date.
Auto Club might even lose its Chase date. To accommodate those possible switches, Phoenix could see its April race moved up on the schedule to as far as the second race of the season.
And Brian France is scheduled to attend an announcement "to reveal dramatic changes at Texas Motor Speedway" on Aug. 17 at the House of Blues in Dallas. The track has lights, and the fall race has previously been run in the twilight, so a night race there is a possibility. But given that France, Tony Stewart, Helio Castroneves, SMI President Bruton Smith and a "well-known, Grammy-nominated, triple platinum rock group" will all be in attendance, it could be something even bigger.
Let the announcements begin.
UPDATE: 2011 Sprint Cup schedule news will be flying next week as several tracks have scheduled press conferences to make "major" announcements.
• Chicagoland Speedway has scheduled a press conference for Monday, Aug. 9.
• Kentucky Motor Speedway will hold a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 10.
- Chicagoland Speedway
- Kentucky Motor Speedway
- Atlanta Motor Speedway
- Las Vegas Motor Speedway
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway