NASCAR officials released the 2022 Cup Series schedule Wednesday, unveiling a new-look calendar of events that builds on the dynamic changes that debuted this season while making slight adjustments to the rotation of tracks in the 10-race playoffs.
World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is the only new venue added to the schedule of 36 points-paying events. The 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Illinois, outside of St. Louis has hosted Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series events in the past, but next year will mark its Cup Series debut.
Many of the settings will be familiar as teams and drivers introduce the Next Gen car that will debut next season in NASCAR’s top division. The list of points-paying events kicks off with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 and closes with the season-ending championship race Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway, which will host the finale for the third consecutive year. The three tracks new to the 2021 schedule — Circuit of The Americas, Nashville Superspeedway and Road America — will return for 2022, as will transformations of Bristol Motor Speedway to dirt and Indianapolis Motor Speedway to a road-course layout.
A radical change is coming to the season-opening Clash exhibition with Tuesday’s announcement of a one-off event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Other shifts are more subtle, with a slight reworking of the postseason slate that will help determine the 2022 champion.
“The process has been very refreshing for me personally to see everyone work together from all the different industry stakeholders, getting feedback from our teams … and then a lot of feedback from our fans from different studies that we’ve done, too,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “So it’s been a very collaborative process, and it’s been really neat to see how it’s been received, both the 2021 schedule and looking forward to see how everyone reacts to ’22.”
Kennedy said 2022 schedules for the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series would be announced in two to three weeks. Among the noteworthy developments on the new Cup Series schedule:
World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway will bring a St. Louis flavor to the Cup Series calendar when it debuts June 5. The asymmetrical oval has hosted the Camping World Truck Series the last eight seasons and has hosted the Xfinity Series, plus IndyCar and NHRA events at its expansive complex. The addition of Gateway to the schedule will remove an event from Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway, which drops from two annual races to one (July 24).
As announced Tuesday on FOX Sports, the venerable Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will mark the Next Gen car’s competition debut in the Clash exhibition on a temporary quarter-mile oval track on Feb. 6. The eligibility criteria and race procedures will be announced at a later date.
Homestead-Miami Speedway returns to the postseason rotation, bringing its competitive 1.5-mile layout to the Round of 8 lineup on Oct. 23. The South Florida venue hosted season-ending Cup Series event from 2002-19, but had races in June last season and February this year.
Richmond Raceway will transition out of the playoff schedule after a four-year run, taking an Aug. 14 date. Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway will trade places in the postseason, with the Fort Worth track opening the Round of 12 on Sept. 25 and Vegas moving to the Round of 8 on Oct. 16. Kansas also shifts to earlier in the playoff rotation, taking the Sept. 11 slot.
“I think we have a really strong playoff slate right now,” Kennedy says. “That said, we want to keep it fresh, we want to keep it new, we want to keep it exciting, and I think with a lot of the great tracks that we have online, a lot of great tracks that we already have in our schedule, I think we’ve got a bunch of options to play with in the future. So excited about some of the changes we’ll see in ’22. I think, that said, as I think about ’23 and beyond, I think the opportunity for us to rotate some of those playoff venues will be there, something that we’ll definitely take a look at.”
Auto Club Speedway is set to return to the schedule after a two-year absence because of the COVID-19 epidemic. The event, scheduled Feb. 27, re-establishes a three-race West Coast swing as a lead-in to March events for Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The event is slated to be contested on the 2-mile, D-shaped track in Fontana, California. Competition officials have studied redeveloping the facility into a short track, but the go-ahead for such a project has not been made final.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway will return to the Cup Series schedule on July 31, using the grand-prix layout that combines parts of the oval and infield road course. It will mark the second straight year for the 2.439-mile configuration, which ran into issues with the curbing in the late stages of the Cup Series debut there last month, but Kennedy said the door remained open for an eventual return to the historic 2.5-mile IMS oval.
“I think the reason behind that is just, the racing product that we saw on the road course, I think fans liked it quite a bit,” Kennedy said. “I think a few things to work through, and we’ve been working hand in hand with (IMS track president) Doug Boles and the entire team ever since that event, but I think as we look towards the future, it’d be great to get back to the oval. Obviously, a ton of history and prestige around running on the oval and the Brickyard 400, so looking forward to seeing us back there sometime in the future.”
Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt-track event will be held for a second straight year, this time with a prime-time race under the lights on Easter Sunday, April 17. The 0.533-mile track’s annual night race on its usual concrete surface remains the Round of 16 finale on Sept. 17.
The NASCAR All-Star Race returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year, slated for May 22. The Fort Worth track will become the first venue other than Charlotte Motor Speedway to host the non-points invitational more than once.
Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway return to the schedule, but the two tracks will swap their August race dates. Michigan moves to Aug. 7, while The Glen pushes back to Aug. 21, the next-to-last race before the playoffs field is set.
Daytona International Speedway’s annual 400-miler will slot in as the regular-season finale for the third straight year, running Aug. 27. The annual Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway also stays intact as the opening race to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, remaining a Labor Day weekend fixture on Sept. 4.
The Cup Series will be idle for Father’s Day weekend on June 18-19. The off-weekend will serve as a natural divide for NASCAR’s broadcast partners — the FOX Sports portion of the 2022 slate will end June 12 at Sonoma Raceway, and NBC Sports will pick up the remainder of the schedule starting June 26 at Nashville Superspeedway.