A significant majority of NASCAR Cup Series races won’t have practice or qualifying in 2021.
NASCAR said Friday that just eight of 36 points races would include pre-race activity. That means that the first lap of 28 races over the season will be the first time drivers have taken to the track all weekend.
The discontinuation of practice and qualifying at most events continues a trend started during the COVID-19 pandemic. Save for one race in May, NASCAR had no practice or qualifying ahead of races after it resumed racing following its pandemic interruption in the spring. The sanctioning body cut down the time teams spent at the track on race weekends to halt the spread of the virus.
It also did that to save teams money. And cost-cutting is undoubtedly the reason why NASCAR is keeping with limited practice and qualifying in 2021. Teams don’t have to pay to bring backup cars to the track without pre-race events and can save money on travel and personnel as well.
The 2021 season was supposed to be the first for NASCAR’s new car design. But the pandemic pushed the new car’s implementation to 2022. Reduced costs for teams are one of the publicly-stated goals of the new car.
Here are the eight events that will include practice and qualifying in 2021. The Daytona 500 and the championship race at Phoenix are included in those eight events. And outside of those two races and the Coca-Cola 600 in May, the other five races are at new tracks or new track layouts for the Cup Series.
Feb. 14: Daytona 500
March 28: Bristol dirt race
May 23: Circuit of the Americas
May 30: Coca-Cola 600
June 20: Nashville
July 4: Road America
Aug. 15: Indianapolis road course
Nov. 7: Phoenix
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