For decades, road racing at NASCAR’s highest level was a twice-a-year experience. In the last two seasons, the Cup Series competed on three road courses each year, adding an extra dose of right and left turns to the schedule.
With Wednesday’s release of the 2021 Cup Series schedule, the number of road courses has grown to six for next season, with two first-time hosts, one circuit’s return from a long-ago era, a stable date for the lone road course in the playoffs and two familiar venues that return after a one-year hiatus for COVID-19 concerns.
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The two brand-new faces include one of motorsports’ relative newcomers — Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas — and a historic facility that in 2000 created a grand-prix layout that’s part road course, part oval — Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The addition of the 3.426-mile COTA track on May 23 creates a second venue for the series in the Lone Star State, alongside the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The Cup Series debut of Indy’s road-course layout on Aug. 15 comes one season after the Xfinity Series held its first race on the 2.439-mile hybrid circuit.
Road America has played host to the Xfinity Series every year since 2010, but its July 4 date for 2021 will mark the Cup Series’ first event on the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road circuit since 1956, a race won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Tim Flock. The high-speed, 4.048-mile track will become the longest on the Cup Series schedule.
Sonoma Raceway (June 6) and Watkins Glen International (Aug. 8) return to familiar slots on the schedule. Those tracks had been annual stops for the series since the late 1980s, but both were scratched from the 2020 schedule because of COVID-19’s impact.
Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval layout returns for a fourth straight season, and it will remain the only road course in the NASCAR Playoffs. The 2.28-mile oval-road circuit is scheduled Oct. 10 as the Round of 12’s elimination race for a second consecutive season.
MORE: See the full schedule