Next year, NASCAR haters will have less reason than ever to trot out the line about stock cars “only turning left”—and racing fans ’round the country (and the globe) will be better because of it. NASCAR released its 2021 schedule this afternoon, and the race roster is packed with six road courses. Road racing not your thing? Aside from urging you to reconsider, allow us to suggest the spring race at Bristol where, for the first time since the 1970s, NASCAR drivers will pilot their machines on dirt.
It goes without saying, but these cars are decidedly not road course monsters—which is precisely why we’re looking forward to watching them battle in less-than-ideal contexts six times. The road course circus kicks off at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on May 23. Additional road course races will be held at Sonoma (June 6), Road America (July 4), Watkins Glen (August 8), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (August 15), and the Charlotte Roval (October 10). Even in their highest-downforce configurations, stock cars make very little downforce relative to the top-tier racing series that we typically see at places like the Glen and Road America, so expect a bumpy, slide-filled sweepstakes that could see smaller teams scrapping for the top step of the podium.
For the first time in 50 years, we’ll see an oval race on dirt when the NASCAR gang rolls through Bristol on March 28. NASCAR’s last dirt race took place in 1970, when Richard Petty took the checkered flag at the 1970 Home State 200. If you’re into NASCAR at all, you’ll know that when these cars are doing 200 mph inches from each other on pavement, they’re already sliding around in crazy low-grip situations. Watching them hang their tails out—as other forms of dirt racers do to get through corners faster—should be an absolute riot.
A few tracks are disappearing from the lineup, while others tracks will appear only once, rather than twice. Gone from the schedule are Chicagoland and Kentucky. Michigan International Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway are down to one race instead of two. (Texas is losing a points race, but will gain the All-Star Race on June 13.)
We like the increased number of road courses, as well as the added opportunities for different racing disciplines’ top series to share venues, à la IndyCar and NASCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on the same weekend. As motorsports seeks to foster interest in younger fans, offering crossover weekends like this is a step in the right direction.
What do you think of the 2021 NASCAR schedule? Let us know in the Hagerty Community.