The NASCAR Cup Series 2023 schedule features minimal changes from 2022, which could be a sign that the sanctioning body has found its perfect calendar.
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule features something we haven’t seen in three years – minimal change from the previous season.
The table, released last week, contains just seven race numbers with different tracks than in 2022. The remaining race numbers are identical to this season, including the entire elimination calendar.
In fact, this is the most comparable year-to-year schedule since 2019, which had the exact same 2018 lineup.
For 2023, six of the changes have minor trade-offs, including a Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race that is moving in place to stay on Easter Sunday and a spring event Darlington Racecourse being pushed down a spot to stay on Mother’s Day.
The only major change is the addition of a street race in Chicago, Illinois on Independence Day weekend, which has replaced Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America.
This is an obvious shift between relatively close locations, and with a similar type of track, to allow for what would become a landmark event, the NASCAR Cup Series’ first street race in the heart of a big city.
There will be one similarity and one change in the show’s races. Another pre-season event is scheduled at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum while the All-Star race is set to bring the Cup Series back to North Wilkesboro Speedway for the first time since 1996.
With the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule featuring many similarities to 2022, does that mean the series has found its perfect mix of tracks?
For years, NASCAR fans have been asking for something different from the status quo. The schedule became more predictable and included more races on intermediate tracks, which some saw as having less traffic than short tracks, road courses, and high-speed tracks.
The status quo was made easier by five-year sanctions agreements that guaranteed limited or no changes in places over a long period of time. But with the agreements expiring at the end of 2020, the sanctions body decided it was time for a change.
“Do we want to hear what the fans have to say? NASCAR President Steve Phelps said in 2019, as reported by RACER, in 2019. Are fans speaking out loud that they are interested in seeing more short tracks and more on-road courses?” yes.”
The Sanctions Authority made several changes to the racing venue for 2020 before the schedule was significantly changed due to the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the resulting halt.
Major changes continued for 2021, with the number of road races increasing to seven from two in 2019. There were also three fewer and larger highway races, as well as the addition of the first dirt race in decades at a modified Bristol Motor Speedway.
The breakdown of track types has remained largely the same for 2022, but with changes to the 23-point schedule starting in 2021, including the addition of a race at the World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis, Missouri.
While there are more road courses, unique events, and different race dates than there were a few years ago, the schedule still falls short of eliminating intermediate tracks.
NASCAR did what fans had been asking them to do for many years by making wholesale schedule changes, but that didn’t take away from the big-track nature of the series.
There are 17 races on circuits between one and two miles in length in the 2023 schedule, the same as the number of races for 2019. Meanwhile, there are only six short-track races (including a dirt race), which is also the same.
Converting the Auto Club Speedway from its current two-mile configuration, which is due to be used for the last time next year, to a short track in the coming years will help. Show races in Los Angeles and North Wilkesboro could also help give fans an extra short fix.
Despite the large number of big tracks, the new Gen 7 really helped make the schedule look more refreshing than the crash offerings. The car helped keep things interesting all around, as evidenced by parity this season.
With dirt racing, street-track racing, more road course racing, and racing intermediate tracks, as well as a mix of traditional places and stops in new urban markets, NASCAR seems to have found its perfect schedule.
But that doesn’t mean it has to become the status quo again.
In an age of increased competition for shorter periods of interest, change is necessary to prevent fans from getting bored. All major league sports change their schedule from year to year – you won’t see the same NFL games in the first, second, and third week of each season.
NASCAR has its traditions, like the Daytona 500 season opener, but there’s no reason not to change the order of funky races and playoff races to keep things fresh. It will also allow local fans to enjoy the races at different times of the year, including bringing excitement to new markets.
While NASCAR seems to have found a great mix of tracks, they should look to change over seven spots in their calendar year to year for future seasons.