NASCAR touts gains but knows short track racing needs work. Plus new 2020 schedule changes dates in Daytona and Homestead – Miami

With the 2019 NASCAR season over less than 24 hours ago, the 2020 changes are starting to take shape. Clearly both on and off the track things will be very different.

Let’s start with the 2020 race schedule where of course the series will kick off in February in Daytona as that remains cast in stone. However, there will for the first time in NASCAR history not be a 4th of July race at Daytona, the race now will be held in Indianapolis while, the summer date for the old Firecracker 400 will now come in late August on 29th to be exact.

Meanwhile, Homestead – Miami will no longer be the site of the NASCAR Championship season-ending race which is going to be in Phoenix. The Homestead-Miami race will come much earlier in the schedule on March 22nd making it a busy race month in Florida with the IndyCar season opener the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the 15th and the 12 Hours of Sebring on the 21st.

Meanwhile, NASCAR previously maintained there would be no changes to the 2020 rules. It was addressed by NASCAR President Steve Phelps who was very open about the changes.

“Our competition right now on the intermediate tracks and the superspeedways I believe is the best racing we’ve ever seen,” Phelps said. “Do I think we need to work … to improve what we’re seeing on the short tracks? I do. We’re going to do that in the offseason, for sure.”

He addressed the moving of the final race from Homestead-Miami to the Valley of Sun next year.

“We need to make sure we are working with our industry, our teams, our (manufacturers) and Goodyear, to make sure that the racing we have in Phoenix both in the spring, as well as our championship next year, is as good as it can be,” he said. “Our promise to our fans, and we’ll do it right here, is that we are going to provide the best racing we can at our short tracks. I think we’ve over-delivered on the intermediate tracks, and we will make sure that when we get to Phoenix in the spring, and some of the other racetracks that are short tracks, that they’re going to have better racing.”

“We need to make sure we are working with our industry, our teams, our (manufacturers) and Goodyear, to make sure that the racing we have in Phoenix both in the spring as well as our championship next year is as good as it can be,” he said. “Our promise to our fans, and we’ll do it right here, is that we are going to provide the best racing we can at our short tracks. I think we’ve over-delivered on the intermediate tracks, and we will make sure that when we get to Phoenix in the spring, and some of the other racetracks that are short tracks, that they’re going to have better racing.”

Among the new initiatives is a “Next Gen” car expected in 2021 that should drastically reduce costs, flexibility on changes to a stale schedule and an upcoming shift in the model for series sponsorship. Monster Energy marked its third and final season as title sponsor of the Cup Series on Sunday, and NASCAR next month is expected to announce various partners who have varying tiers of sponsorship.

“It starts with Jim France and his vision. Jim went to almost every race weekend this year, the 2019 season,” Phelps said. “He’s here because it’s important, and he’s here because he loves it. He loves NASCAR racing. He loves racing in general. That was the start of it, Jim’s vision and a plan to bring this sport to a place where we were being successful and were having success.

“He’s the son of NASCAR’s founder. There’s not a person in the garage that doesn’t feel Jim’s presence.”

Phelps said NASCAR hopes to announce the 2021 schedule by April 1 and the criteria for hosting the Cup Series will come down to the ability to host a competitive race, fill the grandstands and reach a market that makes sense for NASCAR.

Phelps also said there will some sort of electrification component in the 2021 engine package, though the sound of the car won’t be drastically different. Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota currently compete in NASCAR but the series wants an additional original engine manufacturer.

“I know for a fact we will not have a new OEM unless we change our engine,” Phelps said. “This engine is going to sound significantly the same as whatever the current engine is. We’re not going to have a bunch of electric cars going around. That’s not what this is about. It’s about having a relevant engine to our OE partners, Ford, Chevy and Toyota, as well as whoever the new OEMs that we’re looking at.”

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