DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is a drastic change from years past. The changes are many and include 3-new tracks, a few tracks have left the schedule and a dirt race is coming to a track already on the schedule.
Permanent road courses at Circuit of the Americas (May 23), Road America (July 4) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (August 15) are the three new tracks. 2021 marks the first time since 1994 that the Cup Series will not run on the IMS oval.
NASCAR will open the season, as it traditionally does, at Daytona International Speedway (February 14) with the Daytona 500 followed by Homestead-Miami Speedway (February 21).
The ‘West Coast Swing’ begins at Auto Club Speedway (February 28) followed by Las Vegas (March 7) and Phoenix (March 14).
The Series returns East for the first of two dates at Atlanta Motor Speedway (March 21). The Atlanta race is followed by the Cup Series first race on dirt in 50-years at Bristol Motor Speedway (March 28).
Two races in Virginia open the month of April, Martinsville (April 10) and Richmond (April 18). The Series two smallest tracks are a prelude to a run on the largest track, Talladega Superspeedway (April 25).
The first of two races at Kansas (May 2) opens the month of May followed by the track ‘Too Tough To Tame’, Darlington (May 9), Dover (May 16) before the inaugural visit to Circuit of the Americas (May 23) and a return to most teams home track Charlotte (May 30).
June opens with a road course race in California at Sonoma (June 6) before the All-Star Race, which moves to Texas Motor Speedway (June 13).
A return to Nashville Superspeedway (June 20) takes place before the series visits the Keystone State for a doubleheader at Pocono Raceway (June 26-27).
Celebrating our nation’s birthday highlight’s the series first visit to Road America (July 4) before a return to Atlanta (July 11) and a trip to New Hampshire (July 18).
Two road courses and two ovals make up the month of August beginning with Watkins Glen (August 8) and followed by Indy (August 15), which will continue as a doubleheader with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Michigan International Speedway loses it’s June date so the only race in the ‘Irish Hills’ takes place August 22 followed by the regular-season ending visit back to Daytona (August 28).
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs begin at Darlington (September 5) followed by Richmond (September 11) and the Round of 16 elimination race at Bristol (September 18).
The Round of 12 begins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (September 26) followed by Talladega Superspeedway (October 3) and the elimination race at the Charlotte ‘Roval’ (October 10).
The Round of 8 consists of a return to Texas Motor Speedway (October 17), a return to Kansas (October 24) and the elimination race at Martinsville (October 31).
The NASCAR Cup Series Championship takes place Sunday, November 7 at Phoenix.
Chase Elliott Wins NASCAR Cup Series Championship
AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott knew he wanted to be a race car driver when he was growing up and on Sunday he followed in his Hall of Fame father Bill’s footsteps by winning the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
Elliott passed Joey Logano for the lead on lap 270 and powered to victory in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“I’m not sure I could have sat down and drawn it up any better, you know?,” said Elliott. “So for me, it’s unbelievable. It’s something that I’m not sure — well, I know I haven’t let it sink in yet.”
Elliott, 24, started racing go-karts as a kid and slowly moved up the short track ranks when NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick signed him to a driver development deal at the age of 14.
“Just so grateful for the opportunities and the things I’ve had over the years, great people,” said Elliott. “My mom (Cindy) and dad (Bill) and their support obviously has been from the beginning. Mr. Hendrick came in and really changed my life when he wanted to help. Not to sound like a NASCAR driver, but NAPA Auto Parts, too, coming in when they did. 2014 wouldn’t have happened without them and the championship that came that season. And man, they’ve been a champion partner for years. Now they have a championship to go with it.”
Elliott and his father Bill are just the third father-son duo to win NASCAR Championships, joining Lee and Richard Petty and Ned and Dale Jarrett.
“You know, heck, this is as big as it gets,” said Elliott. “I mean, my goodness. I mean, a champion in the Cup Series? Are you kidding me? It’s nuts. It’s absolutely nuts.”
Elliott’s championship came on the same day that 7-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ran his last race, signaling a changing of the guard at Hendrick Motorsports.
“Certainly appreciate his support,” said Elliott. “He’s been a great support system this week. I’ve talked to him multiple times. He’s reached out on a couple occasions, which is very cool. Very thankful. He’s a hero of mine. I think he’ll go down as the greatest to ever do this.”
Austin Cindric Wins Race And NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship
AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Austin Cindric passed Justin Allgaier on the final lap of NASCAR overtime to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Desert Dimond Casino West Valley 200 at Phoenix Raceway and capture the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
The victory was Cindric’s sixth of the season and his first in six starts at the one-mile Arizona speedway and his 100th NASCAR Xfinity Series start.
“This was an amazing effort by Brian Wilson and everybody back at the shop,” said Cindric. “There was a lot of work put into this Ford Mustang. I’ve got to thank Roger Penske and everyone from Team Penske plus the Menards family who put so much support into racing itself. It’s awesome to get them a championship in NASCAR, to be a champion in NASCAR, and do it in front of all these great people cheering us on at championship weekend. Thanks to Ford Performance, Doug Yates, and everybody at Roush Yates Engines. I’m speechless. I’m pretty humbled by the effort for sure.”
Allgaier took the final green flag from the outside of the front row with Cindric behind him and Ross Chastain on the inside. Allgaier’s teammate Noah Gragson was inside of Cindric. Allgaier cleared Chastain with Cindric in tow coming off turn four. Gragson was on the inside of Cindric and could have helped his teammate but elected to dive low heading into turn one. That gave Cindric room to get around Allgaier, who was helpless to hold him off.
“I’m disappointed; this racetrack for me lost a lot when we put PJ1 down, and I felt like if we had been able to run the bottom like normal and not run stuck in that high groove, I felt like we definitely would have had the best car,” said Allgaier. “So I’m disappointed in that, but at the end of the race today we were on old tires. I knew it was going to be sketchy at best. To be honest with you, to finish the race, it actually really surprises me that we were that close. Austin got that pass and ran through the middle of 3 and 4, and my teammate did a great job of trying to pull up and obviously race for the win. That’s what he needed to do. He needed to end the season strong. But I thought if he could have just got up a little bit in front of the 22 and been able to block that run, we may have had a little bit more of a shot, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Gragson finished second followed by Brandon Jones. Michael Annett finished fourth followed by Allgaier.
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Championship Preview
AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR’s Championship 4 Weekend gets started Friday night with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title fight.
Four drivers (Sheldon Creed, Grant Enfinger, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith) are eligible for the Championship in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway.
Sheldon Creed (No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet):
- Creed is tied for the series lead with 4-wins this season. Creed also has 8 top-five and 12 top-ten finishes. Creed also has a series-high 11 stage wins. Creed locked himself into the Championship 4 with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway two weekends ago. Creed has two NGOTS starts at Phoenix with a tenth place finish in 2018 and a 12th place finish in 2019 where he led 16-laps.
Grant Enfinger (No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford):
- Enfinger is tied with Creed for the series lead with 4-wins in 2020. Enfinger also posted 8 top-five and 13 top-ten finishes this season to go along with a stage win. Enfinger locked himself into the Championship 4 with a win last week at Martinsville Speedway. In three NGOTS starts at Phoenix Raceway, Enfinger has two top-five finishes (4th 2018; 5th 2019) and has led 10-laps (2018).
Brett Moffitt (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet):
- Moffitt has one win in 2020 (Kansas Speedway). Moffitt has also posted 10 top-fives, and 15 top-tens, 2nd best in each category for the series. Moffitt is looking to become just the fifth driver in series history to win multiple NGOTS championships, joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. (1996, 1998, 2007, 2009), Matt Crafton (2013, 2014, 2019), Jack Sprague (1997, 1999, 2001) and Todd Bodine (2006, 2010). Moffitt has two series starts at Phoenix posting a win in 2018 en route to his championship and a 10th place finish in 2019.
Zane Smith (No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet):
- Smith is looking to become just the second rookie to win the championship joining Erik Jones, who accomplished that feat in 2015. Smith captured two wins, 6 top-fives and 12 top-tens in 2020. Smith will be making his NGOTS debut this weekend at Phoenix.
The race starts at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. Television coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on FS1. The race can be heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.