NASCAR 2021 schedule: Auto Club races shifted to Daytona Road Course

NASCAR officials announced a shift to the early portion of the national-series schedule Tuesday, moving a race weekend planned for Auto Club Speedway to the Daytona International Speedway Road Course.

The move means NASCAR’s top series will open with three consecutive weekends in Florida and two straight weeks at Daytona, as Homestead-Miami Speedway will shift back one week on the schedule to accommodate the move.

RELATED: Updated 2021 Cup Series schedule

Challenges resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for significant advance planning for fans and the NASCAR industry led to the schedule adjustment.

The season-opening weekend at Daytona International Speedway remains unchanged, with the Cup Series’ Daytona 500 set for Sunday, Feb. 14. Daytona openers for the Xfinity Series (Feb. 13) and Camping World Truck Series (Feb. 12) also stay the same. The new February schedule for the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series is tentatively set:

— Feb. 14 weekend — Daytona oval (all three series)

— Feb. 21 weekend — Daytona Road Course (all three series)

— Feb. 28 weekend — Homestead-Miami (Cup, Xfinity)

The Camping World Truck Series had previously been scheduled to contest its second race of the season at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami track. That event has been realigned to the 3.61-mile Daytona Road Course layout, which hosted NASCAR national-series races for the first time last August.

Exact dates and times for the Xfinity and Truck series at the Daytona Road Course and Homestead-Miami have not been determined.

Because of the move, Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR weekend for the first time in 24 years. The 2-mile Fontana, California, track was slated to hold the third race of the season for both the Cup and Xfinity Series for the second straight year.

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Efforts at Auto Club will continue with the proposed redevelopment project to transform the track into a high-banked short track. Timing for approval will occur at a later date based on the impacts from COVID-19. This will allow fans and the industry the opportunity to properly close the history books on the storied oval for what could be the final race on its original surface in 2022.

The announcement adds a new twist to an already overhauled 2021 Cup Series schedule, which was unveiled Sept. 30. The series will now compete on seven road courses next season, as the Daytona Road Course joins Circuit of the Americas (May 23), Sonoma Raceway (June 6), Road America (July 4), Watkins Glen International (Aug. 8), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (Aug. 15) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 10) on the schedule.

The schedule shift also adds to an already busy stretch for Daytona’s road course layout. The circuit is scheduled to host the non-points Busch Clash for the Cup Series on Tues., Feb. 9, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicks off with the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 30-31, one week after IMSA’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 preliminary Jan. 22-24.