The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is jam-packed with new venues and highly anticipated races.
Those events include a dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, a new stop at Circuit of the Americas, the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s return to Nashville Superspeedway, a Fourth of July celebration at Road America and the Brickyard 400’s transition to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
Out of all the amazing schedule additions, which ones are we anticipating the most? NASCAR.com’s Terrin Waack and Chase Wilhelm go head-to-head to share their thoughts.
WAACK: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. I know switching this iconic track to its road-course layout changes up the classic feel to the Brickyard 400 crown-jewel event from the Cup Series’ schedule, but hear me out. The Xfinity Series race held on the Indy Road Course last year was absolutely epic. I remember watching it with my father and us screaming at the TV to my mother’s dismay — yes, I was off from work that weekend and had the pleasure of simply enjoying the event with family. My adrenaline was pumping at the end there, as Chase Briscoe nabbed the checkered flag in a scrambled finish.
It was the type of race you talk about with others and say, “Man, you should have seen it!” At least that’s what my father and I did afterward. And that’s the kind of show I want the Cup Series to have on Aug. 15 — the day after IndyCar and the Xfinity Series split a doubleheader on the same twists and turns. Three premier racing series at one historic track in the same weekend? Yes, please.
I respect traditions, like the previous runnings of the Brickyard 400, but if 2020 taught us anything as a sport it’s that change can be a good thing. If not, there’s always 2022 and beyond.
Honorable mention: Road America
WILHELM: Road America. I’ll take your honorable mention and elevate it to the top of the list. Serving as one of seven highly demanded road courses in NASCAR’s premier series, the event will be even more special with its Fourth of July slot. Celebrating America’s birthday at Road America is a match made in motorsports heaven.
Based on previous NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin course, we’re bound to see as many fireworks on the race track as we’ll see in the sky later that night. One race that sticks out in my mind includes a last-lap battle between Jeremy Clements and Matt Tifft in 2017. Clements, running with an under-funded, family-owned team, made contact with Tifft on the white-flag lap, sending Tifft spinning and Clements to the checkered flag.
While the NASCAR Cup Series has only visited Road America once — a race in 1956 won by Tim Flock — many of the drivers in the field hold valuable experience on the road course thanks to previous Xfinity Series competition.
Racing at Road America has taught us to expect the unexpected, whether that might entail lead changes in the closing laps, surprise winners or the possibility of inclement weather where rain tires could be put to use. That has all the makings of a July 4th instant classic that Uncle Sam would approve of.
Honorable mention: Circuit of the Americas