Dover gets late August date as NASCAR shuffles 2020 schedule

Kyle Busch leads the pack during the start of the Monster Energy Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway last October. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Dover International Speedway will host two NASCAR weekends featuring Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races on May 1-3 and Aug. 21-23 in 2020, track officials announced Tuesday following NASCAR’s release of the full Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2020 schedule.

The Monster Mile has hosted two NASCAR Cup Series events every year since 1971 and has been Delaware’s only major professional sports venue since it hosted its first race on July 6, 1969.

Dover International Speedway’s two 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races are scheduled for Sunday, May 3 and Sunday, Aug. 23.

2020 will be the first year that Dover hosts a NASCAR race weekend in August. All other second weekends at the Monster Mile have come in September or October.

Tatoian, Michael by .

Michael Tatoian

“With all of the stakeholders that are involved in assembling the NASCAR schedule — it is a difficult task to meet everyone’s needs. However, it is always with a ‘fan-first’ mentality that the schedule is produced,” said Mike Tatoian, Dover International Speedway president and CEO. “Moving our second weekend into the end of the summer should allow more families with young NASCAR fans to visit us before the school year begins, and we are for the most part removed from the crowded professional and collegiate sports landscape in the fall.”

The Monster Mile is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019 with two NASCAR tripleheader weekends on May 3-5 and Oct. 4-6.

The May 3-5 weekend includes the “JEGS 200” NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race on Friday, May 3, the “Allied Steel Buildings 200” NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, May 4 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, May 5.

This spring, in addition to the special gold Monster trophies given to the race winners and free 1:64-scale Dover diecast cars to the first 15,000 guests on May 5, fans can also enjoy multiple free performances by the famous Harlem Globetrotters in the 8-acre FanZone, a free Charlie Daniels Band concert on the Xfinity Stage in Victory Plaza, free appearances from country music superstar John Rich, as well as Micro Wrestling Federation matches, Del Rods Car Club car shows, a Winston Cup Mobile Museum display, on-site NASCAR and sports betting and much more.

The Monster Mile’s Oct. 4-6 NASCAR tripleheader weekend features the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race on Friday, Oct. 4, the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race on Saturday, Oct. 5 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Sunday, Oct. 6. The Oct. 6, 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race will be the 100th NASCAR Cup Series race in track history. Dover International Speedway will be the 10th track in the nation to host 100 NASCAR Cup Series races.

NASCAR schedule changes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR made the first significant changes to its schedule in years by shuffling the 2020 season into a freshened new sequence that tries to meet the wants of fans to the best of NASCAR’s current ability.

“The fans and the industry as a whole have been vocal about the desire for sweeping changes to the schedule, and the 2020 slate is a reflection of our efforts to execute against that feedback,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

The 2020 schedule was released Tuesday at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix, which got the season finale following a $175 million renovation to ISM Raceway.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway got July 5th to give the iconic track back-to-back summer holiday weekends; the event will follow the Indianapolis 500, a mere 42 days after that Memorial Day staple. IMS President Doug Boles said the Brickyard was the correct “venue to throw a massive party for our nation’s birthday.”

The July 4th holiday had belonged to Daytona International Speedway, but it gave up the traditional and often rain-wrecked event to claim the final race of the regular season, Aug. 29 when the championship field is finalized.

Daytona track President Chip Wile said the July race now created a chance at a “potential walk-off home run moment for a driver to solidify a playoff berth.”

Pocono Raceway will run both its 400-mile races on back-to-back June afternoons, Martinsville Speedway got a Mother’s Day race under the lights and also a slot in the playoffs — one of three short tracks featured in NASCAR’s 10-race playoffs. Even better for Martinsville, it got the penultimate race for the championship finale.

Bristol and Richmond short tracks both joined the playoffs, as did Darlington Raceway.

Martinsville in 2017 became the first major motorsports facility in the U.S. with a state-of-the-art LED Lighting system and will finally get to use them for a big-league event on the Saturday night before Mother’s Day. Speedway President Clay Campbell noted fans have asked “literally every single day since we installed the lights” when Martinsville would have a Cup race at night.

The season ends one week shorter than usual, but still includes 38 events that run from a Feb. 9 exhibition race at Daytona through the finale on Nov. 8 at renovated ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix. That includes consecutive weekends off for the first time in the modern era so that NBC Sports can focus on the Tokyo Olympics.

Charlotte Motor Speedway retained the All-Star race, but Speedway Motorsports chairman Marcus Smith told The Associated Press he was amenable to moving the event to Nashville in 2021.

Smith said IndyCar was also welcome to negotiate doubleheader weekends with a handful of SMI-owned tracks, among them Las Vegas during its new playoff date in late September that offers cooler temperatures than last year’s sun-roasted playoff opener. IndyCar has not raced at Las Vegas since Dan Wheldon’s fatal 2011 accident.

Smith also welcomed talks with IndyCar on the “Roval” at Charlotte Motor Speedway and as a NASCAR companion to Texas during its fall event. IndyCar aims each year to end its season earlier than any of Smith’s ideas for SMI-owned tracks.

Although he is open to doubleheaders with IndyCar as soon as next season, Smith was a firm ‘No’ on midweek races. Fans have asked more short tracks, road courses, and even dirt track Eldora Speedway to be added to the stagnant annual schedule, and industry stakeholders have asked for midweek racing during the summer in an attempt to shorten the length of the season.

NASCAR seemed open to the idea but was handcuffed by five-year sanction agreements with its existing track partners. The sanctioning body won’t have the flexibility to add new venues to the schedule until the contracts expire in time for the 2021 schedule.

It meant NASCAR could only swap its existing partners to the interests that suited all the parties involved. As for the midweek races, Smith was firm in that it was not a financial risk he was willing to make with one of the eight SMI venues with Cup races. He would have done a doubleheader, but said he believes it should be a unique event and special to Pocono.

“We did enough vetting of midweek events that it became clear what a difficult reality it would have been for not only the tracks, but the teams we spoke to said there would be a strain for them, too,” Smith said. “If someone else wants to do a midweek race, we wish them luck, but it is not for us.”

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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