For the second consecutive season, NASCAR ran a race weekend at the Daytona International Speedway road course, despite it not being on the initial schedule.
As we found out last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, flexibility is much-needed when it comes to NASCAR scheduling. Despite an unexpected 10-week hiatus, NASCAR was still able to run a full 36-race Cup Series schedule, a full 33-race Xfinity Series schedule and a full 23-race Truck Series schedule.
There were many changes to NASCAR’s schedule last year, and among those changes was the addition of the Daytona International Speedway road course.
This track was the late replacement for Watkins Glen International, which was wiped off of the calendar as a result of pandemic-related restrictions in the state of New York. All three national series competed at the Daytona International Speedway road course last August.
The track wasn’t initially on the 2021 schedule, but that quickly changed.
The season was scheduled to open up, as usual, with the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway oval. That happened on Sunday, February 14 (and into early Monday, February 15 as a result of lengthy rain delay).
Homestead-Miami Speedway was scheduled to host the next race on the schedule on Sunday, February 21, followed by the annual race at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, February 28 to kick off the three-race west coast swing, which also includes races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sunday, March 7) and Phoenix Raceway (Sunday, March 14).
However, as a result of pandemic-related restrictions, Auto Club Speedway was wiped off the calendar for 2021, and the Daytona International Speedway road course replaced it.
But instead of going from Daytona International Speedway to Homestead-Miami Speedway and then back to Daytona International Speedway for the road course race, NASCAR postponed the Homestead-Miami Speedway race weekend by one week (into Auto Club Speedway’s initial date) and stuck the new Daytona International Speedway road course race weekend in its place.
All three national series ran at the track this past weekend, with Ben Rhodes winning the Truck Series race on Friday night, Ty Gibbs winning in his Xfinity Series debut on Saturday night and Christopher Bell securing his first Cup Series win on Sunday evening.
The Daytona International Speedway road course is the first of a whopping seven road courses on the 2021 Cup Series schedule. Circuit of the Americas is the second, but it is not scheduled to host a race until Sunday, May 23, which is more than three months away.
The other five are Road America, Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen International, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.