News Analysis: Breaking down 2018 NASCAR Cup schedule

NASCAR unveiled the 2018 schedule on Wednesday, and it comes with bigger changes than fans may be used to with such announcements.

Here are the highlights, a grade for each move and some analysis. (Note: I haven’t seen the “spin” or the explanation for any of these moves yet, so maybe I’m missing a key point or argument on some of them).

MOVE: Richmond will be second race of playoffs after serving as the regular season cutoff race for the entire Chase/Playoff Era.


COMMENT: This one is a mixed bag. Richmond is one of my favorite tracks, but I’m worried it won’t be the typical short track race because drivers will be in points-racing mode and will not want to risk anything by pushing too hard. However, I like that it’s a Saturday night race because it avoids a conflict with the NFL after the season has started.

MOVE: The Brickyard 400 moves to the last race before the playoffs instead of its traditional July date.


COMMENT: Even though the racing at Indianapolis stinks for the most part, there’s still enough prestige associated with the Brickyard 400 to have that race stand on its own. Now there will be a mix of storylines: Both the Brickyard champion and the playoff field getting finalized. The race winner will be kissing the bricks while the other 15 playoff drivers stand around waiting for their group photo. And really, who is going to care who wins the Brickyard when the moment is all about the last driver getting a spot in the field? However, the major upside to this move is September in Indianapolis shouldn’t be nearly as hot as July. The local fans are definitely going to benefit from that.

MOVE: Second Las Vegas race starts the playoffs.


COMMENT: If NASCAR was going to lose Chicago as a big-market opener for the playoffs, at least Las Vegas is a suitable replacement. That will be a great place for everyone to get pumped about the playoffs starting. The only downside is it’s still pretty hot in Vegas at that time of year. And it’s going to be a Sunday day race, so…yeah. Bring a seat cushion, because your butt (along with the rest of you) is going to be quite warm. But overall, that should make for a fun weekend.

MOVE(S): Charlotte playoff race switches to the roval; Charlotte becomes Round 1 elimination race.


COMMENT 1: There are two parts to this, so they have to be graded separately. First of all, everyone finally gets the road course in the playoffs they’ve been asking for! But is it the right one? I’m going with “beggars can’t be choosers” on this and giving it a thumbs up. I have no idea how Cup cars are going to look on a roval (a “roval” means it uses part of the infield road course and part of the oval like in the Rolex 24 at Daytona), but I imagine they’ll get strung out much more than at a true road course. That’s OK, though — progress! Plus, the roval is practically guaranteed to be more interesting than a 500-mile intermediate track race anyway.

COMMENT 2: As for the elimination race element of it…whoa. That’s kind of crazy! It’s going to be quite a big wild card (you know how road courses can be) — although with the new playoff points system in place, the heavy hitters should be able to survive one bad race if something fluky happens. Still, chaos on a late restart at this race might take someone out — not unlike how Talladega used to be at the end of Round 2.

MOVE: Chicagoland gets bumped out of playoffs, moved to July.

GRADE: D for Chicago fans, B for everyone else.

COMMENT: I hate this for Chicago-area race fans and for the nice people at the track, because they just went from a pleasant-weather fall playoff race to a hot July 1 Sunday day race that means nothing. It’s now just another intermediate track race in the middle of the season. I guess since it opens NBC’s portion of the schedule, there will still be some hype associated with it (and NBC can go for bigger ratings on a Sunday afternoon than opening their season on a Saturday night). And putting Chicago in this spot allowed NASCAR to take a swing at some other big moves. But overall, it seems like a blow to the track.

MOVE: Dover opens Round 2 of playoffs instead of being Round 1 elimination; Dover moves from June to May.


COMMENT: That’s fine. The Dover playoff race has typically been blah (remember last year?), so if this shakes up the racing a bit by changing what is on the line, I’m down. And the track has seemed to move from May to June whenever the calendar dictates an extra off week (there must be a certain number of races to fit with Memorial Day and Labor Day, etc.), so no problems here.

MOVE: Final six playoff races remain the same.


COMMENT: I’m glad Homestead is still the championship race, because that’s such a great track to end the season. And I’m glad Talladega still isn’t an elimination race (it was already moved from that spot starting this year), because that was too wacky. Overall, everyone seems pretty comfortable with the last six races at that time of year, because there’s only so much NASCAR can do with the weather. So no issues here, except Texas should shave off 100 miles (hi, Eddie!).

MOVE: June off-week returns, Easter and August off-weeks stay.


COMMENT: Fans freaking HATE when people who work in NASCAR complain about how long the schedule is, and that’s fair. Drivers and crew members and media chose this profession and knew what to expect, right? But breaks are really nice when they are available — they keep people fresh — and I’m glad NASCAR kept them instead of trying to squeeze in a race on every weekend to somehow shorten the season.



COMMENT: I feel mostly positive about NASCAR’s schedule changes. Would it be better to have new venues, move the All-Star Race, add more short-track races and road courses? Yes, of course. But in terms of reasonable requests, working with the current lineup of tracks, there’s a lot to like here — particularly with the playoff changes (different tracks, road course, new races in first two rounds).

34 Replies to “News Analysis: Breaking down 2018 NASCAR Cup schedule”

  1. Why is there another 6 week break in the Trucks?? This makes no sense and hurts the series almost as much as Kyle Busch.

    1. Some of the drivers are finishing their senior year of High School. Plus NASCAR want the trucks to start and end on the same weekends as the Cup series.

    2. Get over Kyle being in the truck series. He’s limited to 7 races & not allowed to race during the playoffs. Time to move on Kyle haters.

  2. Don’t care not going to no more race’s after dega in October2017 Done I’m retiring & my driver Dale Jr retiring so need to go to any more race’s. Going to buy a boat & new motor couche.

    1. Fans like you make me sick. all drivers retire. So do what most do, find another driver or enjoy the racing as a whole. Yeah it sucks your driver is retiring. Your one of the reasons I’m Glad Jr nation is going away. You are the worst fans in NASCAR

      1. What if you aren’t happy with NASCAR and all of Brian’s changes and the only reason you’ve continued to watch was because of loyalty to your favorite driver? Are you blindly supposed to continue watching NASCAR if you think the chase is stupid, or don’t like the entitlements of the wave around, or feel the stages ruin the flow of the race, or if you think the races have become boring follow the leader parades?
        If you do wouldn’t that make you a mindless drone? A sheep being shepherded to the slaughter house? If that were the case, it might make you a good fan (debatable) but a very stupid human being.

  3. Hate the roravl. I say it ends up like the wing on the COT. Ok, here it is we listened to everyone. (Mean while 4 years later) Man that was stupid, what the hell were we thinking. For the last couple years i have heard that Indy isnt designed for stock cars & that shows. The racing there sucks. Well IMO stock cars werent made to turn right either. So NASCAR, crams another shitball idea down our throats. But what the hell, at least it isnt a mile and a half. Oh, wait. They got rid of a 1 mile race & added another mile and a half to take the place of the roval. So i guess that number of races is still ultimately the same anyway.

  4. This schedule won’t fix NASCARs woes, especially as it begins next season with lowest ratings. All the changes are in second half of the season.

    Why not try a Wed and Thursday night race? Really mix it up. Or die.

  5. I think the Indy move is a last ditch (hopefully) effort to make this race be more than just the worst race of each year. Now we get to play single file parade for 400 miles all the way to deciding the playoff line-up. Grade F.
    All other changes, I fine with since I will be watching on TV with the exception that I may go to Charlotte for the Oct. Road Course race. And YES, it SUCKS for the loyal Chicago fans that they get to be BBQ’ed in July. Mid-Sept can be really Hot, to just Hot, to pleasant in Vegas. Been there on vacation several times during that week.

  6. I’ve been going to Chicagoland since 2012 the new schedule is complete garbage. Richmond was a better race to end the season the Brickyard is boring.

  7. Jeff, couldn’t disagree more on Chicago, I give this a B+. There is a better chance that I attend now although a night race would have been best. I attended the first 12 races here but have been back just once since 2012. Chicago in September has way too many other distractions (Bears, Cubs, PGA, etc.) but in July, you may actually have some local attention. The NFL/Bears (even as bad as they are) draw all of the attention in September so any potential new/fringe NASCAR fans were not going to try a race over the NFL. I think attendance will be up but would have been up more if at night.

    As for the rest of the schedule, why are we still trying Atlanta in February? Loved that place in the October date.

    1. I live 15 minutes from Chicagoland and I don’t mind. I actually liked the July night races there the best. September is kind of sketchy rain wise so even a day July race is better.

        1. Usually 80-90’s. I ride my motorcycle pretty much every weekend when it doesn’t rain. You’ll have your random 99 day or two stretch in July, but its no Indy in August. Been to two of those and roasted both times!

  8. Considering all the factors involved this is about the best we could expect. With the ownership structure the way it is we can’t expect huge changes in the schedule. NASCAR and the ownership groups are not going to take money out of there own pockets. Of course we would all like to see bigger changes. With NASCAR heavily involved in some of the tracks don’t know how thing’s can change to much more. Will have to be happy with what changes we have now. See how things pan out. Also hope that we get some progress on the aero problem.

  9. Agree with what you said about Indy. This move takes away whatever prestige the race had left but I get the idea behind it even if it seems a bit desperate.

  10. I like that I will no longer fry at Brickyard. After last year I was ready to give the race up for good and I have been to all except 2011.i do not like that I will now fry at Chicagoland instead. May have to drop it in favor of the Kentucky night race!

  11. Sorry Jeff. The season finale remaining at Homestead remains one of the dumbest decisions. It should be rotated. Like all tracks, Homestead favors certain drivers and disfavors others. Rotating it is far more fair to the drivers AND to the fan base that doesn’t live in Miami.

    1. I tend to agree. Homestead is well thought of by lots of folks including drivers but @nascar is very track specific on driver/team advantages. Homestead is probably more fair than many, but rotation still seems to be ideal for a winner-take-all championship race. Weather that late in the year may be a factor in the tracks they will consider unfortunately.

  12. Dega’s playoff race should move to the last race before the playoffs. The last few Richmond fall races have been boring. Generally you have 3 or 4 guys racing for 2 or 3 spots in the playoffs. New winners just don’t happen there. Unfortunately I think Indy will make this worse. With Dega in that spot you have a much better chance of having first win of the season. Plus a guy can make up 15 points in the last lap.

  13. I used to be so excited to see the new schedule and watch the sport evolve in other ways but I’m so exhausted by the “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” mentality that I really don’t care anymore.

  14. Agree with most of the article, but Charlotte is a D at best. With all the excellent road courses, the compromise of a “roval” is a lose-lose. The road course is very narrow. SAFER barriers or other impenetrable barrier are considered a requirement. It would have been nice to see it tested in the all star race rather than having it as a wild-card elimination race.

    With a virtual unanimous call for shorter races, no need to still have the 600. I would make it a 400 at the longest.

    Trucks should have an abbreviated schedule. If they are going to start at Daytona, it should be in July. No ridiculous month-long breaks. Not happy with New Hampshire losing a race – especially with the amazing fan support. Unfortunately, the race has gotten boring.

  15. I think a lot of us wanted more changes, but with the 5 year agreements, its not like we were really expecting wholesale changes. Now if there aren’t bigger changes after 2020, I will be severely disappointed. However, I do like the move to put a road course in the chase/playoffs or whatever they are now. Time will tell if the roval will produce a good race, but let’s give it a shot. I have always thought that if we are going to do this playoff thing, drivers should have to prove themselves on every type of track. We have that now, but I think each type of track should be an elimination race. Make Talladega the final race of the 1st round, a road course the final race of the 2nd, and Martinsville the final race of the 3rd, while keeping the finale at Homestead. I know many fans are tired or seeing the last race at Homestead, but I really hope that never changes. Something about that track always produces exciting racing, and seems to be one of the only 1.5 milers not effected as much by aero-push.

  16. Dega way to crazy to be elimination race. Drivers should at least be able to mostly decide there own fate. Should be the first race of the chase.

  17. nascar will argue they gave the fans what they wanted with a road course in teh chase, but the Charlotte roval is not a road course. I tend to agree with Jr the race itself may be very boring because the oval element of the course will spread the cars out greatly.

    Excited to see Richmond get a playoff race. Also the spring night race is back. yes the day race was a better product on track, but if nobody shows up, the track has to do something different.

    The Chicago move makes me feel like nascar really doesn’t care if they keep that market at all.

  18. Another road course needed to happen and it would be far better if it was Road America, but I’ll take the roval at Charlotte over nothing. Now, I just wish they’d use the roval at Daytona for the July race.

    Pocono still having two races is baffling. I haven’t watched a race there in years because all my memories are that it’s mind-numbingly boring; am I missing something?

Comments are closed.