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NASCAR President Steve Phelps discusses 2021 schedule, other issues with media members

NASCAR president Steve Phelps shed some light on the logistics of the 2021 racing schedule, saying that new tracks and new weekend formats are in the mix.

Phelps did not pinpoint a timetable for the 2021 NASCAR schedule to be unveiled, but indicated that it could be released in segments, depending on how long the effects of coronavirus might linger later in the calendar year. The pandemic has altered how race weekends have been conducted, with practice and qualifying largely removed in an effort to limit the disease’s spread, reduce the number of necessary personnel and to limit travel time and costs with streamlined shows.

Nashville Superspeedway has already been confirmed as a new addition to next year’s Cup Series slate, but other venues — Phelps said — could be pending. Phelps also said that he did not anticipate moving the season-opening Daytona 500 from its scheduled Feb. 14, 2021 date, even if event protocols dictated that fan attendance remain limited.

Phelps addressed the potential 2021 schedule addition of Daytona International Speedway’s road course layout, which debuted in all three NASCAR national series this season. The circuit will be used for the Cup Series’ preseason Clash exhibition, and while Phelps wouldn’t fully rule out its return as a points-paying event, he indicated a road-course race would be unlikely to replace the tracks’ second superspeedway event, which was slotted as the regular-season finale for the first time last weekend.

Phelps also said that scheduling midweek races for 2021 was “probably in the lower end of probability,” as the sanctioning body and its partners try to balance scheduling and logistics while maintaining its TV ratings.

In other topics the NASCAR president, who was appointed to NASCAR’s Board of Directors on Aug. 25, addressed in his nearly 45-minute conversation:

  • Phelps said that other sports leagues have drawn on NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols for conducting events safely for its competitors and for limited amounts of fans. He said that NASCAR has recently shared its experiences with college football’s organizers as that sport takes measures to start its season this month.
  • Phelps said that NASCAR was continuing its mission to create a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at its race tracks and businesses after its June 10 decision to ban the Confederate flag and its sustained support of Bubba Wallace’s cause against social injustice. He said those measures were continuing both internally and externally, and that viewership of NASCAR among minorities was on the rise.
  • Phelps also mentioned that it has entertained the idea adopted by other sports leagues to use its facilities as polling places in the November election, providing more expansive spaces for voters to cast ballots while socially distanced.
  • Phelps noted that the development process has resumed for the Next Gen car, which was delayed a year from its scheduled 2021 Cup Series debut because of the COVID-19 work stoppage. Prototypes underwent two tests last month — an unofficial session at Daytona’s road course by IMSA team Action Express Racing and an official two-day test with NASCAR officials at Dover with Stewart-Haas Racing rookie Cole Custer.
  • Phelps indicated that NASCAR does not intend to alter its rules should a playoff-eligible driver miss time because of a positive COVID-19 test. Current rules require a driver who tests positive to have two negative test results a minimum of 24 hours apart plus written clearance by a personal physician. Without those, a driver’s status may also be reviewed after a 10-day waiting period.

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