The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule will see a number of changes next year, including a new venue and modifications to the Chase races, NASCAR is set to announce later this month.
Kentucky Speedway, a track owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc, will join the Sprint Cup schedule next year after successfully running Nationwide and Truck Series events for the past 10 years, drawing big crowds for second and third-tier series races.
The new addition however has come to the expense of another SMI-owned track, Atlanta Motor Speedway, which announced yesterday that it will have only one race next year. Decreasing crowds have contributed to the second race being axed. Atlanta has hosted two events since its debut on the schedule in 1960, even staging three events in 1961.
"You hate to see a race go, but you also have to understand the business of the sport," said four-time Atlanta winner Jeff Gordon. "When we go to Atlanta and they're having a hard time selling it out and there's an opportunity to go somewhere and grow our fan base and take the series somewhere they've never been before, which is potentially what's going to happen, then I think that's exciting and a good move."
Also, Chicagoland Speedway is set to announce next week that the track will to stage the first race of the championship playoff in 2011, taking the place of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which will host the opening Chase event this year for the last time.
Fontana's Auto Club Speedway, a track that continues to struggle for crowds, is likely to lose its place in the Chase and open up space for Chicagoland. Last year the California track was included in the final 10 races for the first time, replacing Atlanta.
The official 2011 Sprint Cup series schedule will be announced later this month.