NASCAR Cup Series

Road America Cup date axed with Chicago addition

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Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Chicago having the edge over Wisconsin is not a sentence that football fans are used to hearing in recent times, but one that now rings true in the NASCAR Cup Series. With Tuesday’s announcement of a Chicago street circuit joining the 2023 calendar, it will take the early July weekend held by fellow road course Road America, which falls off the premier level schedule after just two years.

“Change is never easy, but change is often the catalyst for improvement,” reads a statement from track president Mike Kertscher that was released Wednesday. “At Road America, we embrace change, and we are consistently improving our facility and events to enhance the experience for everyone. We understand NASCAR’s efforts to improve the sport while introducing it to new fans, and we look forward to welcoming them back to America’s National Park of Speed in the future.”

Road America joined the Cup schedule in 2021 after a decade of hosting the Xfinity Series and last welcoming the top level in 1956. The four-mile Wisconsin road course has been popular among fans as one of the highest attended Xfinity races, and it continued to hold true for Cup with strong crowds in 2021 and 2022.

However, attendance was not enough to save the track from the chopping block. As it stands, the Cup Series visits six road courses (Charlotte Roval, Circuit of the Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Road America/Chicago, Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen International), the most in series history but also viewed by critics as an excess of the track type for the oval-centric championship. The Charlotte Roval, a counterpart to the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval that hosts the Coca-Cola 600, is virtually guaranteed a permanent spot on the slate as the area is home to many NASCAR teams. Sonoma and Watkins Glen are considered legacy road courses as the only such tracks for decades before the recent expansion, while Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a historic venue despite only recently switching from oval to infield road course. Although COTA was added in 2021 like Road America, it is part of an agreement with Texas Motor Speedway to move a points-paying race from the latter, and a COTA removal would simply shift the date back to the much-maligned 1.5-miler.

Despite the loss, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development & Strategy Ben Kennedy did not rule out the possibility of returning beyond 2023.

“It is unfortunate we’re not going back in 2023,” said Kennedy on Tuesday. “Just because it’s a no for 2023 doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a no forever. We’ve got some great partners up there. We’ll certainly share more about what other national series’ schedules look like in the future.

“I think part of the calculus of the decision certainly similar kind of market, as you think about the proximity of the two venues from each other. Then I think it’s also important as we think about the number of types of tracks we have on the schedule. Something that we’ve heard is kind of the number of road courses, continuing to add road courses on the schedule. It’s important that we don’t oversaturate ourselves.

“I won’t say that’s the emphasis to the decision. There were a number of things that went into that decision. But certainly, really appreciate all that they’ve done up there, and we’ll certainly be in touch with them.”

While the Cup Series is gone, it is not immediately known if the Xfinity Series will remain as a standalone date like it had been during the 2010s.

Tyler Reddick won his maiden Cup race in the final (for now?) event at Road America. Runner-up Chase Elliott scored the 2021 victory.

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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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