NASCAR Cup cars will race on dirt for first time in 50 years

2021 schedule announced, includes dirt at Bristol and new road-course venues

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The half-mile oval at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee will be covered with dirt for a NASCAR Cup Series race in 2021 | Zach Catanzareti photo

For the first time in half a century, NASCAR’s top racing division will return to its historic roots in 2021 when the half-mile oval at Bristol Motor Speedway will be transformed into a dirt-surface track, NASCAR has announced.

The sanctioning body for stock car racing also announced other changes for the 2021 season, including road-course events at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, Road America in Wisconsin, and on the infield road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the annual event will not be contested on the full 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.

“Not since 1969 has NASCAR added this many new venues to its premier series schedule,” the Daytona Beach-based organization said, adding that its top series hasn’t raced on dirt since late September 1970 when the Winston Cup cars competed at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds oval in Raleigh.

“We developed the 2021 schedule with one primary goal: Continue to take steps to create the most dynamic schedule possible for our fans,” NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer  Steve O’Donnell was quoted in the announcement.

“Extensive collaboration between NASCAR, the racetracks, race teams and our broadcast partners allowed NASCAR to create what promises to be an exciting 2021 schedule of races.”

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The race at Bristol is scheduled for March 28. The new road course dates are May 23 in Texas, July 4 at Road America and August 15 at Indy.

Also being added to the 2021 calendar, though previously announced, is a June 20 race at Nashville Superspeedway. Also previously announced was the addition in 2021 of a racing team co-owned by basketball star Michael Jordan.

The 36-race 2021 Cup Series season opens February 14 with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The season ends November 7 at Phoenix.

Off the 2021 schedule are the tracks in Kentucky and near Chicago. Texas Motor Speedway loses one of its Cup races but gains the annual All-Star event on June 13.

For more information, visit the NASCAR website.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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