Late Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR released its 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series schedule and it features some significant — and long overdue — changes that should make for a more exciting series.
Here are the five biggest differences in the 2018 schedule:
LAT ImagesNigel Kinrade
Ever since the great tire debacle of 2008, when cars couldn’t go more than 10-12 laps on a set of tires, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been in a gradual decline. But a new date — Sept. 9 — should help a lot. In 2018, the Brickyard 400 will be the final race of the Cup regular season, which ought to add new luster to the event.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
For years, Richmond International Raceway has hosted the final race of NASCAR’s regular season. But with Indianapolis Motor Speedway now getting that slot, the Richmond race moves to NASCAR’s playoffs and the second race of the opening round on Sept. 22. And that’s great news, since it adds another short track to the playoff mix, replacing the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway.
Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
Not every track gets to win when the schedule gets remade. Unfortunately for New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the one-mile New England track will see its schedule downsized from two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup weekends, which it’s had every year since 1997, to just one next year on July 22.
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What better place to kick off a big party than in Sin City? Next year, the 10-race, season-ending NASCAR playoff round will begin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 16, instead of Chicagoland Speedway, which has hosted the opener in recent years.
The Chicago track always had to contend with the start of the NFL season when the playoffs began every September, often with the Bears playing at home during the race weekend. Las Vegas won’t have that issue, at least not until the Raiders relocate from LA. Chicago’s date will change to July 1.
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Here’s a long-overdue move: NASCAR’s playoffs finally get a road-course race on Sept. 30, which will be the final race of the first round. And it will be on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, which ought to really liven things up. This is a major change with potentially huge implications. It just got real, folks.