NASCAR, eager to boost sagging T.V. ratings and attendance at several tracks, announced major changes to its 2018 schedule on Tuesday.
The championship finale will stay at Homestead Miami Speedway, and is scheduled for Nov. 19, but 11 races preceding it will be run on new tracks.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is moving its race from late-July to Sept. 9, the 26th race of the Cup season and the final chance to set next year’s playoff field.
“The Brickyard 400 has been one of NASCAR’s premier events for 25 years, and we’re thrilled the race is moving to one of the most important dates on the NASCAR calendar,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president.
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Las Vegas Motor Speedway replaces Chicagoland Speedway as the opening event in the 10-race playoff series, and Chicago moves to summer. Richmond International Speedway will host a playoff race.
Perhaps the most exciting change for racing fans is that Charlotte Motor Speedway’s playoff race will be run Sept. 30 on the 13-turn, 2.4-mile road course instead of the 1.5-mile oval -- the first NASCAR road course race in Charlotte’s 58-year history.
“Charlotte Motor Speedway has always been about innovation,” said Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc. “Hosting the first road course race in NASCAR’s playoffs, as well as the drama of closing out the playoffs’ first round, means that tension will be high and competition will be fierce as soon as the green flag drops.”
The new schedule adds variety of tracks in the 10-race playoff. In addition to the road race in Charlotte, there will be two short-track races, a restrictor-plate track, two 1-mile tracks and four 1.5-mile tracks.
The season opens Feb. 18 with the Daytona 500. The first round of playoffs will be Las Vegas-Richmond-Charlotte. Dover-Talladega-Kansas host the next round. The third round is Martinsville-Texas-Phoenix.
Many sports have seen T.V. ratings decline in recent years, and NASCAR is no exception. Viewership dropped in 21 of 29 Cup races from 2015 to 2016, according to reports, and attendance revenue at Speedway Motorsports tracks fell 43 percent from 2005 to 2015.