CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Homestead-Miami Speedway will return to the playoff portion of the season in 2022, while the St. Louis area was awarded a Cup Series race and NASCAR will compete on Easter Sunday for the first time in more than three decades in schedule changes released Wednesday.
Homestead hosted the season finale from 2002 through 2019 but was bumped to an early date last year as NASCAR began experimenting with long overdue schedule changes. Phoenix Raceway was awarded the finale in 2020 and is slated to host it for a third consecutive season next year.
Homestead was given a second chance for 2022 with an Oct. 23 date that makes it the middle race of the third round of the Cup Series playoffs. The track located 40 miles south of Miami Beach is beloved by drivers but lost its cachet after 17 years of hosting the finale.
World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, will make its Cup Series debut on June 5. The 1.25-mile oval, which has held NASCAR national series races since 1997 and IndyCar events the past six seasons, is the only new track on the 2022 Cup Series schedule.
Curtis Francois — who purchased the shuttered facility known then as Gateway Motorsports Park in 2011 and reopened it a year later — is excited to have another milestone event at his track.
"I set some ambitious goals when I took over the race track, and to see them come to fruition is a dream come true," Francois said in a WWTR release Wednesday. "I am proud to welcome the NASCAR Cup Series to the St. Louis region. I can't wait to celebrate this incredible victory with our fans."
The Cup Series schedule will be 36 races again, but Pocono Raceway lost one of its two dates to the race near St. Louis. The 2.5-mile triangle in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, hosted two races a year from 1982 through 2021, but this year and last, it was as a weekend doubleheader with one race Saturday and another Sunday.
The 2022 season will officially open Feb. 20 with the Daytona 500, but NASCAR on Tuesday said its exhibition, made-for-television Clash that typically opens Speedweeks in Daytona Beach, Florida, will instead be held on the other side of the country on Feb. 6 at a temporary quarter-mile oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
It is the first time the Clash has not been held at Daytona International Speedway since its 1979 inception. This year's Clash was held on Daytona's road course.
NASCAR will race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the second year in a row as part of a shared weekend with the open-wheel IndyCar Series on July 31. But NASCAR wants the race back on the oval, and IMS officials said Wednesday they will consider moving the race — potentially on a rotating basis with the road course — as fans and drivers are attracted to the prestige of the famous speedway.
The Brickyard 400 was held on the 2.5-mile Indy oval for 27 years before it moved to the road course this year.
NASCAR will also return to the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, its first Easter Sunday race since 1989. Bristol this year experimented by covering its 0.533-mile concrete track in dirt as part of NASCAR's radical changes to the 2021 schedule.
The Tennessee track announced during its March race that it would be on dirt again next year, but it moves a month later to avoid weather concerns that have plagued the track for years. The race will also be in prime time, which Bristol general manager Jerry Caldwell said will allow viewers to tune in "after many have finished with their Easter traditions."
"For those who join us at the track, in addition to the thrilling racing, we will also have plenty of fun activities lined up throughout the day for our guests to celebrate Easter Bristol-style and create plenty of wow moments and cherished memories," Caldwell added in a track release about the race.
That also means Bristol will now have two races under the lights. For decades, the track hosted a night race in late August, but last year it was moved to September and became part of the playoffs. This year's night race is Saturday and will be the final race before the 16-driver field is trimmed to 12.