NASCAR announced Thursday that Kansas Speedway will become an elimination race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup round of 12 beginning in 2017.
That honor previously belonged to Talladega Superspeedway with Kansas serving as the second race of the three-race segment, but the new schedule means that Kansas’ fall race will feature added intrigue.
“It’s exciting to switch our role in the Chase and become the cutoff race,” Kansas Speedway president Patrick Warren said. “The field will narrow from 12 to eight here. Kansas City is very familiar with the notion of a Game 7 moment and that’s what the new Chase format is designed to create.”
Flip-flopping the Talladega and Kansas races in the Chase, which moves the Hollywood Casino 400 to Oct. 22, 2017, a Sunday, was the biggest change announced for next year’s schedule.
“We’ve been trying to find the right opportunities to maximize the 10 events within that run to the championship …,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We’ve got an incredible racing product at Talladega and we know that Talladega, no matter where we place it in the Chase, is going to provide a very high level of racing action. It really stands on its own.”
Especially with the new low-downforce package expected to create even more-compelling racing at Kansas, the switch is seen as a boost for the track’s fall race.
“We’ve worked hard on our rules package over the last couple years,” Cassidy said. “Bringing what we know to be a very successful rules package and low downforce to Kansas is going to be great at that cutoff, to see it in the drivers’ hands and the crew chiefs’ hands as we run toward Homestead.”
Asked if there was more prestige to staging a cutoff race in the Chase, Warren said, “I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. … Our fall races, especially since the new format has been implemented, have been aggressive. There’s been no shortage of excitement or activity on the track, and I don’t think that’s going to change. If anything, it will increase when you have a situation where four drivers no they may not advance to the following round. They’re going to do anything they have to in order to win.”
Prior to the 2017 Chase race, Kansas Speedway once again will hold the Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 21.
Kansas Speedway’s spring race will remain on Mother’s Day weekend moving forward. The green flag for the Go Bowling 400 will drop on May 13, 2017, a Saturday, with a Camping World Truck Series race set for May 12.
Other changes might be on the horizon for the Chase schedule, including the addition of a road-course race, but those changes won’t happen until at least 2018 now.
“I would not rule anything out down the road …,” Cassidy said. “There’s a fair amount of talk about it, mostly around the times that we’re racing a road course. There’s no question that road racing provides a different experience for the fans and one that is also arguably some of our most-compelling racing out there.”
Among other changes for the 2017 schedule, the spring race at Texas Motor Speedway will shift from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, while the spring race at Dover International Speedway shifts to June 4 and the late-summer race at Michigan International Speedway reverts to its early-August slot.
As usual, all three national touring series will kick off their season at Daytona International Speedway with the Camping World Truck Series opener (Feb. 24) and Xfinity Series (Feb. 25) leading up to the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26.
Tickets for the 2016 season at Kansas Speedway, including the trucks series’ Toyota Tundra 250 at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the Sprint Cup Series’ Go Bowling 400 at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, are on sale now at kansasspeedway.com or by calling 866-460-7223.
Tickets for the fall weekend, which features the Xfinity Series’ Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 15 and the Hollywood Casino 400 on Oct. 16 as well as the ARCA Racing Series championship on Oct. 14 also currently are on sale.