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In a meeting with representatives of the media ahead of this weekend’s Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps reiterated the sport’s commitment to future growth and evolution.
“Two words: we’re going to be bold and innovative,” Phelps said. “I think we’ve done that, whether you’re talking about schedule innovation — think about going to the L.A. Coliseum and running an exhibition race, the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum (pictured above). We never would have done that, right? And the first time any of us heard that, they brought it to me and I’m like, ‘Can we do that?’ It was important. So, we are going to be bold. We’re going to be innovative. We’re going to keep mashing the gas, if you will.
“That’s been the success of NASCAR over the last two and a half years — doing things that are unexpected. Going to places that are unexpected.”
The L.A. Coliseum was well received not only for its success but because of how smoothly it was put together and executed. NASCAR also touted attendance from the race, including the high percentage of new race fans.
L.A. was one of two additions to the 2022 schedule. Last weekend, the Cup Series visited World Wide Technology Raceway for the first time.
Last year, the schedule featured four new venues in Circuit of The Americas, Nashville, Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. There was also one makeover as Bristol was covered in dirt.
Phelps, though, says the goal is to get to where people aren’t surprised by change.
“We want to get to a point where people are actually saying, ‘Well that’s actually what I would expect from NASCAR,’” he said. “As opposed to just sitting back and hey, we’re running here and it’s great.”
Phelps and other NASCAR officials have indicated the 2023 schedule will be announced before the fall. There are not expected to be as many changes or additions as seen in the last few seasons but, last month, NASCAR COO Steve O’Donnell told RACER through The Racing Writer’s Podcast that the series is working on “one big event” that would be new.
In attendance at the event in which Phelps addressed the media this week were drivers Daniel Suarez of Trackhouse Racing and Kurt Busch of 23XI Racing. Phelps used both as examples of where the sport is headed, as their teams are two years in and already weekly major players.
“Although Danny hasn’t won a race yet in the Cup Series, he was an Xfinity Series champion, and he has led a ton of laps,” Phelps said of Suarez. “Danny’s time is coming, and we’re really excited about that because he’s a breath of fresh air and his personality is infectious. Kurt is just a tremendous ambassador for the sport overall.
“We’re really excited for what the future holds. I think more schedule innovation is in our future. What that looks like, I don’t know. Certainly, no announcements today, but we’re poised to be able to continue the success we’ve had for our media partners, our sponsors and most importantly, our fans. The winners in all of this, frankly, have been the fans, and it’s really this traffic racing these guys are putting on with the Next Gen car.”