2024 NASCAR Cup schedule explained: Why Iowa’s in, Montreal’s not and more

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is out, and as has been the case for the past handful of years, it features several changes designed to enhance its 38-race calendar. The most notable addition to the schedule is an inaugural Cup Series visit to Iowa Speedway, while the biggest exclusion was not expanding beyond the U.S. border, as had been widely expected.

So why then was Iowa added and Montreal was not? And what was the reasoning for some of the other changes to the schedule? Let’s attempt to answer some of these questions.

What happened to expanding beyond the U.S., specifically Montreal?

NASCAR has been candid in its desire to add an international points race to the schedule, with Canada and Mexico viewed internally as the likeliest destinations due to logistics and fan demand. To fulfill this wish, NASCAR leadership explored assorted cities in both countries. In this process, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal emerged as the likeliest spot to be included on next year’s schedule.

Discussions between NASCAR and Montreal race organizers took place throughout the summer but dragged on without a deal being struck. It was these ongoing negotiations that forced NASCAR to release its schedule later than it wanted.

According to industry sources familiar with the negotiations but not authorized to speak publicly, NASCAR and Montreal organizers were unable to strike a deal that made sense to both sides to add the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Ultimately, as the calendar approached late September and they needed a definitive decision, NASCAR opted to pursue options elsewhere, and the idea of racing in Montreal in 2024 was tabled. Whether NASCAR and Montreal race organizers can revisit these talks for 2025 is still to be determined, but NASCAR remains committed to having an international points race on the Cup schedule soon.

How did Iowa Speedway finally land a Cup date?

With Montreal appearing increasingly unlikely, NASCAR needed a track to fill the void created when California Speedway was dropped from the schedule due to a proposed renovation project at that venue. What it sought was a track in an untapped or underserved market and also one that would generate excitement among its fan base.

Checking these boxes is the 0.875-mile oval in Newton, Iowa. Drivers have long lobbied for the popular short track, located in the underappreciated hotbed of racing that is Iowa, to host a Cup race. The news was generally well received, though some fans did raise the issue about how the short track rules package may hinder the quality of racing.

Such concerns are valid, no doubt. But if NASCAR can improve its short track rules package, the racing at Iowa has an opportunity to deliver in a big way.

Iowa’s addition is also aided by the fact that NASCAR owns the track, making negotiations with the promoter far easier than had it elected to go somewhere else outside the portfolio of tracks it owns. And it’s worth noting there was a scenario where both Montreal and Iowa were added to the 2024 schedule.


First look at 2024 NASCAR schedule: Cup, playoff changes, more

Why does the regular season end at Darlington, not Daytona?

In the four years that Daytona International Speedway has hosted the regular-season finale, it’s quickly established itself as one of the more popular races on the schedule. This is a race fans circle as “can’t miss,” often delivering the frenzied anything-can-happen drama you want to see in the last race to determine playoff eligibility.

Knowing this, it stood to reason that the second Daytona race was on the short list of races that were fixtures and would be untouched. Well, not quite.

The catalyst for the surprising shift that sees Daytona placed as the penultimate regular-season race, with the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway sliding into Daytona’s slot, is due, like most things, to television. In this instance, NBC Sports, NASCAR’s second-half TV partner, is broadcasting the Summer Olympics and has asked NASCAR to go on a two-week hiatus so it can focus its attention on covering that.

To grant this request, NASCAR had to find a way to accommodate 38 races over an already announced 41-week span with the championship final at Phoenix Raceway set for Nov. 3. League officials explored the idea of a mid-week race or having a track host two races over a single weekend. According to industry sources not authorized to speak publicly, one option explored was for Richmond Raceway to host a Cup race on Thursday followed by a second race on Sunday.

But the idea of a midweek race or a doubleheader weekend was ultimately scrapped, thereby necessitating that the season be extended a week with the championship moved to Nov. 10. The domino effect of this was that, with the Southern 500 cemented on its traditional Labor Day weekend date, there was no way to position Daytona as the final regular-season race. Darlington was the only option.

Will Daytona go back to hosting the regular-season finale in 2025?

If we’ve learned anything about how NASCAR has crafted the schedule in recent years, it’s that just about any and all options are on the table. That said, and as noted above, Daytona as the site where the regular season concludes has proven to be quite popular.

So, while nothing is guaranteed, the expectation is that Daytona stands a very good chance of being repositioned as the last regular-season race on the 2025 schedule.

How do teams feel about consecutive superspeedway races to start the season?

Of the numerous changes to the schedule, beginning the season with back-to-back superspeedway races at Daytona and Atlanta is the one that generated the most consternation within the garage.

Over the past several weeks, as word trickled out that this could occur, several crew chiefs expressed disbelief to The Athletic about this scenario. Their collective angst centered around the real possibility they could lose upwards of three cars over the first two races — maybe even four depending on what transpired during the exhibition Clash — thereby putting their teams in a significant hole. Compounding this fear is that after Atlanta the schedule takes teams on the West Coast for two weeks, making it difficult to rebuild their diminished fleets.

Although crew chiefs are often worriers by nature, their concerns are valid considering how Daytona and Atlanta races typically unfold. We’ll see whether this comes to fruition or not, but it’s certainly something to be mindful of next spring.

2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule

Date Race/venue

Sunday, Feb. 4

Clash (L.A. Memorial Coliseum)

Thursday, Feb. 15

Duel at Daytona

Sunday, Feb. 18

Daytona 500

Sunday, Feb. 25


Sunday, March 3

Las Vegas

Sunday, March 10


Sunday, March 17

Bristol (Concrete)

Sunday, March 24


Sunday, March 31

Richmond (Easter night)

Sunday, April 7


Sunday, April 14


Sunday, April 21


Sunday, April 28


Sunday, May 5


Sunday, May 12


Sunday, May 19

North Wilkesboro (All-Star Race)

Sunday, May 26


Sunday, June 2


Sunday, June 9


Sunday, June 16


Sunday, June 23

New Hampshire

Sunday, June 30

Nashville Superspeedway

Sunday, July 7

Chicago Street Race

Sunday, July 14


Sunday, July 21

Indianapolis (Oval)

Sunday, July 28

Olympic break

Sunday, August 4

Olympic break

Sunday, Aug. 11


Sunday, Aug. 18


Saturday, Aug. 24


Sunday, Sept. 1

Darlington (regular-season finale)

Sunday, Sept. 8

Atlanta (start of playoffs)

Sunday, Sept. 15

Watkins Glen

Saturday, Sept. 21


Sunday, Sep. 29


Sunday, Oct. 6


Sunday, Oct. 13

Charlotte Roval

Sunday, Oct. 20

Las Vegas

Sunday, Oct. 27


Sunday, Nov. 3


Sunday, Nov. 10

Phoenix (Championship)

(Photo of Iowa Speedway during 2019’s Xfinity Series race: Matt Sullivan / Getty Images)

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