Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Friday, August 6, 2010

Changes to 2011 Chase Coming reported on Friday that Auto Club Speedway (sometimes referred to as Fontana) will lose one of its Sprint Cup Series dates for the 2011 season. This is not surprising; there's been speculation throughout the season that Fontana would lose a date -- probably in order to give Kansas Speedway a second date -- but it was widely assumed Fontana would lose its February date, not its Chase race.

But according to SPEED's report, Fontana will not be part of the 2011 Chase. Which begs the question ... who gets Fontana's second date? With some arranging, it's still possible that Kansas gets that date, but it won't be a straight swap, because Kansas is already in the Chase.

The network has also reported this week that the 2011 Chase will begin at Chicagoland Speedway, not New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which has opened the Chase every year since its 2004 inception. Instead, New Hampshire will become the second Chase race, and it's widely believed that Fontana losing its Chase race spares Dover's Chase date.

Without any other knowledge at this point, there's no telling what next season's Cup schedule will look like. That Atlanta Motor Speedway is losing a date to Kentucky Motor Speedway is not unexpected, nor is the fact that Fontana is losing a date. NASCAR CEO Brian France promised before the Brickyard 400 a couple weeks back that changes were coming to both the Chase and the schedule, but right now almost everything is speculation.

Sources tell SPEED that the 2011 Cup schedule will be released on Aug. 18.

Though SPEED's Thursday report mentioned the possibility of Martinsville Speedway losing a race (which will surely infuriate traditional fans, much like losing Rockingham and one of Darlington's dates did), there hasn't been a whole lot of rumbling about that move. Almost all the speculation this season has focused on Fontana, and rightly so -- from a racing standpoint, the track is stale, and the pathetic attendance figures have made a move almost inevitable.

Meanwhile, Martinsville has held strong from an attendance standpoint, despite its smaller grandstands and the fact that almost every track is seeing empty seats these days. If I had to guess I'd say Martinsville keeps both of its dates in 2011.

Frankly, I'm glad Fontana is losing a date -- if I had my way, we wouldn't go there at all. I understand NASCAR wants to court the southern California market, but it's clear they don't care for it. Unless you were to move the race to nearby Irwindale Speedway, which wouldn't be a bad move.

The 2011 Sprint Cup schedule will look a lot different than in recent years -- but that might not be such a bad thing.

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