For nearly two decades, Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted the season finale for all three NASCAR national series, and many fans have begun to push for the return of championship weekend to the facility.
Homestead-Miami Speedway first joined the NASCAR Cup Series schedule in 1999, and just a few years later, it found itself hosting the season finale. From then until 2019, the track continued to host the season finale for the Cup Series, plus for both the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series.
The track has become extremely popular with drivers and fans, and it produced several memorable championship moments through the years. However, the schedule changed significantly in 2020, and the track found itself slated to host a March race rather than championship weekend.
Although that 2020 race ended up being run in mid-June rather than March due to the schedule changes brought on by COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions, the track ended up running its first (and only) February race in 2021.
But this change was short-lived, as 2022 saw the race return to the playoffs, only this time in the round of 8. While this change did see the track moved back to the late playoff schedule, there have been further calls for it to again host the season finale.
When the championship weekend was moved away from Homestead-Miami after 2019, Phoenix Raceway was the beneficiary. Phoenix had previously hosted the penultimate race of the season, the final race of the round of 8.
Phoenix has hosted the championship race ever since the move was made, and it is scheduled to do so again next weekend and then in 2024.
Although Phoenix has hosted some exciting races in recent years, many of the championship races at the track have been rather lackluster without many memorable moments. Several of these races saw limited on-track passes for position, with the eventual champion dominating a majority of the event.
In last season’s championship race, Team Penske led 296 of 312 laps, with eventual champion and race winner Joey Logano leading 187 of those laps while teammate and runner-up finisher Ryan Blaney led 109. Given the sometimes lackluster racing product put on by the Next Gen car on shorter tracks, such a result was not necessarily a surprise.
On the flip side, Homestead-Miami has built up a reputation for putting on a much more exciting racing product featuring plenty of on-track action and several drivers in contention for the win.
Throughout the track’s two-plus decades on the Cup Series schedule, it has seen many epic championship battles and memorable moments. Among these memorable battles are the 2011 battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards and the 2016 championship race, which saw Jimmie Johnson capture a historic seventh championship thanks to late chaos.
While it was not the championship race, this past Sunday’s race at the track further solidified Homestead-Miami’s position as a top-tier track with its multi-groove racing, many lead changes, and late battle for the win.
And with the current “winner take all” Championship 4 format, it’s reasonable to think that Homestead-Miami is a much better fit to host a title race from a standpoint of the overall racing product. It would likely provide a championship battle that comes down to the final lap.
While Phoenix is far from the worst track on the schedule, it provides a much more tame and predictable racing product which generally pales in comparison to that of Homestead-Miami. Is Phoenix really the best fit for championship weekend?
While there will not be any changes to championship weekend in 2024, the 2025 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is likely to see more changes across the board.
This could include a change to championship weekend. While it is possible that a different track will host championship weekend in 2025, there are still a few roadblocks that could prevent such a change from happening.
For one, the championship race has sold out in every season Phoenix has hosted it. This year’s race sold out in June, roughly five months before the race. Regardless of what the racing product looks like, it would be difficult to make changes to any race weekend that sells out months in advance.
Additionally, the possibility exists that NASCAR could decide to make a change, but by trying something brand new altogether, thus eliminating Homestead-Miami from the equation.
The upcoming championship weekend in Phoenix could prove to be a deciding factor when it comes to a possible change for 2025, and another lackluster race could be enough to force NASCAR’s hand.
While Homestead-Miami won’t host the championship race next season, it has retained its late-season spot on the playoff schedule and should once again serve as a major x-factor in determining who will have a shot at the championship.