NASCAR: Why has the Daytona schedule changed?

The summer race at Daytona International Speedway is no longer the NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale.
NASCAR, Daytona
NASCAR, Daytona / James Gilbert/GettyImages

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, which was released back in early October, features a number of significant changes, and one of the big ones relates to Daytona International Speedway.

While the Daytona 500 is unsurprisingly set to keep its traditional place as the season opener in February, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 summer race at the track has again seen a schedule shift -- but without actually seeing a date change.

When the race was added to the schedule back in 1959, it was contested on Independence Day weekend in July. From 1959 to 2019, the only year in which that wasn't the case was 1998, when widespread wildfires in central Florida forced it to be postponed until mid-October.

But in 2020, it was shifted to the final weekend in August, and from 2020 to 2023, it was the regular season finale, creating an extra element of chaos when it came to determining the full 16-driver playoff field. It was contested the weekend before Labor Day weekend.

NASCAR Cup Series gets new regular season finale

Next year's Coke Zero Sugar 400 is scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 24, once again the weekend before Labor Day weekend. However, it is no longer the regular season finale, as it is the 25th of 26 races before the playoffs.

Because of NBC's commitment to the Summer Olympics in Paris, France, there are two consecutive off weekends during the Cup Series schedule over the summer. Following the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 21, there is no more Cup Series action scheduled until Sunday, August 11.

So while the Coke Zero Sugar 400 is set to retain its spot calendar-wise, it is one race ahead of where it had been schedule-wise. And instead of opening up the playoffs, Darlington Raceway is scheduled to close out the regular season on Sunday, September 1 with the Cook Out Southern 500.

With no more off weekends scheduled from then until the end of the season, the season is set to conclude one week later than it has over the last few years. Phoenix Raceway is scheduled to host the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race on Sunday, November 10.

The four-round, 10-race playoff schedule has also seen a number of changes in itself, including Darlington's move to the end of the regular season. Texas Motor Speedway, formerly a second round race, is no longer in the playoffs.

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Atlanta Motor Speedway and Watkins Glen International have been added to the round of 16, while Kansas Speedway has moved from the round of 16 to the round of 12 to replace Texas. Beyond that, the playoff schedule is the same as it was in 2023.