Matt Kenseth's car flips after Danica Patrick (10) crashed into him during the NASCAR Talladega auto race at Talladega Superspeedway, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Greg McWilliams)
Greg McWilliams

Talladega's reputation for big wrecks had led NASCAR to remove it from the 2017 Chase.

May 05, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — NASCAR has decided that unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway won't be an elimination race in next year's championship Chase, instead taking the pivotal stop to Kansas Speedway.

The two tracks swapped dates Thursday in the most significant change to the 2017 schedule .

To the frustration of many drivers, Talladega had been the third race in the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The chaotic finish last year, when a wreck prevented Dale Earnhardt Jr. from having a chance to race Joey Logano for the victory, only underscored those opinions.

Logano was already locked into the next round of the Chase, but Earnhardt needed a win to advance. NASCAR's most popular driver finished second under caution and was eliminated from championship contention.

Things were just as chaotic at Talladega last weekend, when several multi-car accidents involved 35 cars. Some drivers opined that they'd rather sit at home than run at the restrictor-plate track.

''It's something that we've been talking about, the Chase in its totality and the races within the Chase and trying to find the right opportunity to maximize the 10 events,'' said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR's senior vice president of racing operations. ''The way we looked at it, we have an incredible racing product at Talladega, and in order to maximize the schedule - we know Talladega, no matter where we place it in the Chase, is going to provide a very high level of racing action and it really stands on its own.

''We saw the opportunity to make a switch and put Kansas in the cutoff and we're excited about that.''

Talladega becomes the second race in the Round of 12 on Oct. 15. The more predictable mile-and-a-half Kansas Speedway becomes the final race before the elimination to eight drivers on Oct. 22.

''It definitely adds a different layer of pressure for the competitors,'' Cassidy said. ''At the same time, it does not take away from what the fans at Talladega are going to get.''

Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren welcomed the change, pointing to the enhanced visibility and marketing opportunities that come with being the final race in the quarterfinals of the Chase.

''Every race is important in NASCAR,'' Warren said, ''but having a cutoff race will make the competition even more exciting at Kansas Speedway next fall.''

The new season begins Feb. 26 with the Daytona 500 and culminates Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and will cover 40 weeks. There are open weekends in April and August but none over the summer.

Among other changes, Dover's spring date was moved from mid-May to June 4, the weekend following the popular Charlotte race. Michigan and Bristol swapped spots in August, while the Saturday night race at Texas in the spring has been moved to Sunday afternoon.

''The overall sentiment is that (fans) preferred a Sunday race because it provided a more expansive weekend of activities,'' Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. ''This is great for the tourism-related businesses in Dallas-Fort Worth and a great schedule for our fans.''

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