NASCAR shakes up schedule for 2018 and adds road course

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) NASCAR announced several changes to its 2018 schedule Tuesday, including new tracks for the final 11 races of the season.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will become the 26th race of the Cup season and the final chance to set next year's playoff field. The race will be run Sept. 9 and not be part of the summer schedule for the first time since it was added to the NASCAR schedule in 1994.

''The Brickyard 400 has been one of NASCAR's premier events for 25 years, and we're thrilled the race is moving to one of the most important dates on the NASCAR calendar,'' said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway will replace Chicagoland Speedway as the opening event in the 10-race playoff series. Chicago moves to a regular-season race in July.

Richmond International Raceway, which had been the playoff cutoff race since the format debuted in 2004, will move into the playoffs.

Charlotte Motor Speedway's playoff race will now be run on the venue's road course instead of its 1.5-mile oval. It will be the first NASCAR road course race in Charlotte's 58-year history.

The Charlotte ''roval'' is a 13-turn, 2.4-mile road course that incorporates part of the infield and all but 400 feet of Charlotte's 1.5-mile oval. Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger, Jeff Burton and Max Papis have all tested the roval.

''Charlotte Motor Speedway has always been about innovation,'' said Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc. ''Hosting the first road course race in NASCAR's playoffs, as well as the drama of closing out the playoffs' first round, means that tension will be high and competition will be fierce as soon as the green flag drops.''

The opening three-race playoff round will be Las Vegas-Richmond-Charlotte. The next round will be Dover-Talladega-Kansas. The third round is Martinsville-Texas-Phoenix, with the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18 exactly nine months after the season-opening Daytona 500.

The changes dramatically alter the type of tracks in the 10-race playoff. There will now be a road course, a restrictor-plate track, two short tracks, two 1-mile tracks and four 1.5-mile tracks.

The season will open Feb. 18 with the showcase Daytona 500, but Daytona International Speedway is also restoring a Speedweeks tradition with the exhibition ''Clash'' returning to a Sunday afternoon start one week earlier. The Clash will be followed by qualifying for the Daytona 500. The Clash was first held in 1979 and won by Buddy Baker.

The event was on a Sunday from 1979 until 1991. There was a one-year switch to Saturday, then the race returned to Sundays from 1993 until 2002. In 2003, it moved to a Saturday night start.

''Combining the Clash with qualifying is going to give our fans an outstanding afternoon of NASCAR action,'' said Chip Wile, Daytona International Speedway president.

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More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org

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