Pocono Raceway again will host a NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader in 2021.
On Wednesday, NASCAR released its schedule for next season and it has the 2.5-mile track in Long Pond hosting a twinbill the weekend of June 26-27.
It is the only doubleheader on the schedule. Besides Pocono this year, doubleheaders were held at Michigan and Dover in order to make up races postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re thrilled we are the only doubleheader,” Pocono Raceway president Ben May said. “That’s important to us, to be unique as we are with our triangle-shaped raced track and all the stuff we do that’s different than other folks do.”
This year, Pocono made history when, for the first time in NASCAR’s modern era (since 1972), Cup Series races were held on consecutive days. Kevin Harvick won the first race June 27 and Denny Hamlin captured the second June 28.
Fans were not able to attend the races due to coronavirus pandemic protocols. But they’ll get another opportunity in 2021.
“We’re still going to be the first-ever doubleheader with fans,” May said. “All the other doubleheaders that happened were at empty race tracks. So we’ll hang our hat on that a little bit.
“We’re always grateful to get another chance at showing what we can do. We had such great momentum last year and the (ticket sale) numbers were real. We were rockin’ and rollin’ so we’re thrilled to have another chance at it. It’s going to be spectacular.”
Race lengths and start times for the 2021 Cup races at Pocono will be released at later date, although May expects them to be the same or similar as this year. The Saturday race was 325 miles (130 laps) and the Sunday race was 350 miles (140 laps).
The NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series were also part of the doubleheader weekend at Pocono this year. When the Truck Series race was rained out Saturday and moved to Sunday, it marked the first time in NASCAR history all three national series ran at the same track on the same day.
NASCAR will release the 2021 Xfinity and Truck Series schedules in the coming weeks.
The Pocono doubleheader is one of the few constants for 2021 as NASCAR made a number of changes. The 36-race schedule that includes new venues, new layouts and a race on dirt.
Circuit of the Americas in Texas (May 23), Nashville Superspeedway (June 20) and Road America (July 4) are the new tracks on the schedule. Also, rather than race on the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Cup Series will compete on the track’s road course (Aug. 15).
For its spring race (March 28), Bristol Motor Speedway will be converted to a dirt track. It will be the first time since Sept. 30, 1970, at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds that the Cup Series races on dirt.
Texas Motor Speedway lost one of its regular-season dates. Instead, it will host the All-Star Race on June 13.
Besides Texas, other tracks to lose one of its two dates include Dover and Michigan. Kentucky Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway were removed from the schedule altogether.
As usual, the Daytona 500 will begin the season Feb. 14. The playoffs over the final 10 races remain the same, beginning Sept. 5 at Darlington and ending Nov. 7 at Phoenix.
With the addition of COTA, Road America and Indy, there are now six road courses on the Cup schedule — Sonoma (June 6), Watkins Glen (Aug. 8) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 10) are the others.
No consideration was given to having one of Pocono’s race held on its infield road course.
“We’d absolutely be open to doing something like that if NASCAR wanted to engage it,” May said. “We’d have a bit of work to do with runoffs and things of that nature. So that wasn’t in the conversation. The doubleheader was what we wanted and we’re thrilled to have it.”
During more than 30 years at The Times-Tribune, Scott has covered everything from high schools to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. His current beats include motor sports, local colleges, high school cross country and high school baseball. He also is a copy editor and page designer. His articles have won awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Eastern Motorsports Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists Keystone Pro Chapter and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Keystone Press. He also has been honored by the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and the Minor League Football Alliance. In 2016, he was presented the Media Service Award by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. A Long Island, New York, native, Scott graduated from the University of Scranton in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He lives in Peckville with his wife, Andrea, and daughters, Bridget and Emily. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100, x5109; or @swalshTT on Twitter