The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is "expected to see several changes next season, including new tracks to host the cut-off race to the playoffs and the playoff opener," according to sources cited by Jim Utter of MOTORSPORT.com. The second Cup date at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which SMI is moving from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, will "serve as the kickoff race to the Cup series playoffs, replacing Chicagoland Speedway." Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has "traditionally hosted its lone Cup event in late July, will become the 26th race of the Cup season and the last chance for drivers to win their way into the playoffs." Richmond Int'l Raceway, which has hosted the 26th race since the playoff format debuted in '04, will "become one of the 10 playoff races, adding a second short track to the 10-race run to the championship." Chicagoland Speedway has kicked off the playoffs in past years, but it "will likely move into the regular season." Sources said that the official '18 schedule "should be released sometime next week." The proposed changes would "address several issues fans have complained about in recent years, including the monotony of the 10-race playoff schedule since its inception." The number of intermediate tracks will "remain the same in the playoffs, but it could drop by one if Charlotte Motor Speedway’s fall race ends up being run on its infield road course, an idea which is currently under consideration" (MOTORSPORT.com, 5/18).
LEAVING A CROWDED SCENE: Sources in recent weeks have said that moving Chicagoland to earlier in the season was under consideration out of concern that the mid-September race was having trouble competing in a crowded Chicago-area sports calendar that included the Cubs, Bears and Notre Dame football. By moving up to an earlier summer date, the ISC-owned venue should be able to earn a greater share of the buzz and demand for sports and entertainment dollars in the Chicago region that week (Adam Stern, Staff Writer).