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NASCAR adds Gateway, returns Homestead to playoffs for 2022

Harrison Burton (20) and Austin Cindric (22) lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Xfinity...
Harrison Burton (20) and Austin Cindric (22) lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Xfinity auto race in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)(Steve Helber | AP)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:47 AM CDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Homestead-Miami Speedway will return to the playoff portion of the season in 2022, while St. Louis was awarded a Cup Series race and NASCAR will race on Easter Sunday for the first time in more than three decades in schedule changes released Wednesday.

Homestead hosted the season finale from 2002 through 2019 but was bumped to an early-season race date last year as NASCAR began experimenting with long overdue schedule changes. Phoenix Raceway was awarded the finale in 2020 and is slated to host it for a third consecutive season next year.

Homestead was given a second chance for 2022 with an Oct. 23 race date that makes it the middle race of the third round of the playoffs. The track located 40 miles south of Miami Beach is beloved by drivers but lost its cache after 17 years of hosting the finale.

World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois across the Mississippi River from St. Louis will make its Cup debut on June 5. The 1.25-mile oval has held NASCAR national series races since 1997 and IndyCar the past six seasons. It is the only new track added to the 2022 Cup schedule.

The Cup Series will be 36 races as always, but Pocono Raceway lost one of its two dates to get the race near St. Louis. Pocono hosted two races a year from 1982 through 2021, but the last two years the events were doubleheaders held on the same weekend.

The 2022 season will officially open Feb. 20 with the Daytona 500, but NASCAR on Tuesday said its exhibition, made-for-television Clash that typically opens Speedweeks in Daytona will instead be held Feb. 6 on a temporary quarter-mile oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

It is the first time the Clash has not been held at Daytona International Speedway since its 1979 inception. NASCAR this year ran the race on Daytona’s road course.

NASCAR will race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the second year in a row as part of a shared weekend with the IndyCar Series on July 31. But IMS officials said Wednesday it will consider moving the race back to its oval — potentially on a rotating basis with the road course — as fans and drivers are attracted to the prestige of the famous speedway.

NASCAR will also return to the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, its first Easter Sunday race since 1989. Bristol this year experimented by covering its 0.533-mile track in dirt as part of radical NASCAR changes to the 2021 schedule.

The Tennessee track announced during its March race that it would be on dirt again next year, but it moves a month later to avoid weather concerns that have plagued the track for years.

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