Talladega Superspeedway will no longer be an elimination race in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup as it will swap places with Kansas Speedway on the 2017 schedule, making Talladega the second race of the three-race quarterfinal race and Kansas the elimination race.
With the somewhat unpredictable nature of restrictor-plate racing and a controversial ending to the 2015 race, drivers will have a more traditional intermediate-track event at the 1.5-mile Kansas to determine who advances to the eight-driver semifinal round in 2017.
NASCAR will visit the same 23 Sprint Cup tracks and, as expected, will keep its all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. NASCAR, while coming out against North Carolina House Bill 2, had not considered moving the event from its traditional spot over the controversial law.
"We try to be part of a solution and not part of a bunch of threats," NASCAR chairman Brian France said April 21. "We're very direct about it and I think, we just do our part. ... In this instance, we take the position that any discrimination, unintended or not, we're on the other side.
"We don't like that [law]. We are working, including myself, behind scenes."
The 2017 Sprint Cup season will spread over 40 weeks instead of 41, meaning there will be two off-weekends (April 16 for Easter and Aug. 26) instead of three. That did not sit well with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who voiced his disapproval Thursday on Twitter.
The Daytona 500 will be Feb. 26 (its regular spot the Sunday after President's Day) and the regular season will end Sept. 9 at Richmond International Raceway.
Dover moves from its mid-May spot to its preferred spot -- June 4, the weekend after the Charlotte races. Michigan and Bristol also swapped spots in the August part of the schedule. In addition, the Texas spring race, which has been on Saturday night to avoid conflict with The Masters, will move to Sunday.
The Chase tracks remained the same and in the same order with the exception of the Talladega-Kansas swap. The Chase will open Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway and the season concludes Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The elimination race last year at Talladega finished in controversial fashion with Kevin Harvick, trying to secure a spot in the next round, stayed out with a wounded car and had contact with Trevor Bayne on the final restart to bring out the caution. NASCAR didn't penalize Harvick, who denied accusations he wrecked Bayne on purpose but said if there was less on the line, he likely would have pitted and given up the positions.
The schedule came out four months earlier than usual as part of NASCAR's five-year sanction agreements signed with tracks last year. Those agreements, according to the one submitted by Dover International Speedway as part of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, state that the tracks will know by April 1 their dates for the following year.