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NASCAR mailbag: 2023 schedule, street course, rivalries

Answering NASCAR questions about the 2023 schedule, the idea of street courses, Chicagoland, Denny Hamlin v. Ross Chastain, and NASCAR's All-Star Race in Texas.

IndyCar: XPEL 375
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As NASCAR enters the summer months of the 2022 season, questions about next year’s schedule begin to come to the forefront. Let’s dive into the questions being answered in this week’s NASCAR mailbag.

NASCAR: What might the 2023 schedule look like?

NASCAR has been bold with the schedule in the last few years and that is not going to change as the sport looks to mix it up. It’s a positive change after years of the same schedule.

As for what might change, nothing is for certain, but there are realistic possibilities that might happen over the coming months as the schedule is hopefully released in August.

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First off, there was a rumor a few weeks ago that suggested Phoenix would move to one date and Chicagoland would take a date. That is not true and has no momentum behind it.

As for Chicagoland, I will touch on that later in the article with another question. Phoenix is keeping its 2023 Championship Weekend date and should keep its Spring date too.

The Indianapolis Road Course has been a questionable change on the schedule and there’s a very realistic possibility NASCAR could return to the oval. However, some drivers are against it due to the NextGen car.

NASCAR also doesn’t need the Charlotte ROVAL anymore. It’s time to move on from it and return to the oval event, but that is just my opinion since it was created before the road courses were added to the schedule.

Road America’s deal is up at the end of this season and I am not very optimistic about its future right now we’ll see how things progress over the next few months.

As for what could replace Road America, that is an idea that will be discussed in the next topic.

The idea of a street course in NASCAR

IndyCar: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
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There have been rumors of a street course in NASCAR for a few years and there’s a possibility that a street course in Chicago, IL could be here as soon as the 2023 season.

However, is a street course really needed in NASCAR? Sure, the idea of going to Chicago and Soldier Field sounds really cool on the surface, but I’m not sure if the NextGen cars would even race well around there.

Would it be even possible to pass? It doesn’t seem like stock cars around a street course would give many passing opportunities. Therefore, it might not make sense to replace Road America with a street course.

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Road America is one of the best road courses in NASCAR, in my opinion. While the attraction of a street course is certainly better, I don’t feel the excitement unless you are from the Chicago area.

It doesn’t hurt to try it out for one year or even as an exhibition event. However, let’s not make a NASCAR street course something that happens every year yet. I’m not sold on the on-track racing until we see it.

The track could be similar to the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula 1 where it is simply impossible to pass another competitor. I’m open to change, but it needs to make sense from a racing standpoint.

Why Chicagoland didn’t return and the track’s future

NASCAR: Camping World 400
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NASCAR took Chicagoland Speedway off the schedule to replace it with Road America after the COVID-19 pandemic made it so the venue didn’t have a race during the 2020 season.

The future of Chicagoland was in serious doubt for some time as the idea of placing warehouses near or at the track was presented before being shot down many months later.

However, is there a possibility NASCAR could return to Chicagoland? The door isn’t closed yet and with the success of the NextGen car, it makes all the sense in the world.

As stated above, there was a false rumor that Chicagoland would replace a Phoenix date. NASCAR fans clearly want to see the track return, but it needs to make sense for all parties.

Two of NASCAR’s best tracks, Iowa and Chicagoland, have been removed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s probably not realistic to see both return, race fans want to see one of them back.

Related: Evaluating the status of the NASCAR Truck Series

Would NASCAR give Chicagoland a date with a race already in Illinois at Gateway? Considering they are on opposite sides of the state, it definitely makes sense and it’s a strong market.

Chicagoland in NASCAR isn’t dead, yet. However, if a street course in Chicago is a part of NASCAR’s future, it might not be anytime soon.

NASCAR rivalries: Denny Hamlin v. Ross Chastain

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The big talk of the last week since Gateway has been the ongoing “controversy” surrounding Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin after their dust up.

Chastain’s aggressiveness put him in this spot where Hamlin and maybe Chase Elliott are against him while team owner Justin Marks showed support to his driver.

This has begged the question of whether this rivalry of sorts will continue into this weekend’s race at Sonoma Raceway. It seems unlikely that Sonoma is where it will boil over unless they are battling.

Hamlin stated he wants to get Chastain back when it is unexpected. Unless they are fighting for the victory, it doesn’t seem likely that a road course will be the place for it.

It certainly will be something to watch moving forward and it will be a storyline, but not one that is taken into too much consideration this weekend.

NASCAR’s All-Star Race in Texas Motor Speedway

NASCAR: All-Star Race
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The NASCAR All-Star Race has been the subject of criticism over the way the final laps of this year’s race were handled with the caution and Ryan Blaney’s window net.

However, that’s not the topic of discussion for this particular subject. The question is why the All-Star race is still in Texas and planning to return in 2023 while the track produces, arguably, the worst racing in NASCAR.

It’s pretty simple from NASCAR’s standpoint since the fans showed up in big numbers and despite the subpar on-track action, the venue and market are great.

Personally, the All-Star race should be rotated to avoid situations that are currently presented. It makes no sense for one track to hold major events consistently, such as Championship Weekend.

It appears the All-Star Race will return to Texas for a third consecutive year in 2023. However, it wouldn’t hurt to have a rotation so it can add unpredictability and variety to the event.