Thursday November 30, 2023

Season of Change in NASCAR Concludes at Phoenix Raceway

  • Few fans will be allowed to attend the finale at Phoenix Raceway.
  • Race marks the end of seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson’s career.
Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

This current NASCAR season was going to look different regardless of how the pandemic shaped it, with arguably its most notable change set for Nov. 8.

Phoenix Raceway was tapped to be the new home of NASCAR’s finale after a nearly two-decade run at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a decision announced in 2019 that was part of the series’ biggest schedule reshuffle in years. Then COVID-19 swept across the globe, which led NASCAR to take a 10-week pause and a May restart with a compressed schedule to get all 36 races in.

But the finale’s place and date — a week before NASCAR’s usual season-ending race — remained on schedule, albeit with some notable changes this weekend at the track in Avondale, Ariz. 

There will be no qualifying or practice before the four drivers eligible for the Cup title — Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott — and the rest of the field take to the 1-mile oval in front of a drastically reduced crowd.

“We have had races where there were none and races where there were a select few fans,” NBC Sports analyst and soon-to-be NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. told reporters on a conference call on Nov. 5. “I think the drivers absolutely prefer having someone in the grandstands to celebrate what they’re seeing and even if it’s just a very small crowd of people to have some kind of reaction.”

“It is the strangest thing for these drivers — and this has all come from drivers telling us this — they work for three and a half hours to win that race and they get out of the car to nothing,” he added. “It is the strangest feeling for them to climb out of the car right there on the flag stand or the finish line, to get the checkered flag and wave it to nobody.”

The race also marks the end of seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR career. The pandemic meant no grand sendoff for Johnson like other drivers from Jeff Gordon to Earnhardt had received as their careers concluded in recent years.

“To be honest with you, I have been sad about that for Jimmie, because I’ve always felt like that we never really appreciated Jimmie in the moment,” Earnhardt said. “He’s a living legend and he was doing all those things right there in front of us, and I don’t think we ever really, as an industry, appreciated how good he was. [Winning] five championships in a row was just crazy. . . . And then this year, I thought, man, he’s finally going to feel that love and appreciation from stop to stop along the tour and, you know, it didn’t happen.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

The College Football Playoff is considering rotating TV networks for the national championship game.

CFP Considers Super Bowl-Like Rotation For National Championship Game

Multiple networks could share rights to the championship game, sources told FOS.

NASCAR Secures $7.7B Media Rights Deals

Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery come on as new partners.
NASCAR president Steve Phelps speaks to the media prior to practice for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR Set To Add At Least One New Broadcast Partner

Previous reports suggest that NASCAR will lean into streaming.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

What’s Next for Mark Cuban, Mavericks After $3.5B Sale?


Featured Today

Lane Kiffin
November 9, 2023

Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin Lawyers Argue for Dismissal of Player Lawsuit

FOS obtained audio of Lane Kiffin's interaction with the player behind lawsuit.
LSU Lady Tigers head coach Kim Mulkey reacts against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the NCAA Womens Basketball Final Four National Championship at American Airlines Center.
November 6, 2023

Who Is The Highest-Paid Women’s College Basketball Coach?

LSU rewarded Kim Mulkey after winning a national title after her second year leading the program.
The Pac-12’s Collapse Will Have Ripple Effects on College Basketball.
November 6, 2023

The Pac-12’s Collapse Will Have Ripple Effects on College Basketball

The existing Pac-12 host a college basketball season for the last time.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Multiple - USA Careers
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Saco Bay PT
Multiple - USA Careers

Top Sports Business Jobs This Week (November 2023)

Each week, our staff combs through the thousands of job listings from…
August 10, 2022

PGA Tour Touts Projected Earnings to Keep Players

The PGA Tour is asking its players to consider their potential futures.
October 3, 2022

Real Madrid President Renews Call for Super League

Real Madrid's president believes that soccer is losing ground.

NHL’s Chris Foster on Amplifying Content Distribution With Automation

Learn how the NHL is using WSC Sports to increase fan engagement.
August 10, 2022

Bayern Munich to Make Growth Push in U.S. Market

Bayern Munich is looking to expand its reach in the U.S.
August 3, 2022

Nintendo Profits Underwhelm, Switch Sales Decline

Nintendo failed to meet expectations in the company’s latest earnings report.
August 19, 2021

MLB Owners Propose $100M Salary Floor

Major League Baseball owners have proposed a $100 million payroll minimum for MLB’s 30 teams and a lower luxury tax threshold.
July 23, 2021

NFL to Players: Get Vaccinated or Pay the Price

The NFL's threatening to drop the financial hammer on un-vaccinated players and teams that cause forfeited games in 2021, according to memo.