Rick Hendrick Calls for Another Big Schedule Change

Rick Hendrick

Getty William Byron (left) celebrates a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Championship-winning team owner Rick Hendrick has just voiced his support for what would be a major change for the NASCAR Cup Series. He has expressed a desire to see the drivers compete on a street course as part of the continued push to experiment.

Hendrick made the comments on March 20 after William Byron held off Ross Chastain to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He and crew chief Rudy Fugle met with media members and spent some time discussing what the recent schedule changes have meant for NASCAR, as well as what they want to see in the future. For Hendrick, he has his sights set on a street course.

“I just think it’s exciting. I think it’s different,” Hendrick said, transcript via ASAP Sports. “I think it would be. Why the Coliseum race? I mean, if there’s a right street circuit that we could race on, I just think something different brings in a new level of fans. And it’s exciting. It’s something different to talk about.

“I think keep changing it up, and it just seems to bring in a lot of new people that we haven’t seen. The age group at the Coliseum were people — I think they said, like, 60% had never been to a NASCAR race. I think just doing something different than you’ve done for years and years is good for the sport.”

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NASCAR Previously Acknowledged the Possibility of a Street Course Race

Hendrick’s comments are not the first time that there have been open discussions of a street course race. NASCAR executives also acknowledged the possibility on March 10 during a press conference.

Ben Kennedy, a key figure in the schedule and the decision to race at the LA Memorial Coliseum, addressed the possibility when meeting with media members to discuss his new role as senior vice president of racing development and strategy. He explained that NASCAR continues to build the road map for both 2023 and 2024 while examining the possible moves.

Among the list of options is building a street course in the heart of Chicago. NASCAR previously partnered with iRacing to create a virtual track in 2021 as a way to test out the Cup Series cars.

“We’re definitely continuing to consider all options from a scheduling standpoint,” Kennedy said during his media availability. “Chicago has been one of them, and I think that’s no secret from the iRacing event that we had last year there. That said, nothing to confirm at this point, and we’re still looking at a handful of different options on the table.”

If a street course surfaces, there is a possibility that it will occur in 2023. However, there will not be a clear answer until NASCAR releases the official schedule later in 2022.

Hendrick Also Weighed in About Atlanta Changes

The championship-winning owner discussed a variety of topics during his media availability, a list that included the changes to Atlanta Motor Speedway to make it into a mini superspeedway. He noted that Hendrick Motorsports does not have a great history of finishing plate races but added that the new version of the track will provide entertainment.

“We have not had very good luck at finishing plate races,” Hendrick said during his media availability. “We’ve been in a great position, but we’ve seemed to get in wrecks all the time, and I don’t think this is going to be quite as bad.

“These cars are more durable, and you saw it today. Usually when you have a wreck down at Talladega, Daytona, it’s just trashed. But a lot of cars were able to finish, and also I think it’s going to be easier and better with this car and I think the speeds here at this track. I believe it’s going to be a great show.”

There were many industry members that weighed in about the reconfigured Georgia track. Kyle Busch gave a one-word answer to reporters after a crash ended his day early while Justin Haley said that the double-line rule led to a last-lap incident that collected him, Bubba Wallace, and multiple other vehicles.

While Hendrick believes that the new version of Atlanta will provide entertainment, that doesn’t mean he wants to see other 1.5-mile tracks undergo a radical transformation. He said that he wants to see NASCAR cap the schedule at six plate races due to the expensive repairs.

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