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How NASCAR Could Revitalize the West Coast Swing

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Armany DePaul

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What’s Happening?

The West Coast Swing has been a mainstay of the NASCAR schedule for decades. For many years, the top three national series would travel out west at the beginning of the season and race some combination of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Auto Club Speedway.

With Auto Club off the schedule for the foreseeable future, that leaves a two-mile-sized hole left to fill for NASCAR’s first trip out west, and the question is, what should replace the spot that Fontana used to hold on the schedule? There are a few options that can not only fill the void left by Auto Club but expand the West Coast swing as a whole.

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
  • Auto Club hosted its last NASCAR Cup Series race in 2023, where Kyle Busch won the final race around the two-mile speedway in California.
  • The current West Coast swing consists of Las Vegas Motor Speedway followed by Phoenix Raceway.
  • Fans have asked for Sonoma Raceway to be added to the West Coast swing for many years, as the road course has beautiful scenery during the late winter and early spring.

Sonoma Gets New Life With West Coast Swing Addition

Sonoma Raceway has been on the NASCAR schedule since 1989 when the Cup Series hosted its first race at the famed road course. With the track just recently repaved, many fans have begged for Sonoma to be moved from its current June slot into the spring, but be part of the west coast swing. This addition would not only breathe new life into the track but give California a spot back in the West Coast swing that was previously held by Auto Club Speedway

While the threat of rain would be increased with a move from June to early February or early March, the addition of rain tires would allow the sport to race in potentially wet conditions and would present a new challenge for the drivers as well, as most likely they would have not races Sonoma Raceway in wet conditions.

Auto Club Short Track Becomes Reality

This one has been in the works for a while. Originally the plan was for Fontana to be converted into a half-mile short track, but complications have put that idea on hold for the time being. However, with demolition taking place for Fontana, many fans have noticed the center of the main grandstands continue to stand, leaving them wondering, will the short track actually happen?

If the Auto Club short track was to be built and completed, most likely ready for 2026, then it would give the West Coast Swing a new venue that would leave fans in high anticipation for the debut of the track. A half-mile layout described as having Martinsville straights while having turns reminiscent of Bristol, it would quickly turn into one of the hottest tickets on the NASCAR schedule. This would also give NASCAR another short track on the schedule, joining Martinsville Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Iowa Speedway.

The issue is whether or not the track will actually happen. NASCAR has yet to confirm whether or not they will move forward with the Auto Club short track project or leave the Fontana market for the foreseeable future. If the project does see the light of day, the earliest a race weekend would be scheduled would most likely be around 2026, meaning fans would have to wait two years before seeing Auto Club once again.

Race on the Streets of Long Beach

This idea has been flown around the NASCAR world, racing on the streets of Long Beach. Long Beach is a mainstay on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar, having hosted races since 1975 and is widely considered to be IndyCar’s second biggest race, only behind the Indianapolis 500. Seeing stock cars take on the fountain turn would be a true spectacle as NASCAR looks to expand into bigger markets. Plus, NASCAR has proven they can have success with street races, as evident by the Chicago Street Race back in 2023.

The issue is seeing if the city of Long Beach would agree to having two race weekends, meaning additional months of preparation that would shut down roads in the area. NASCAR could try to work with IndyCar to make a doubleheader weekend but IndyCar usually starts their season in mid-March and currently, the Long Beach Grand Prix is scheduled for the end of April (April 21).

Should the West Coast Swing Expand?

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Another possible idea is the expansion of the west coast swing. Instead of making it a two or three-week circuit, have NASCAR travel the West Coast for four races or spend a whole month on the West Coast and fully embrace the West Coast swing. With the 2024 schedule set to go to Bristol after Phoenix, then back west to Texas for Circuit of the Americas, it could make sense to keep NASCAR out west instead of traveling back and forth one week after another.

The issue could be the toll it takes on the teams. Adding another weekend on the West Coast could put a strain on the teams, especially the smaller ones as that’s more money and resources that they need to use to travel.

What should change with the west coast swing? Should it stay as it is or is there room to update and expand on it?

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Armany DePaul

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