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Will the Cup Series Ever Race in Portland?

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What’s Happening?

In 2024, Iowa Speedway will become the latest race track to transition from an Xfinity and/or Truck-only venue to hosting a NASCAR Cup Series race. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, and it could happen again. Portland International Raceway is another venue that could make that transition in the future, but will it happen?

  • It is commonplace for Cup Series venues to get their start hosting Xfinity and/or Truck Series races. This is a great way for NASCAR to dip its toe into markets it wants to be in, but it may not be sure if there is enough demand for the sport
  • However, not every standalone venue gets a Cup Series race. This can be due to multiple factors, including overall interest, the racing product, or the market.
  • Fans always look to these standalone venues for insight into where the Cup Series could go next. Could Portland be the next to take that jump?

How Often Do Xfinity/Truck Series Standalone Venues Get Cup Races?

Of the 26 tracks with at least one points race on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, six venues started out hosting Xfinity and/or Truck Series standalone weekends (Gateway, Homestead-Miami, Iowa, Las Vegas, Nashville, and New Hampshire). West Coast tracks Phoenix and Sonoma each had Winston West Series (a precursor to the ARCA Menards Series West) races before hosting the Cup Series. Pocono and Indianapolis began their lives hosting IndyCar before the Cup Series joined.

Some of these tracks hosted the Xfinity or Truck Series for one or more consecutive seasons before getting a Cup Series date. Homestead-Miami (4 years), New Hampshire (3 years), and Las Vegas (1 year) all fall into this category.

The other three venues saw a hiatus of some sort. Nashville laid dormant for 10 years after hosting their last Xfinity Series race in 2011 before the Cup Series came in 2021. Gateway did not host anything between 2011 and 2013 before welcoming the Truck Series back in 2014, and the Cup Series joined in 2022. NASCAR left Iowa during the 2020 pandemic, but the track stayed alive by hosting IndyCar and ARCA before the Cup Series came this year.

Kentucky Speedway, Road America, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course received Cup Series races after stints as standalone venues. However, both tracks are no longer on the Cup Series schedule. Kentucky lays dormant, while Road America and Indianapolis remain active.

However, not every standalone venue has received a Cup Series date. Many short tracks both series visited throughout the 1980s and 1990s never received Cup dates because they never had the infrastructure to host Cup Series races. This includes tracks like Hickory, South Boston, Orange County, etc.

However, tracks that may have had the infrastructure and potential to host a Cup Series race, like Indianapolis Raceway Park, Memphis, Mexico City, Milwaukee, Montreal, Nazareth, and Pikes Peak, never got Cup Series dates, at least not yet. Why do some tracks get dates, but others do not?

How Standalone Venues Get Cup Series Dates

Looking at the six current venues that were once Xfinity/Truck standalone weekends, they each have three things going for them. One, NASCAR was previously largely untapped in the market; two, there was genuine demand for NASCAR; and third, the track had the infrastructure to host a Cup Series race.

As mentioned in the previous sections, the infrastructure issue is where most early standalone venues met their fate. Most of these tracks were in small markets anyway and probably didn’t envision hosting a Cup Series race in the future.

Tracks like Milwaukee, Indianapolis Raceway Park, and Nazareth were all in or close to markets in which NASCAR already had a presence. Milwaukee is only a couple of hours along Lake Michigan from Chicago. Indianapolis Raceway Park is in the same metro area as Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Nazareth Speedway is only about an hour from Pocono.

Tracks like Mexico City, Montreal, and Pikes Peak were all in new, untapped markets, and they all seemingly had the infrastructure to host a Cup Series race. However, they weren’t markets that NASCAR felt the need to be in.

That may change for two of these tracks on this list. As NASCAR pushes to go international, Mexico City and/or Montreal may join the schedule in the near future.

Will Portland Get a Cup Series Race?

Portland seemingly has the infrastructure for a Cup Series race. It’s right next to a major highway and in a big market in the Pacific Northwest, an area of the country that remains largely untapped by NASCAR.

However, is there truly a demand for a Cup Series race at the venue? KGW 8 reported that the first race at the venue in 2022 was a grandstand sellout, with an estimated 50,000 people attending. It’s unclear whether or not that was a weekend-long figure or just a one-day figure.

Either way, Portland seemingly could host a Cup Series race. Unfortunately, it’s stuck behind bigger, more exciting markets like Montreal and Mexico City. There’s also the grassroots push to get a points race at tracks like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro.

The Cup Series would probably work in Portland, at least for a while. However, it could be long before they ever come to the venue.

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Joshua Lipowski

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