Road America and NASCAR are ready for another holiday celebration in 2022

Dave Kallmann
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When the Cup Series came to Road America for the Fourth of July – the first visit by NASCAR’s No. 1 division in 65 years – the reception was exceptional. But there was more to the weekend than that.

The fit of a born-in-America sport celebrating America's birthday at a facility management likes to call America’s National Park of Speed just seemed … perfect.

“It feels like we might have found a home for July 4,” 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski said that weekend.

And he was right, at least for a second year.

In announcing its 2022 Cup schedule Wednesday, NASCAR confirmed what most in the industry expected and seemed to want, a return to the 4-mile road course in Elkhart Lake for the holiday weekend.

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Road America began selling tickets already during the 2021 weekend, so there was no question of whether, just when, the Cup Series would be back. The Kwik Trip 250 presented by Jockey Made in America – the title sponsor and presenting sponsors have flipped – will fall on Sunday, July 3. Although the schedule for the second-tier Xfinity Series was not announced, it will race the previous day at Road America.

From 1959, when Daytona International Speedway opened, until 1987, the track hosted NASCAR’s top division on July 4, and from ’88 to 2019 it had the race on a weekend around the Fourth. But especially when it ran as an evening event, the race was haunted by rain. Also, the advent of playoffs provided NASCAR an opportunity to host a more meaningful race at its marquee facility.

In 2020, the holiday weekend went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – which seemed appropriate, given the Indianapolis 500 is run on Memorial Day weekend – but that move lasted just one year.

Then came Road America’s long-awaited return to the schedule, replacing shuttered Chicagoland Speedway and taking Indy's position on the calendar.  An enthusiastic crowd – possibly the largest in track history – cheered Chase Elliott’s popular victory on a cloudless, 88-degree afternoon.

“When they change the schedule up, go to new places, you bring energy and excitement that our series deserves to have,” Elliott said afterward. “I think we saw that today.”

After massive changes to the NASCAR schedule for 2021, there again will be tweaks. Most notable are a June 5 event at Worldwide Technologies Raceway outside St. Louis replacing Pocono’s second race and the non-points, preseason Clash moving from Daytona International Speedway to the Los Angeles Coliseum on Feb. 6.

The Circuit of the Americas, which was new to the schedule last season, will shift from May to March 27, and Homestead-Miami Speedway will move to Oct. 23, replacing Richmond in the playoffs.

The season-opening Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 20 and the championship race at Phoenix for Nov. 6.

Road America’s complete 2022 schedule is not set, as IndyCar has yet to announce its dates. That race is likely to be around the same time as in recent years, although it’s unclear whether that would be June 12 or 19.

Running the Indianapolis 500 (May 29), Detroit doubleheader (June 4-5) and Road America (June 12) on consecutive weekends would be tough on teams. But the NBC family of networks carries both IndyCar and golf, and the U.S. Open golf tournament is set for June 19. So if IndyCar were to race that day, a live broadcast would likely end up on an obscure channel or the Peacock streaming service.

IMSA has announced its 2022 schedule, with the RA event falling on Aug. 7, its traditional weekend.