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Talladega: Harvick calls schedule changes for 2021 'fresh and exciting'

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NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 06: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer Throwback Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 06, 2020 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

TALLADEGA — The drastic facelift of NASCAR’s schedule is a “fresh and exciting” evolution that was much needed for the sport’s future, according to Kevin Harvick.

The driver of the No. 4 Ford met with reporters on a video-conferencing call before Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and addressed the tweaks to the schedule, which include:

—A dirt race at Bristol

—A new road race at Circuit of The Americas near Austin, and a shift from the oval to the road course at Indianapolis

—A debut at Nashville Superspeedway

—A second race at both Darlington and Atlanta

—The elimination of races at Chicagoland and Kentucky

“The bottom line here is the fact that what everybody’s talking about is the change in the schedule,” Harvick said. “That’s what I’ve been preaching for years. We have to mix it up. We have to keep it fresh and exciting.”

Harvick said that “the Bristol situation is not something I would do. What I do like, it’s different. It’s fun. It’s creating a lot of conversation about our sport. I want our sport to be good and exciting and healthy and something everybody watches.”

The Chicagoland Speedway, located some 48 miles south of Chicago’s Loop, was one of those 1½-mile tracks labeled as “cookie-cutter,” and held little personality and intrigue.

Chicagoland was part of NASCAR’s effort late in the 20th century to set up shop near large media markets, even if they were well out of the sport’s traditional geography. NASCAR consistently failed to find suitable deals in the New York and Seattle metro areas, Chicagoland has failed and California Speedway, 40 miles east of Los Angeles has announced it will transform to a short track in hopes of capturing some magic.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Speedway — roughly halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati — was star-crossed from the beginning, with insurmountable traffic issues and insufficient parking.

“That went wrong the very first time we were there, when everybody couldn’t get in the gate,” Harvick said.

“There’s a huge business decision that goes with all these things. In the end, it’s butts in seats, who’s coming and who’s watching.”