Hopefully, 2024 is the last time we get a Championship race in Phoenix, at last for a while. If NASCAR decides to move the Championship race, it needs to be at a track that takes a significant amount of skill to win at. Somewhere with extreme historical significance and where classic and new fans can enjoy competitive racing. My suggestion... Darlington.
Darlington takes more skill to win than any other track the Cup Series visits. There is a reason nearly every name you see on the list of previous winners at Darlington have a Cup Series Championship on their belt, or at least they're in the running for it. Since 2014, there have been fourteen Cup Series races at Darlington, nine of which have been won by former or eventual Cup Series Champions.
Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, and Erik Jones are the four drivers who have won at Darlington without winning a Championship. Some argue that Carl Edwards would have gone on to win a championship had he not retired early. Though Denny has not won a Championship, he is generally in contention for one (Do not give me too much heat for saying facts, you Denny haters). Byron will eventually get himself one. Erik Jones is the only outlier. Below is a list of Darlington winners and their final season position since 2014
2023 - Kyle Larson - Round of 4
2023 - William Byron - Round of 4
2022 - Erik Jones - Did not make the playoffs
2022 - Joey Logano - Won Championship
2021 - Denny Hamlin - Round of 4
2021 - Martin Truex Jr. - Round of 4
2020 - Kevin Harvick - Round of 8
2020 - Denny Hamlin - Round of 4
2019 - Erik Jones - Round of 16
2018 - Brad Keselowski - Round of 12
2017 - Denny Hamlin - Round of 8
2016 - Martin Truex Jr. - Round of 12
2015 - Carl Edwards - Round of 8
2014 - Kevin Harvick - Won Championship
Darlington is considered a "Crown Jewel" track to win at, bringing me to my next point. Why is the Championship Race not run at a Crown Jewel track like Charlotte or Darlington? Phoenix has its place in the NASCAR history books, but one could argue there isn't another track that NASCAR visits with more significance than Darlington. Okay, maybe Daytona, but Darlington is a Top-3 track regarding historical significance.
It is a great location for classic NASCAR fans and the new generation of NASCAR fans. The Carolinas are the heart of NASCAR. There's a reason nearly every NASCAR team is situated within an hour north of Charlotte, and the Hall of Fame is in Charlotte. NASCAR is the one sport that mixes the old with the new better than any other league in the US (I know I'll get some classic fans that will disagree with me here, but find me another US-based league or series that has done a better job at this?). Being a NASCAR fan is in the blood of nearly every North and South Carolinian, so bring the Championship race home.
I'm not saying Darlington should be the location of the Championship race every season, but Pheonix has run its course. With the amount of skill it takes to win at Darlington, mixed with the track's significance to the sport and it being situated in NASCAR country, I don't think many would be upset if we got a Championship Race or two in that peanut field.