Changes for Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway are among the major alterations to the 36-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, plus two non-points events. The season begins Feb. 22 with the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway and ends Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of the season finale since 2002.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will expand from 22 to 23 races next season, adding an early season date at Atlanta. The NASCAR Nationwide Series, which will gain new title sponsorship in 2015, remains at 33 races. The news was announced Tuesday on FOX Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network.
NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell credited stakeholders across NASCAR with working together to put out all three national series schedules at once in August, earlier than the usual mid-September release date.
"It was really a result of some great collaboration from the entire industry," O'Donnell said. "The tracks recognized this was an opportunity for us if we could collectively, with NBC and FOX coming on board, look at some of the venues that may have had challenged dates and put them in a better position to succeed.
"We also knew that getting the schedule out early for all three series was really important for the fans. If we were able to get that out ahead of time, a lot of our fans plan vacations around races so getting them notice early was really the goal for the entire industry."
The move of Darlington's Sprint Cup date to Sept. 6 rekindles a sense of history for NASCAR's oldest superspeedway, which hosted stock-car racing's first 500-mile race in 1950. The crown-jewel event and the surrounding pageantry became a staple of early September in the South Carolina sandhills until 2003. Since then, the Southern 500 has been held in November (2004), on Mother's Day weekend (2005-13) and mid-April (this season).
Next season, Darlington will become the next-to-last race before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason begins. "Back to its traditional roots of Labor Day, we anticipate an early afternoon start on Sunday for that event," O'Donnell said.
The 2015 Chase will be contested on the current 10 tracks, starting Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway. Richmond International Raceway will remain host to the regular-season finale on Sept. 12.
Atlanta, which had held the Labor Day weekend spot since 2009, shifts its lone Sprint Cup race to March 1. The 1.54-mile track, which first hosted NASCAR's top division in 1960, had held stock-car races in either March or early April with regularity from 1963 to 2010. Atlanta also adds the Truck Series to its late winter weekend; the Hampton, Georgia track last hosted the circuit in 2012.
As announced last Friday at the World's Fastest Half-Mile, Bristol Motor Speedway's daytime Sprint Cup race will shift deeper into the spring on April 19, pushing it from race No. 4 this season to race No. 8 in 2015.
Other enhancements to the 2015 NASCAR schedules:
— Instead of crisscrossing the country four times in the early part of the schedule as in recent years, Atlanta's move to race No. 2 on the Sprint Cup schedule allows for a Western swing before the calendar dives headlong into spring. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will remain the third race on the slate, but will be followed by Phoenix International Raceway (formerly race No. 2) and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which stays put as the fifth race of the year. The Nationwide Series, which runs companion events with the Sprint Cup tour for races No. 1 through 5, shifts its schedule accordingly.
"In talking to both SMI and ISC, looking at the promotional efforts that could be put around three races in a row versus going east, west and back and forth, a lot of the marketing assets that a lot of the companies have in terms of hospitality, being able to do some really cool things for the fans," O'Donnell said. "Sometimes we weren't able to deliver that for each race market because of the travel back and forth. Now when you're out west for three straight weeks, the fans can expect that same cool NASCAR experience at all three venues."
— The newly added truck race for Atlanta will form a rare same-day doubleheader with the Nationwide Series on Feb. 28. It's the first time that a scheduled doubleheader has run at the same track since 2009 at Auto Club. "We put together a full day of Trucks and then Cup practice and then a Nationwide race," O'Donnell said.
— Daytona will host its traditional mid-summer Coke Zero 400 on a Sunday next season. "Probably late afternoon to primetime for Sunday," O'Donnell said of a start time. "and celebrate an additional fireworks show so we thought it was a great opportunity for the fans."
— The Sprint Cup schedule will add an idle weekend at the end of August, after Bristol's annual night race and before the Southern 500. Adding the break will provide respite for drivers and teams on what is currently a run of 17 races in 17 weeks to the end of the season. The off weekends are April 5 (Easter), June 21 (Father's Day) and August 30.
— The third off weekend for the Sprint Cup tour will become a road-racing weekend for the other two national series. "(It's) really just a quirk in the schedule in terms of where the weekends fall out," O'Donnell said. "If you knew you wanted to end Homestead traditionally where we did for the season before Thanksgiving, and you backed that up and have Labor Day in there as well as an anchor date, it just fell in place for an additional off week for 2015." The Nationwide Series' now-annual trip to Road America in Wisconsin will slide from late June to late August, running the same weekend that the truck series returns for a third straight season to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario.
— Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway will flip-flop their current October race weekends.
— Kentucky Speedway's lone Sprint Cup race will return to early July. The track hosted its Sprint Cup debut on July 9, 2011, but has run in late June in every year since. It will continue as a tripleheader weekend for all three national series.
— The addition of a Father's Day weekend off will move Sonoma Raceway's Sprint Cup date back one week, to the final weekend in June. O'Donnell said the Father's Day off week for the Cup Series was "a result of some stakeholder conversations with some other competing sporting events that happen to be going on that weekend as well so we just thought it was best for us. The timing worked out great for us from a Father's Day perspective to take that weekend off. A lot of our drivers are fathers. We'll take that week off and head into Sonoma."
— The two non-points races will remain at the same dates and places on the schedule. The Sprint Unlimited kick-off race for the previous year's Coors Light Pole Award winners will be run at Daytona the week before the Daytona 500. The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race remains at Charlotte, one week ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.
— NASCAR will race on the Ohio dirt of Eldora Speedway for a third straight year with the Camping World Truck Series. The third annual Mudsummer Classic will be scheduled July 22.
— When asked about a mid-week event for the Sprint Cup Series, O'Donnell said, "It's certainly worked for the Trucks with Eldora and in Bristol as well. It is something that we've looked at from time to time, but a Cup event is so big and there's so much effort into the travel and the assets that go into that event that I think that would be down the road if ever considered."
The 2015 NASCAR national series schedules (non-points races noted in parentheses):
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (36 points races, two non-points events)
|Sat.||Feb. 14||Daytona (Sprint Unlimited)||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Thurs.||Feb. 19||Daytona (Duel)||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Feb. 22||Daytona||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||March 1||Atlanta||FOX||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||March 8||Las Vegas||FOX||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||March 15||Phoenix||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||March 22||Auto Club||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||March 29||Martinsville||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||April 11||Texas||FOX||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||April 19||Bristol||FOX||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||April 25||Richmond||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||May 3||Talladega||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||May 9||Kansas||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||May 16||Charlotte (NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race)||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||May 24||Charlotte||FOX||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||May 31||Dover||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||June 7||Pocono||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||June 14||Michigan||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||June 28||Sonoma||FOX Sports 1||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||July 5||Daytona||NBC||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||July 11||Kentucky||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||July 19||New Hampshire||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||July 26||Indianapolis||NBC Sports Network|
|Sun.||Aug. 2||Pocono||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Aug. 9||Watkins Glen||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Aug. 16||Michigan||MRN, SiriusXM||NBC Sports Network|
|Sat.||Aug. 22||Bristol||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Sept. 6||Darlington||NBC||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Sept. 12||Richmond, NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Sept. 20||Chicagoland||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Sept. 27||New Hampshire||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Oct. 4||Dover||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Oct. 10||Charlotte||NBC||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Oct. 18||Kansas||NBC||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Oct. 25||Talladega||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Nov. 1||Martinsville||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Nov. 8||Texas||NBC||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun, Nov. 15||Phoenix||NBC||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Nov. 22||Homestead-Miami||NBC||MRN, SiriusXM|
NASCAR Nationwide Series (33 points races)
|Sat.||Feb. 21||Daytona||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Feb. 28||Atlanta||FOX Sports 1||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||March 7||Las Vegas||FOX Sports 1||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||March 14||Phoenix||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||March 21||Auto Club||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||April 10||Texas||FOX Sports 1||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||April 18||Bristol||FOX Sports 1||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||April 24||Richmond||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||May 2||Talladega||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||May 17||Iowa||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||May 23||Charlotte||FOX||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||May 30||Dover||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||June 13||Michigan||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||June 20||Chicagoland||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||July 4||Daytona||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||July 10||Kentucky||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||July 18||New Hampshire||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||July 25||Indianapolis||NBC||IMS, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Aug. 1||Iowa||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Aug. 8||Watkins Glen||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Aug. 15||Mid-Ohio||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||Aug. 21||Bristol||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Aug. 29||Road America||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Sept. 5||Darlington||NBC||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||Sept. 11||Richmond||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Sept. 19||Chicagoland||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Sept. 26||Kentucky||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Oct. 3||Dover||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||Oct. 9||Charlotte||NBC Sports Network||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Oct. 17||Kansas||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Nov. 7||Texas||NBC||PRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Nov. 14||Phoenix||NBC Sports Network||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Nov. 21||Homestead-Miami||NBC||MRN, SiriusXM|
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (23 points races)
|Fri.||Feb. 20||Daytona||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Feb. 28||Atlanta||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||March 28||Martinsville||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||May 8||Kansas||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||May 15||Charlotte||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||May 29||Dover||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||June 5||Texas||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||June 13||Gateway||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||June 19||Iowa||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Thurs.||July 9||Kentucky||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Wed.||July 22||Eldora||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Aug. 1||Pocono||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Aug. 15||Michigan||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Wed.||Aug. 19||Bristol||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sun.||Aug. 30||Canada||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||Sept. 18||Chicagoland||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Sept. 26||New Hampshire||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Oct. 3||Las Vegas||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Oct. 24||Talladega||FOX||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Sat.||Oct. 31||Martinsville||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||Nov. 6||Texas||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||Nov. 13||Phoenix||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|
|Fri.||Nov. 20||Homestead-Miami||FOX Sports 1||MRN, SiriusXM|