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Schedule gets new look

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

The 2015 Sprint Cup schedule will still begin at Daytona in February with a total of 36 point races plus the All-Star race and not end until November at Homestead- Miami. The schedule does not contain stops at any new tracks, but the road from Daytona to Homestead will take a new path as there have been several changes to this season’s schedule.

In recent seasons the first five stops on the schedule went Daytona- Phoenix- Las Vegas- Bristol-Fontana, but all of that has changed as it will now be Daytona-Atlanta-Las Vegas-Phoenix Fontana. The change will have the series leaving Daytona for a very early stop in Atlanta where the weather can be anywhere from early spring-like to a late winter blast. It will be the track’s only race on the schedule and it will be important for the track to put some people in the seats as there has been rumors since the schedule was announced that the track’s sole race date could be moved to its sister track in Las Vegas.

Following the Atlanta race, the sanctioning body finally decided to save the teams some money by scheduling the early western swing of the schedule entirely in the month of March. Last season the schedule had back-to-back western races at Las Vegas and Phoenix but came back home to Bristol before going to California for the Fontana race. This change will save every team the added expense of having their haulers make two cross-country trips as they will just move their haulers to the next track without having to come back to their shops.

Bristol Motor Speedway finally got its spring race pushed back as it will now be later in April than its traditional March date. The problems that Atlanta now has with the unpredictable weather of March was always a worry for the staff at Bristol as recent years has produced everything from snowstorms to days where the bulk of the crowd left with a red glow from a beautiful east Tennessee sun-filled weekend.

Darlington may be the biggest benefactor of the changes made to this season’s schedule as the track saw its only race of the season move from the spring to Labor Day weekend. The track always held its Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend until the 2004 season when the date was taken away. Since that time the highly-coveted date moved from Fontana to Atlanta but will now be moving back home to Darlington. This move may have a real say in who makes the Chase as it is the second-to-the-last race before the field for the Chase is set.

Daytona and Texas will keep their same slots on the schedule, but both tracks will see one of their dates moved during the weekend. Daytona’s July race, that has been held in recent seasons on the Saturday night of the July 4 weekend, will be moved to the following day. Texas had to move its April date last year to Sunday afternoon because of the NCAA’s Final Four was in town but will see the race move to Saturday night.

The schedule will also contain a third open weekend this season that is an increase of one over years past. Last season the schedule had the traditional Easter weekend break and a break between the New Hampshire and Indianapolis race in the summer. There will still be the Easter break, but the summer break has been moved up to June between the Michigan and Sonoma races. The extra break will come between the August race at Bristol and the Labor Day race at Darlington.

The final schedule change takes place in the second round of the Chase known as the Contender Round. Charlotte swaps weekends with Kansas which started the round this past season. Charlotte will now become the first race in the Charlotte-Kansas –Talladega stretch that will eventually see three more Chase drivers being eliminated from moving on with the opportunity to run for the title.

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