CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Darlington Raceway will return to its traditional Labor Day weekend date next season in one of the few significant changes to NASCAR’s 2015 Sprint Cup Series schedule.
To get Darlington back to Labor Day weekend after an 11-year absence, Atlanta Motor Speedway gave up the date. Atlanta now goes to the second race of the season on March 1.
Darlington will be run on Sept. 6, according to the schedule released Tuesday.
“I’m glad they came back. Don’t know why they ever left,” said Hall of Famer David Pearson, a South Carolina native and 10-time Darlington winner.
The season will still open at Daytona International Speedway with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, and then go to Atlanta. Then it’s a three-race West Coast swing through Phoenix, Las Vegas and Fontana, California.
One of the bigger changes came to Daytona’s second race date, traditionally held on the Saturday night of July 4th weekend. That race will now be on Sunday, July 5. That change is for 2015 only, though, as track President Joie Chitwood said the date would return to Saturday night in 2016.
There were no changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, which will again begin at Chicagoland Speedway and end at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Next season marks the first year of NASCAR’s new $8.2 billion television package, which is split between Fox and NBC. There had been hope by many fans that the return to NBC would bring a shake-up to the schedule, but moving Darlington to its traditional date was the only major change.
Fox holds the rights to the first 20 races, and seven of those will be aired on cable Fox Sports 1.
NBC takes over the schedule at Daytona in July and will air the July 5 race on NBC. But its next seven races will be aired on NBC Sports Network. In all, 13 of its 20 races are on cable, but half of the Chase, including the final three races, is on NBC.