Changes Start At California

FONTANA, Calif. - California Speedway announced today that it will be the first speedway on the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series season schedule to implement Saturday qualifying during the February 25-27 NASCAR Tripleheader Weekend, which also includes a Friday night NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The Auto Club 500 race weekend takes place one week after the season-opening Daytona 500.

NASCAR announced a new rule in mid-November stipulating a change in the 2005 qualifying procedures where all cars will be impounded following their qualifying session, meaning teams will not be permitted to work on the cars and will have to focus their efforts on preparing for race set-ups starting with the all-important practice sessions on Friday.

Qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Auto Club 500 is slated for 12:10 p.m. on Saturday, February 26. Cup qualifying is sandwiched between NASCAR Busch Series qualifying, which kicks off the day at 10:00 a.m., and the NASCAR Busch Series 300-mile race, which starts at 3:00 p.m. and will likely finish "Under the Lights." Saturday concludes with the Miller Lite Rock 'n Racing Concert, which is free for all guests with a Saturday ticket, followed by a spectacular fireworks show by PyroSpectaculars. In addition, 2004 Auto Club 500 champion Jeff Gordon will be inducted into the speedway's Walk of Fame at Gate 12 either prior to or after NEXTEL Cup Series qualifying.

"Saturday qualifying adds a new twist to what we've always believed was a spectacular day of on-track and off-track activity at California Speedway," said Bill Miller, president of California Speedway. "It will be a new experience for everyone, but one we believe the fans will enjoy as they cheer for their favorite driver to take the pole position, all leading up to the Busch Series race with a later start time. For those fans that attended last year's Labor Day weekend NEXTEL Cup Series race, they know first hand how exciting the race was as the drivers battled the track changes late in the day as the lights came on. We're confident the Busch Series drivers will put on a great show as well."

Tickets for Saturday are just $40 in the lower level reserve section and $50 in the upper level reserve section.

While Busch Series and NEXTEL Cup Series qualifying has moved to Saturday, Friday remains full of on-track action with a new, first-ever Friday night NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, which joins the Busch Series and NEXTEL Cup Series races for this new NASCAR Tripleheader Weekend. Craftsman Truck Series qualifying for the American Racing Wheels 200 starts the day at 10:00 a.m. Two Busch Series practice sessions will be held from Noon to 1:10 p.m. and from 2:50 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. The NEXTEL Cup Series stars will also have two practice sessions to fine-tune their machines from 1:20 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. and a final practice session from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., setting the stage for the American Racing Wheels 200 at 6:15 p.m.

"Friday is action-packed. There is no other way to describe it," Miller said. "It's all day and now all evening of cars and trucks on track. It's also a tension filled day for all the drivers, especially the Busch and Cup competitors who will have to work on their race set-up and practice in packs to see how their cars handle in the draft. It may look like a mini-race out there, and for the truck series drivers, they will have a full day of building anticipation for their main event, the second time that series will run wire-to-wire under the lights at California Speedway."

Tickets for Friday are general admission and just $30 with children 12 and under free.

Two other new NASCAR rules are scheduled to be in effect at California Speedway during the February weekend aimed at bringing the NASCAR competition closer. A new gear rule for NASCAR's top three premier racing series will limit the maximum RPMs that all engines will be able to produce in competition. The other new rule, a reduction of the rear spoiler by an inch at all non-restrictor plate tracks, effects just the NEXTEL Cup Series teams. The spoilers will be 4.5 inches in height, reducing aero-push and enhancing the passing ability of the cars.

Tickets are on sale now at 800-944-RACE [7223] or online for this February Tripleheader Weekend. Pre-race Pit passes and Party Zone passes, California Speedway's fan hospitality featuring several NASCAR stars, are also on sale.

EDITOR'S NOTES: The average time for a NASCAR Busch Series race at California Speedway is two hours and 10 minutes. The fastest 300-mile Busch Series race at the speedway was in 2001 at 1 hour and 55 minutes. The slowest race was in 1999 at 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Below is a look at the previous start times for the past NASCAR Busch Series races at California Speedway:

1997 - 12:15 p.m.
1998 - 1:00 p.m.
1999 - 11:00 a.m.
2000 - 12:00 p.m.
2001 - 12:30 p.m.
2002 - 1:16 p.m.
2003 - 1:14 p.m.
2004 (1) - 1:08 p.m.
2004 (2) - 12:30 p.m.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will have two practice sessions on Thursday, 2:00 to 3:10 p.m. and 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. The speedway is not open to the public on Thursday.

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