Changes For Texas Races In 2011

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Texas Motor Speedway unveiled dynamic and historic changes to two of its marquee races during a special 2011 race schedule announcement extravaganza Tuesday night before a standing-room only crowd of more than 1,600 at the House of Blues in Dallas.

In an effort to enhance the entertainment value and add variety for its fans, Texas Motor Speedway made its most dramatic changes to the Samsung Mobile 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in April and the Firestone 550k IZOD IndyCar Series event in June.

The Samsung Mobile 500 will become the first Saturday evening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the 15-year history of Texas Motor Speedway when the event runs on April 9. The event also will be the first night race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

The changes to the Firestone 550k will not only be monumental for Texas Motor Speedway, but also the Indy Racing League IZOD IndyCar Series. For the first time in series history, IndyCar Series drivers will compete in two individual races in the same evening. The newly named Firestone Twin 275s – formerly the Firestone 550k – will consist of two full-field, 275-kilometer races (171 miles/114 laps each) with two race winners being crowned.

The news highlighted Tuesday evening’s special event hosted by Texas Motor Speedway for its season-ticket holders and the production had the atmosphere of an awards ceremony with an array of special guests and entertainment.

Joining Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman/CEO Bruton Smith and Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage on stage for the celebratory announcements were NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France, Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves, as well as numerous prominent sponsor executives among the audience.

The entertainment featured illusionist Ash Adams, who worked with the legendary David Copperfield; the debut of the “The Great American Sweethearts!” that will serve as the face of the speedway’s new 2011 “No Limits” marketing campaign; and culminated with a live concert by the Goo Goo Dolls.

“When it came to this special event and the 2011 schedule for our fans, the ‘No Limits’ theme fit just perfectly,” Gossage said. “We worked diligently with NASCAR and the Indy Racing League to provide a racing season with a dramatic new look for our race fans. With the move to a night Sprint Cup race and historic twin Indy-car races to go along with a NASCAR triple-header to close our season, we have a special racing season in store for the fans of Texas Motor Speedway.”

The Samsung Mobile 500 race week, featuring the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series, will have an entirely new look as the majority of on-track activity will be run in the evening. The week opens with The Dallas Morning News Qualifying Days, with the Nationwide Series teams qualifying Thursday, April 7, for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 and Sprint Cup Series teams qualifying Friday, April 8, for the Samsung Mobile 500.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, which has been a Saturday daytime race since 1997, will also have a historic footnote as it becomes the first Nationwide Series race run at night in Texas Motor Speedway history when it moves to 8 p.m. CT Friday, April 8. The Nationwide race will be preceded by the final “Happy Hour” practice for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers for the Samsung Mobile 500.

The Samsung Mobile 500 moves from its traditional Sunday afternoon slot to a night show on Saturday, April 9, which will be the first evening race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The race will be broadcast live in primetime on FOX beginning at 7 p.m. CT.

“I’ve been around NASCAR racing at night my entire life – from attending night races in Nashville to promoting night races at Bristol and Charlotte – and I’ve always found them to be electric,” Gossage said. “We’ve always wanted one here and this year NASCAR presented us with the opportunity to run live in prime time on FOX Sports with the Samsung Mobile 500. We jumped at the chance to provide our fans with variety in our two NASCAR events. They also will get to see our first-ever Nationwide Series night race as well when we run the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on the evening prior.”

The IZOD IndyCar Series will once again be paired with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but will return to its traditional design in the IndyCar Series schedule. The Firestone Twin 275s weekend will be held June 9-11 and return to an off week between it and the Indianapolis 500, the series’ two marquee events. The IZOD IndyCar Series scheduled an off-week between the two premier events from Texas Motor Speedway’s inaugural 1997 season through 2005.

The weekend will initially have a familiar look as NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying for the WinStar World Casino 400 will be held Thursday, June 9, and be followed Friday, June 10, by IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying and the WinStar World Casino 400 that evening, beginning at 8 p.m. CT.

On Saturday, June 11, fans will have the opportunity to become a part of history as Texas Motor Speedway will debut the Firestone Twin 275s, the first dual race event held in the history of the IZOD IndyCar Series. In the history of major U.S. open-wheel racing that also encompasses both USAC and CART, only 17 twin races have been run with the first being a USAC-sanctioned event at Canada’s Mosport road circuit in 1967. The final twins race was a CART-sanctioned event at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1981, the last of nine twin races run on ovals.

The “Firestone Texas Two-Step” evening will feature the full IZOD IndyCar Series field competing in two separate 275-kilometer races with two points-paying winners being crowned. Each twin race will award one-half the finishing points of a standard IZOD IndyCar Series event, with the combined points adding up to one full race point total. Additional details of the format will be announced at a later date. The historic Firestone Twin 275s will be broadcast live on VERSUS beginning at 8 p.m. CT.

“Randy (Bernard) and I discussed hosting twin races in January when he first took the job heading the Indy Racing League,” Gossage said. “The concept has Indy-car history to it, but at the same time provides a new dynamic event to our fans as well as the drivers themselves. Texas Motor Speedway traditionally has hosted some of the series’ most exciting races and the Firestone Twin 275s’ format should provide plenty more in the future. Drivers have two shots at winning and fans get an opportunity to see not one but two great races in one evening. It should be a tremendous show.”

The 2011 Texas Motor Speedway season will close with the Nov. 3-6 NASCAR triple-header weekend that is highlighted by the AAA Texas 500, the eighth race in the 10-event Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The race week will kick off Thursday, Nov. 3, with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying for the Longhorn 350k. On Friday, Nov. 4, qualifying for the AAA Texas 500 and O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide Series race will be held in the afternoon and then followed that evening by the Longhorn 350k starting at 8 p.m. CT.

Final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series “Happy Hour” practice will open Saturday, Nov. 5, and then be followed by the running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge with the start time still to be determined. The race week culminates Sunday, Nov. 6, with the AAA Texas 500, which has proven to be a pivotal race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series battle for the championship. The AAA Texas 500, which begins at 2 p.m. CT, will be broadcast live on ESPN.

“With the AAA Texas 500 having the largest crowd and purse of all the 10 tracks in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, there wasn’t a need to make a dramatic change to this event weekend,” Gossage said. “Our fans get an opportunity to enjoy all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series in one weekend while each is in the stretch run of the championship. It is an ideal way to close our racing season.”

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