Southern 500 Tradition Returns
By: John Singler on August 26, 2014 | 5:10 P.M. EST
NASCAR's 2015 Sprint Cup Series schedule features the return of the Bojangles' Southern 500 to its traditional Labor Day weekend spot. (Photo: Getty Images)
With NASCAR’s official release of its 2015 schedule today, the sanctioning body has returned a piece of "yesterday" to the Sprint Cup Series by sliding the Southern 500 back into its traditional Labor Day weekend slot.
From 1950 through 2003, the race became a late-summer staple of the motor sports calendar. It was moved to November in 2004 and dropped from the schedule the following year when Darlington went to a single race with a spring date.
Today’s announcement brings a big smile to the face of Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile.
"The Southern 500 was run on Labor Day for 53 years and it became a cornerstone of the NASCAR schedule," Wile said. "Now, we’re going back to it and we’re really excited with our new date."
The 2015 Bojangles’ Southern 500 will be run on Sunday, Sept. 6.
"This is a direct result of the tireless efforts of Darlington Raceway, International Speedway Corporation (parent company of Motor Racing Network and Darlington) and NASCAR," Wile continued. "It’s a great example of all the stakeholders getting together and figuring out what’s best for the industry."
The historical significance of Tuesday's announcement was foremost in Wile’s mind when he spoke to Motor Racing Network.
"We’re the Wrigley Field of NASCAR," he said. "There’s so much heritage and history associated with this racetrack. The new date fits right in with what we’re trying to accomplish. This is an added element that will take us to the next level."
Earlier this year, Darlington Raceway unveiled a marketing/promotional platform that celebrates its rich history, and will help steer NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway into 2015 and beyond.
"The Bojangles’ Southern 500 finally is back on Labor Day (weekend)," Wile beamed. "Everyone at the racetrack and in our city is so excited about that."
The repositioning of Darlington’s annual NASCAR date is among a handful of changes to the Sprint Cup schedule. Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has held the Labor Day Weekend spot since 2010, will now host the year’s second points-paying race following the season-opening Daytona 500.
The series will then head west for the next three weeks with stops at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., before opening the short-track portion of the schedule at Martinsville Speedway.
Since 2012, Kentucky Speedway’s annual Sprint Cup Series weekend has preceded the tour’s summer return to Daytona International Speedway. But for 2015, Daytona goes first – with the Coke Zero 400 shifting from its familiar Saturday night spot to Sunday night, July 5.
That shift will be only for the 2015 season, with the 2016 race returning to a Saturday night slot on the schedule.
"Next year’s Coke Zero 400 weekend will be one of the most unique event experiences ever staged here," said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. "We are as committed as always to providing our fans with a first-class Speedway experience, so we’re excited that we’ll be able to give a sneak preview of what our 'DAYTONA Rising' project will deliver to fans once it is completed."
Chitwood was referring to the gleaming new frontstretch facility that's being developed as part of the track's overall renovation project that is scheduled for completion in January 2016.
In addition to the Sprint Cup Series slate, NASCAR also announced Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series schedules for 2015. The NNS season will open at Daytona International Speedway in February and end at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November; and will once again include three road-course events at Mid-Ohio, Road America and Watkins Glen International.
In the Camping World Truck Series, a race has been added to Atlanta’s weekend on Saturday, Feb. 28. Mid-week dates at Eldora Speedway in July and Bristol Motor Speedway in August are back.
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will kick off its 46th year on the air with exclusive radio coverage of Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway starting Feb. 14 and culminating with the 57th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 22.
The network will air 27 Sprint Cup Series races including the season-opening Sprint Unlimited non-points special event at Daytona and the annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will once again open in September at Chicagoland Speedway and conclude in South Florida on Sunday, Nov. 22. MRN will broadcast seven of the final 10 races including the season finale in Homestead, where NASCAR’s 67th champion will be crowned.
The 2015 Nationwide Series schedule looks much the same as the current one, with Motor Racing Network airing 21 of the races. One-third of those will come on weekends when the network is broadcasting from two separate venues: mid-May and early August at Iowa Speedway, twice in June from Michigan International Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, mid-August at Mid-Ohio, and dates later in the season at Road America and Dover.
All 23 Camping World Truck Series races will air on MRN in 2015, including 13 in primetime. The season starts Friday night, Feb. 20, at Daytona and will include the series’ third trip to Eldora Speedway, the half-mile dirt oval in Rossburg, Ohio, on Wednesday, July 22.
"These schedules promise to provide our fans with the compelling competition and story lines they so richly deserve," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "From the start of the season at Speedweeks in Daytona through our championship finales at Homestead-Miami Speedway, we're looking forward to great racing."