Minimal changes for 2014 Sprint Cup schedule

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Outside of a couple of already announced changes, next year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule will look very much like this year’s docket.

Darlington Speedway and Kansas Speedway have swapped dates for their spring events, with “The Lady In Black” moving from its Mother’s Day weekend spot to Sat., April 12 and Kansas moving to Sat., May 10. Both events will be night races.

Also, Texas Motor Speedway’s spring race has moved from its normal Saturday night running to the afternoon of Sunday, Apr. 6 in order to avoid a conflict with the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, which will play on Saturday and Monday in nearby Arlington, Texas.

Additionally, NASCAR has also announced that its new Air Titan track drying system – which reduces drying time in the event of rainfall – will be available at every Sprint Cup race weekend in 2014.

“Having the Air Titan at each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend allows us to meet a very important goal set by our Chairman and CEO, Brian France: To drastically decrease track-drying time to the best of our ability and ensure our fans in the stands and those watching on TV get to see each race on its scheduled day,” said NASCAR senior VP of racing operations Steve O’Donnell in a statement.

Here’s how next year’s schedule will shake out:

2/15 – Daytona International Speedway (Sprint Unlimited)
2/16 – Daytona International Speedway (Daytona 500 Qualifying)
2/20 – Daytona International Speedway (Duels)
2/23 – Daytona 500
3/2 – Phoenix International Raceway
3/9 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway
3/16 – Bristol Motor Speedway
3/23 – Auto Club Speedway
3/30 – Martinsville Speedway
4/6 – Texas Motor Speedway
4/12 – Darlington Raceway
4/26 – Richmond International Raceway
5/4 – Talladega Superspeedway
5/10 – Kansas Speedway
5/17 – Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race)
5/25 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
6/1 – Dover International Speedway
6/8 – Pocono Raceway
6/15 – Michigan International Speedway
6/22 – Sonoma Raceway
6/28 – Kentucky Speedway
7/5 – Daytona International Speedway
7/13 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
7/27 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
8/3 – Pocono Raceway
8/10 – Watkins Glen International
8/17 – Michigan International Speedway
8/23 – Bristol Motor Speedway
8/31 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
9/6 – Richmond International Raceway

CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP
9/14 – Chicagoland Speedway
9/21 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
9/28 – Dover International Speedway
10/5 – Kansas Speedway
10/11 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
10/19 – Talladega Superspeedway
10/26 – Martinsville Speedway
11/2 – Texas Motor Speedway
11/9 – Phoenix International Raceway
11/16 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.