Mike Helton: Dover will keep two traditional races in 2015

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NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France hinted during last week’s mid-season state-of-the-sport address in Daytona that Dover International Speedway may lose one of its two annual Sprint Cup races in 2015.

Not so, NASCAR president Mike Helton told DIS president/CEO Denis McGlynn, according to Bill Fleischman of the Philadelphia Daily News.

“I called Mike Helton [Tuesday] and he told me we don’t have anything to worry about,” McGlynn told Fleischman.

Boasting an original capacity of 135,000 seats, Dover has seen overall attendance for both its spring and fall races dip in recent seasons, but McGlynn said those events are “still successful, just not as successful.”

As a result, DIS has reduced the number of seats, but has also replaced a number of sections with wider seats.

“Some tracks have taken down significant numbers of grandstand seats,” McGlynn told Fleischman. “Their crowds are the same as a year ago, but it looks better. We widened our seats, reducing capacity to 112,000. [But] our track looks the same.”

Even though attendance has slipped, McGlynn was heartened when Helton assured him that the one-mile track, the only all-concrete racing surface on the Sprint Cup circuit – nicknamed “The Monster Mile” – will have its two regular races next season.

Dover typically hosts races on the first Sunday after Memorial Day and the last Sunday of September, either the second or third race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

However, it’s unclear whether Dover will have those same race weekend dates that it has in the past, or whether one or both may be moved around on what promises to be at least a partially revised schedule for 2015, which NASCAR will likely release sometime this September.

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Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.