Report: Darlington returning to Labor Day weekend on 2015 NASCAR schedule

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More than a decade ago, NASCAR chose to move Darlington Raceway’s Southern 500 date from its traditional Labor Day weekend spot on the schedule to Auto Club Speedway in California.

The Southern 500 had been run at Darlington on that date for 54 years, and many longtime fans took this decision as a sign of the sport moving away from its roots.

But that date only lasted in SoCal until 2008 before it was shifted to Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Now, the storied Darlington is set to reclaim its legacy.

The 1.366-mile oval ran its Sprint Cup race in April this year after a period of running on Mother’s Day weekend, but it will return to its Labor Day weekend position as part of the 2015 Cup schedule.

The schedule will be officially announced on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA. However, Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith confirmed to reporters on Friday that Darlington will be going back to Labor Day weekend, while the race at Atlanta is shifting to March.

“I think we did them a favor and they did us one,” Smith said according to USA Today’s Jeff Gluck. “I think they kind of needed that Southern 500 thing back in Darlington. So going back there, I thought that was a good thing.”

A spokesman for Atlanta Motor Speedway told USA Today said that “nothing has been signed” in regards to a date change.

Yesterday, SMI track Bristol Motor Speedway announced their own move on the 2015 schedule for its spring Cup race, which will now be run in mid-April.

The daytime Food City 500 has been situated in March since the 2005 season, but track officials had been hoping to secure a more proper spring date to avoid weather issues that have sometimes plagued the event (like it did this past March).

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”