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).

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.