NASCAR announces 2015 Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Truck Series schedules (VIDEO)

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NASCAR has officially announced the 2015 schedules for all three of its national series – the Sprint Cup Series, the Nationwide Series, and the Camping World Truck Series.

Among the big changes for the Sprint Cup schedule is a date swap between Atlanta Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway, as well as the establishment of an early-season West Coast swing.

As reported last weekend, Darlington will indeed have its Sprint Cup race return to Labor Day weekend, where it was from 1950 to 2003.

The 1.366-mile oval in South Carolina staged its race this year in April.

Atlanta Motor Speedway currently holds the Labor Day weekend spot, but its 500-mile race will move to Sunday, March 1 to become the first race after the season-opening Daytona 500.

Following Atlanta, the series will then head west for three consecutive races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 8, Phoenix International Speedway on March 15, and Auto Club Speedway in California on March 22.

In order to create this West Coast swing, Phoenix’s spring date has been pushed back two weekends. The dates for Vegas and ACS have been left unchanged.

Additionally, Bristol Motor Speedway (as announced) is shifting its spring date from March to April, while the annual 4th of July weekend race at Daytona International Speedway will now move from Saturday night to Sunday night, July 5.

That particular race at Daytona will air on NBC-TV and begin the NBC Sports Group’s 2015 Sprint Cup coverage.

Other tracks that have moved on the schedule include: Sonoma Raceway (moved back one weekend due to the earlier summer off-weekend), Kentucky Speedway (moved back two weekends), and New Hampshire Motor Speedway (moved back one weekend), as well as Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, which have swapped their Chase date positions with each other.

2015 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES SCHEDULE

Saturday, Feb. 14 – Sprint Unlimited at Daytona (FOX)
Sunday, Feb. 15 – Daytona 500 Qualifying (FOX)
Thursday, Feb. 19 – Duel at Daytona (Fox Sports 1)
Sunday, Feb. 22 – 2015 Daytona 500 (FOX)
Sunday, Mar. 1 – Atlanta Motor Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, Mar. 8 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, Mar. 15 – Phoenix International Raceway (FOX)
Sunday, Mar. 22 – Auto Club Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, Mar. 29 – Martinsville Speedway (FOX)
OFF WEEKEND, APR. 4-5
Saturday, Apr. 11 – Texas Motor Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, Apr. 19 – Bristol Motor Speedway (FOX)
Saturday, Apr. 25 – Richmond International Raceway (Fox Sports 1)
Sunday, May 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (FOX)
Saturday, May 9 – Kansas Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, May 16 – Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (Fox Sports 1)
Sunday, May 24 – Charlotte Motor Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, May 31 – Dover International Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Sunday, June 7 – Pocono Raceway (Fox Sports 1)
Sunday, June 14 – Michigan International Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
OFF WEEKEND, JUNE 20-21
Sunday, June 28 – Sonoma Raceway (Fox Sports 1)
Sunday, July 5 – Daytona International Speedway (NBC)
Saturday, July 11 – Kentucky Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, July 19 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, July 26 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, Aug. 2 – Pocono Raceway (NBCSN)
Sunday, Aug. 9 – Watkins Glen International (NBCSN)
Sunday, Aug. 16 – Michigan International Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Aug. 22 – Bristol Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
OFF WEEKEND, AUG. 29-30
Sunday, Sept. 6 – Darlington Raceway (NBC)
Saturday, Sept. 12 – Richmond International Raceway (NBCSN)
Sunday, Sept. 20 – Chicagoland Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, Sept. 27 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, Oct. 4 – Dover International Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway (NBC)
Sunday, Oct. 18 – Kansas Speedway (NBC)
Sunday, Oct. 25 – Talladega Superspeedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, Nov. 1 – Martinsville Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, Nov. 8 – Texas Motor Speedway (NBC)
Sunday, Nov. 15 – Phoenix International Raceway (NBC)
Sunday, Nov. 22 – Homestead-Miami Speedway (NBC)

As for NASCAR’s No. 2 national series, the bulk of the changes for the 2015 schedule involve companion races with Sprint Cup.

Those races – Atlanta, Phoenix (spring), Texas (spring), Bristol (spring), Kentucky (summer), and New Hampshire (summer) – have all shifted date positions in accordance with Cup events. Also, one of the Nationwide Series’ stand-alone races at Road America has been pushed back from June to late August.

NBC Sports Group will begin its 2015 Nationwide Series coverage on Saturday, July 4 at Daytona. 15 of the Group’s 19 Nationwide races will air on NBCSN, with the other four airing on NBC-TV – including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

2015 NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES SCHEDULE

Saturday, Feb. 21 – Daytona International Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, Feb. 28 – Atlanta Motor Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, Mar. 7 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, Mar. 14 – Phoenix International Speedway (FOX)
Saturday, Mar. 21 – Auto Club Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
OFF WEEKEND, MAR. 27-28
OFF WEEKEND, APR. 3-4
Friday, Apr. 10 – Texas Motor Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, Apr. 18 – Bristol Motor Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Friday, Apr. 24 – Richmond International Raceway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, May 2 – Talladega Superspeedway (FOX)
OFF WEEKEND, MAY 8-9
Sunday, May 17 – Iowa Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, May 23 – Charlotte Motor Speedway (FOX)
Saturday, May 30 – Dover International Speedway (FOX)
OFF WEEKEND, JUNE 5-6
Saturday, June 13 – Michigan International Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
Saturday, June 20 – Chicagoland Speedway (Fox Sports 1)
OFF WEEKEND, JUNE 26-27
Saturday, July 4 – Daytona International Speedway (NBCSN)
Friday, July 10 – Kentucky Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, July 18 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, July 25 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway (NBC)
Saturday, Aug. 1 – Iowa Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Aug. 8 – Watkins Glen International (NBCSN)
Saturday, Aug. 15 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (NBCSN)
Friday, Aug. 21 – Bristol Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Aug. 29 – Road America (NBCSN)
Saturday, Sept. 5 – Darlington Raceway (NBC)
Friday, Sept. 11 – Richmond International Raceway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Sept. 19 – Chicagoland Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Sept. 26 – Kentucky Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Oct. 3 – Dover International Speedway (NBCSN)
Friday, Oct. 9 – Charlotte Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Oct. 17 – Kansas Speedway (NBCSN)
OFF WEEKEND, OCT. 23-24
OFF WEEKEND, OCT. 30-31
Saturday, Nov. 7 – Texas Motor Speedway (NBC)
Saturday, Nov. 14 – Phoenix International Raceway (NBCSN)
Saturday, Nov. 21 – Homestead-Miami Speedway (NBC)

Some schedule alterations have also been made for the Trucks as well. Their race at Atlanta Motor Speedway has now been paired up with the track’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide events, creating a triple-header weekend.

The stand-alone race at Iowa Speedway has also been moved up to mid-June.

2015 NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES SCHEDULE
*All races to air on Fox Sports 1 unless otherwise noted

Friday, Feb. 20 – Daytona International Speedway
Saturday, Feb. 28 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
OFF WEEKEND, MAR. 6-7
OFF WEEKEND, MAR. 13-14
OFF WEEKEND, MAR. 20-21
Saturday, Mar. 28 – Martinsville Speedway
OFF WEEKEND, APR. 4-5
OFF WEEKEND, APR. 10-11
OFF WEEKEND, APR. 17-18
OFF WEEKEND, APR. 24-25
OFF WEEKEND, MAY 1-2
Friday, May 8 – Kansas Speedway
Friday, May 15 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
OFF WEEKEND, MAY 22-23
Friday, May 29 – Dover International Speedway
Friday, June 5 – Texas Motor Speedway
Saturday, June 13 – Gateway Motorsports Park
Friday, June 19 – Iowa Speedway
OFF WEEKEND, JUNE 26-27
OFF WEEKEND, JULY 3-4
Thursday, July 9 – Kentucky Speedway
OFF WEEKEND, JULY 17-18
Wednesday, July 22 – Eldora Speedway
Saturday, Aug. 1 – Pocono Raceway
OFF WEEKEND, AUG. 7-8
Saturday, Aug. 15 – Michigan International Speedway
Wednesday, Aug. 19 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Sunday, Aug. 30 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
OFF WEEKEND, SEPT. 5-6
Friday, Sept. 18 – Chicagoland Speedway
Saturday, Sept. 26 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Saturday, Oct. 3 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway
OFF WEEKEND, OCT. 9-10
OFF WEEKEND, OCT. 16-17
Saturday, Oct. 24 – Talladega Superspeedway (FOX)
Saturday, Oct. 31 – Martinsville Speedway
Friday, Nov. 6 – Texas Motor Speedway
Friday, Nov. 13 – Phoenix International Raceway
Friday, Nov. 20 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

Toro Rosso extends contract for technical director James Key

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Scuderia Toro Rosso technical director James Key will continue with the team for the foreseeable future, following a contract extension announced on Tuesday.

Key joined the team in 2012 and has seen the Faenza-based squad solidify its role in the upper midfield, with occasional surprise finishes that have pushed the team near the top three or four teams on the grid.

“I am delighted to continue with Toro Rosso and remain part of the Red Bull family,” he said. “This is a team which I have great respect for and have thoroughly enjoyed working with for the past 5 years; now I look forwards to continuing our project into the future.

“STR is unique, facing the challenges of being spread over two countries and fulfilling the roles of both a team in its own right and an important part of the Red Bull driver program: they are challenges that the team takes in its stride and, whilst doing so, continues to grow and improve year on year.

“Most importantly, the people I have had the pleasure to work with at STR are second to none: professional, ambitious and focussed, they have all worked incredibly hard to improve the team’s performance and will continue that hard work with the same dedication and optimism in the coming years too. I would like to thank Franz Tost and Red Bull for their continued support and confidence. We have more work to do, and I look forwards to taking the next steps with Toro Rosso towards our goals.”

Team principal Franz Tost added, Formula 1 is a team sport, but one in which an individual can still make a difference. So far, in his time with us, James has proved that he can indeed make that difference, leading the technical side of the operation.

“Not only has he been adept at producing chassis-aero packages that are well regarded throughout the paddock, he has also shown the management skills necessary to get the most out of all the various departments that work together both here in Faenza and in Bicester. I am therefore delighted that James will be with us for the foreseeable future to continue this fruitful process.”

Teams load up on supersoft tires for Italian GP

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There’s almost no variety in team Pirelli tire selections for the Italian Grand Prix, with nearly all teams going with two sets of softs and 10 sets of supersofts for next week’s race. All teams have selected just one set of mediums.

The only variance comes with Mercedes, Force India and Haas going with three sets of softs and nine supersofts. The rest are all the same choice, two softs and 10 supersofts.

Monza comes a week after Spa this week.

Pirelli’s tire breakdown is below.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee to serve as Gateway grand marshal

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The Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline will feature quite an excellent grand marshal, in the form of three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

The full release from the track is below.

An Olympic champion has been selected to give the command to start engines for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline comes to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on August 26. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, will serve as the grand marshal for the Verizon IndyCar Series event.

“I am humble,” said Joyner-Kersee, who is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. “I do not take this honor for granted to be the INDYCAR race’s grand marshal at Gateway Motorsports Park. Very few people are asked to give the command and I am grateful to be one of the few. Thank you!”

Track-and-field star Joyner-Kersee has won three Olympic gold medals, as well as one silver and two bronze. She was the first American to win gold for the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon, making her the most decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history.

As a teen, she won the National Junior Pentathlon championships for consecutive years and received widespread honors in high school in various sports, including track, basketball and volleyball. During her junior year, she set the Illinois high school long jump record for women, with a 6.68-meter jump. Joyner-Kersee attended the University of California, Los Angeles on a full scholarship and continued to gain fame on both the court and field. In 1981, at the age of 19, she began to focus on training for the Olympics, specifically for the heptathlon — an Olympic track-and-field competition comprised of seven separate events, including the 200-meter run, 800-meter run and 100-meter hurdles. She graduated from UCLA in 1985.

Joyner-Kersee won a silver medal in the heptathlon at the 1984 Summer Olympics, as well as gold and bronze medals in the long jump in 1988 and 1992, respectively, and is currently the heptathlon world record-holder.
Following her retirement from competition, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to instill youth in the a Greater East St. Louis area with the dream, drive and determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership. “Winners In Life.”

Chuck Wallis, Vice President of the Bommarito Automotive Group, will serve as honorary starter and will wave the opening green flag.

Kimi Raikkonen confirmed at Ferrari for 2018 F1 season

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Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen will remain with the team for the 2018 Formula 1 season after being given a new one-year contract.

Raikkonen, 37, has raced with Ferrari since 2014, and has been on a one-year rolling contract since the end of 2015.

The Finn has been a regular focus for the F1 driver market’s ‘silly season’ given his age and struggle for form compared to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who currently leads the drivers’ championship.

Raikkonen has scored 86 less points than Vettel through the opening 11 races of the 2017 season, but has nevertheless done enough to secure a new contract, confirmed by Ferrari on Tuesday.

“Ferrari announces that Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” a brief statement from Ferrari reads.

“The Finnish driver will therefore race for the Maranello team in the 2018 Formula One World Championship.”

Raikkonen is the first of the big-name free agents to have his plans for 2018 confirmed, with Vettel, ex-Ferrari racer Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas yet to announce a drive for next year.

Raikkonen first joined Ferrari in 2007, winning the F1 drivers’ championship in his first season, but left at the end of 2009 to take some time out from the sport.

A return in 2012 with Lotus saw Raikkonen display plenty of his old spark, taking two wins for the financially-hamstrung team before leaving at the end of 2013 over a pay row.

Raikkonen moved back to Ferrari for 2014 alongside Fernando Alonso, with Vettel arriving the following year.

Questions over Raikkonen’s motivation and ability have been rife for some time, but without any outstanding candidates for a seat available as things stand, the news is not overly surprising.

Nevertheless, it does defuse some of the silliness of ‘silly season’, with Vettel’s confirmation at Ferrari seemingly set to follow.