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

Rossi charges to fifth after starting 18th at Barber

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Alexander Rossi has had a black cloud hanging over his head in each of the first two races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner suffered an ill-timed caution at St. Petersburg that hurt his team’s strategy and then dropped out at Long Beach after an engine failure when he was running in the top three.

That misfortune continued on into Saturday, as he and the Andretti-Herta Autosport team couldn’t find the speed in qualifying, leaving him 18th on the grid for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

However, everything turned up roses come race time and Rossi had arguably the drive of the day. Rossi was immediately on the charge and used a combination of strategy and speed to run seventh after the opening sequence of pit stops. He hung around the top five the rest of the day, eventually moving up to fifth after Charlie Kimball and Will Power made late-race pit stops.

All told, it was a remarkable run for him.

“It’s good considering we started 18th,” Rossi told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “We were pretty disappointed yesterday. We were on the verge of desperation. We had to diagnose what happened Saturday.”

The result vaulted Rossi all the way up to 10th in the championship standings, one point ahead of Tony Kanaan. He trails points leader Sebastien Bourdais by 57 markers heading into the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

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Bourdais hangs on to points lead after Barber

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Sebastien Bourdais’ drive to eighth is not quite the headline-maker to match his win at St. Petersburg or his second at Long Beach, but it was still a championship-caliber drive on a weekend where he and Dale Coyne Racing didn’t quite have the pace they had in the opening two races of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Bourdais advanced out of his Round 1 qualifying group, but went no further after turning the 12th fastest time in Round 2, leaving him 12th on the grid for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

However, he managed to weather the storm and keep his nose clean, taking home an unspectacular but respectable eighth.

“Yeah not quite sure what did what. Maybe the conditions got us more in the operation of the tires,” he told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee when asked about his struggles during the weekend.

Bourdais also added that might have been able to pass Tony Kanaan for seventh in the final laps, but he couldn’t quite do enough to make a run at him.

“I really thought I had (Kanaan) there. He used the pushed to pass. I didn’t forget! I really thought I had him. He used the push to pass on the way back. Shame on me. It was a good fight. Not the greatest day but top 10 is good for the guys and the Sonny’s BBQ car.”

Bourdais leads Scott Dixon by six points and Josef Newgarden by seven. Simon Pagenaud sits 10 markers behind while James Hinchcliffe is 15 back after three races.

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A full day of Fernando: Alonso takes Barber by storm (VIDEO)

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Fernando Alonso was a busy man today at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, as he prepares for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil and made the rounds of media and promotion in doing so as part of his joint entry into the race thanks to McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion arrived on pit lane for Sunday’s morning warmup and set up in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda pit, where he’d interact with Michael Andretti and the rest of the team.

Alonso had a quick sit-in in Marco Andretti’s No. 27 Honda:

Alonso then made it to the media center for a formal press conference with Andretti, McLaren F1 executive director Zak Brown and Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company. Alonso was high on life through most of the press conference and had a few playful jabs at some of his competitors.

Before the race, Alonso signed some autographs for fans, who were pleased he was on site.

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar

From there, it was a chance to head to the grid and speak with NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell.

Alonso’s day wasn’t done, as he visited both the NBCSN booth and the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network booth for further interviews. A portion of the NBCSN interview is below.

Alonso will now head to Indianapolis with the team this week for a seat fit and further preparation for his May 3 test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his first run in the car. He’ll then be off to Sochi, Russia for next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, which you can see on NBCSN (times here).

Dixon maintains excellent start despite another tough P2 at Barber

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Such is the brilliance of Scott Dixon that his start to his 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season – finishes of third, fourth and second – can be viewed as disappointing because potential wins have gone begging.

The latest chapter of his almost-winning-but-not-quite saga to open this year’s campaign occurred at the track where he has his best results without a win, Barber Motorsports Park.

Dixon was top Honda on the day in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, but alas, one spot short of a victory as he scored his seventh Barber podium in eight races – all of them either seconds or thirds.

On this occasion, Dixon did his usual masterstroke of fuel saving by running longest in the first stint, running to Lap 24 and leading two laps.

Dixon also got ahead of Josef Newgarden on the final pit stop sequence despite running behind him and Will Power on the road during the middle stint.

But after a restart from the second and last full-course caution on Lap 68, Newgarden muscled his way past Dixon at Turns 15 and 16 for third place on the inside, leaving Dixon very little room on corner exit in a forceful but not dirty passing move.

While that was for third at the time, it wound up being the pass for the win because Dixon’s teammate, then-leader Charlie Kimball, pitted from an off-sequence strategy and the would-be winner, Power, pitted with a left rear puncture.

It left Dixon high and dry but in his usual so good, yet so close, P2, with three laps led. He felt worse for Power and gave Newgarden plaudits for the move.

“I saw him late coming into Turn 15 or 16. I tried to hold him back, but I wasn’t able to hold him back. It’s deserved for him,” Dixon told NBCSN’s Marty Snider post-race.

“The NTT Data car was strong. I feel bad for Will Power. It was a false flat tire perhaps? So yeah, that and a good job to Josef.”

Dixon elaborated a bit more on the day in the post-race press conference.

“I typically hold a fairly tight line there. But, yeah, he dove it in there, with some speed. He couldn’t make the corner at the appropriate time, so we kind of both ran wide there. But, you know, it was a great move.

“Josef did a hell of a job there on the blacks. Obviously had a clean start and really had some good longevity on that stint and was able to pit short and jump on reds.

“I think, you know, I feel bad for Will obviously with the flat tire issue there, but then also left the door open a little bit in 16. Josef put his nose in there. Tried to turn down, but through that whole complex, 14, 15, 16, I was just so loose. If I turned more, would have spun out.

“Credit to Josef. Drove a hell of a race. Team Penske, congratulations to them. Seventh podium here at Alabama without a win. Good in a lot of ways, but unfortunately we come here to win and we came up short.”

Despite not winning, Dixon still sits second in the points, just six points behind Sebastien Bourdais, who finished eighth.

Dixon and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series head to the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix next weekend (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), where he has a win to defend.