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

Sainz: ‘No intention’ of breaking Red Bull F1 contract for 2018

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Carlos Sainz Jr. says he has “no intention” of breaking his Formula 1 contract with Red Bull for 2018 despite previously suggesting he could leave its Toro Rosso B-team.

Sainz made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015 after climbing the racing ladder with Red Bull backing, and has since become one of the sport’s brightest young talents.

Sainz said over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend that a fourth year with Toro Rosso in 2018 was “unlikely” as he pushed for a move up the grid, only for his bosses to hit back hard.

Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner and Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost stressed Sainz remained under contract for next season, prompting the Spaniard to clarify his comments and clear the air.

Speaking to Spain’s SoyMotor, Sainz professed his happiness racing for Toro Rosso under the Red Bull umbrella and said he was not looking to break his contract for next year.

“As in life itself, a contract has a lot of importance in Formula 1,” Sainz said.

“Looking at my situation, I am happy where I am. I have no intention of breaking any contract.

“I think everything was taken out of context, both my statements and maybe the reaction on their part.

“We are all much calmer and happier now.”

While Sainz may not be looking to break out of his contract, Red Bull is willing to listen to offers for his services in 2018 should a rival team look to sign him.

Rosberg: Bottas’ mentality makes him ‘perhaps the perfect driver’

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Outgoing Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg has praised the mentality of Mercedes replacement Valtteri Bottas, saying his ability to concentrate solely on himself makes him “perhaps the perfect driver”.

Rosberg retired from F1 five days after winning his maiden world title with Mercedes in 2016, leading to Bottas’ arrival.

Since joining Mercedes, Bottas has claimed two race wins and charged to third place in the drivers’ championship, making himself a contender against teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the title.

Speaking to Sport Bild, Rosberg praised Bottas’ approach and mentality in the championship fight, having himself struggled with mind games against Hamilton in their battles between 2014 and 2016.

“I’m really impressed. Mentally, he is perhaps the perfect driver because he can concentrate on himself,” Rosberg said.

“That makes him consistent and fast.”

Bottas has surprised many with his performances at Mercedes so far this season, stepping out of the expected number two shadow and challenging Hamilton on a number of occasions.

While Mercedes is yet to make a firm decision about Bottas’ future with the team beyond the end of the season, contract discussions have been opened, with at least a one-year extension to the end of 2018 expected to be agreed on.

Memo Gidley’s race comeback confirmed in PWC at Sonoma

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Some fantastic news below as Memo Gidley’s return to top-flight sports car racing has been confirmed. He’ll race a Porsche 911 GT3 R in the upcoming Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Sonoma Raceway in September.

The full release with details is below:

It’s been a long, winding road for race car driver Memo Gidley the past three and a half years. But that road will now take the popular 46-year-old driver from Sauslito, Calif., back to the racetrack next month.

After a devastating crash at Daytona International Speedway in 2014, Gidley has endured nine surgeries and three years of rehabilitation to return to the racing cockpit in the all-new No. 101 TKO Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R sports car.

On September 14-16, Gidley makes his racing return in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Sprint (50-minutes) doubleheader, just a few miles from his Northern California home at the 2.22-mile, 11-turn road circuit at Sonoma Raceway. The Pirelli World Challenge twin bill will be part of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma with the Verizon IndyCar Series finale.

“I have been waiting a long time for this announcement,” said Gidley, who suffered multiple fractures in a vicious crash in 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. “It was a long rehab process but I always wanted to get back into the race car and my friends at TKO Motorsports have given me this opportunity. And I am extremely grateful for this chance in the Pirelli World Challenge.”

Gidley, whose racing resumé includes IndyCars, prototype sports cars, formula cars, go karts and even sail boats, worked through his final back surgery (fusing vertebrae 3 to 4 and 4 to 5) in November, 2015 and was cleared to return to racing activities in November, 2016. Then it was back at the karting track at Sonoma Raceway and looking for a chance to drive with a race team.

“I want to give Dave Traitel and all of the TKO Motorsports team a big thank you for this opportunity to race at Sonoma Raceway in the big Pirelli World Challenge/IndyCar weekend,” said Memo. “They have worked hard to prepare a Porsche 911 GT3 R for me to compete in one of the best GT sports car series in the world. And I can’t wait to race again.”

Gidley’s comeback is one of spirit and determination that he questioned at times. With titanium rods and screws in several parts of his body, Memo fought through nerve pain, scar tissue and various rehab processes with included therapeutic pools, physical therapy and long walks.

“The nerve pain was the worst at times,” admitted Gidley. “It was difficult to deal with as I continued the rehab. I couldn’t even take the bumps on the city streets in the passenger car. But, eventually, that pain went away. Now, I can’t bend down and touch my toes with the fusion in the back. But I was able to continue my training and even karting regularly.”

On May 25, Gidley did jump back into a PWC GT sports car at Sonoma Raceway when former team owner Bob Stallings let Memo drive his GAINSCO “Red Dragon” Porsche 911 GT3 R in testing.

“The team was testing there with Jon Fogarty, an old friend,” said Gidley. “And then they wanted me to take a few laps too. It was awesome to get back in a race car. Now, I’m with the TKO Motorsports team and I have my own race car to compete in at Sonoma in September. To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.”

Last week, Gidley and TKO Motorsports squad tested with the rest of the Pirelli World Challenge GT sports field at Utah Motorsports Campus prior to the Grand Prix of Utah weekend.

“It just felt great to be back in the racing paddock with a team,” he said. “I saw so many old friends and racers and they were so nice to me and the team. Actually, we didn’t get as many laps in testing as we would have liked. But we talked to the PWC officials and other teams to get an idea of the Sonoma races. TKO Motorsports is a growing company but it has not raced in sports cars previously. So, Dave and the crew were gathering a lot of information for the future.”

TKO Motorsports, based in Reno, Nev., was established in 2008 with a racing background in off-shore boat racing, drag racing and off-road racing. And the company has been very successful constructing high-performance road machines. But sports car racing will be new to the group.

“We will test again before the Sonoma race weekend and continue to learn about the Porsche and the track,” said Gidley. “I saw the lineup of top teams and drivers for the Pirelli World Challenge at Utah. It has some of the best in the world. I know it won’t be easy for me and the TKO crew. But we are excited to get our car into the action at Sonoma. It’s been a long road back for me and I believe I’m ready to go.”

While the journey back to the track for Gidley has been difficult, he has been busy with his commercial charter boat business and racing sailing boats in the Bay area. Now, it’s time to get back to the road racing that he loves.

“Hey, racing is in my blood, whether it’s on the water or the track,” said Memo. “I’ve been racing a 35-foot sail boat recently and it is fun. But getting back in the race car is the ultimate for me. And now I get the chance at my hometown track in a world-class GT sports car. It’s the best for me.”

The Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 14-16 will include doubleheader features in the GT/GTA/GT Cup Sprint series as well as the GTS division. Practice gets underway on Friday (Sept. 14) with racing for the GT and GTS classes on Saturday (Sept. 15) and Sunday (Sept. 16).

Saavedra returns to SPM, again, for upcoming races

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Following the mutual parting of ways between Mikhail Aleshin and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the rest of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Sebastian Saavedra will once again be back in the team’s No. 7 Honda for the next two oval races at Pocono Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park.

The Colombian impressed in a surprise one-off appearance in the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Toronto, as Aleshin was sat down for one race. Saavedra ran as high as seventh and finished 11th after improving from 20th on the grid.

“I am very excited to be back with the SPM organization,” Saavedra said in a release. “It’s another late call to jump in, but I take it with pride after a promising start of our relationship in Toronto. Looking forward to a challenging event as the Tricky Triangle can be, and support (James) Hinchcliffe in his pursuit of championship points. I’m thankful to my sponsors and my continued relationship with AFS Inc.”

“Delighted to have Sebastian back with the SPM team following what was a very encouraging performance at the Toronto event,” added Piers Phillips, General Manager of SPM. “He is experienced and competent, and I have no doubt he will contribute to the overall performance of the team. We’re heading to Pocono full of confidence as a team and we’re looking forward to hopefully seeing Sebastian and James at the front of the pack.”

The likable 27-year-old driver has enjoyed longtime support from Gary Peterson of AFS Racing throughout a stop-start IndyCar career since 2010, with more than 60 career starts and just a handful of top-10 finishes.

It remains to be seen what Saavedra and Peterson put together for 2018; at Mid-Ohio, Peterson indicated he was working towards an IMSA Prototype program next year.

As for the final two road course races this year at Watkins Glen and Sonoma, SPM has not yet announced that plan.

Robert Wickens, who filled in for Aleshin temporarily on the Friday of Road America weekend, made his case on Tuesday to “stir the pot” a bit in a social media post.

The Canadian doesn’t have any DTM conflicts either weekend and would be a popular selection if he does get the call.