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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

Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon fastest in two Firestone 600 practice sessions

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 10:  Scott Dixon of New Zealand, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, practices for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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Fort Worth – After a 77 day wait, the Verizon IndyCar Series was back on track at Texas Motor Speedway to get ready for tonight’s Firestone 600.

The series took part in two, 10-minute practice sessions ahead of the race’s resumption.

Marco Andretti was the fastest in the first session with a speed of 213.095 mph over teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay (210.859 mph).

The second session was was led by defending Firestone 600 winner Scott Dixon at 214.937 mph. His Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan was second quickest at 214.476 mph. Andretti had the third best speed overall.

James Hinchcliffe, who will be the race leader when it resumes, was seventh fastest overall.

The first 10-minute session had just began when the No. 14 of Takuma Sato broke loose in Turn 4 and hit the wall. Sato was able to leave the car under his own power and was later cleared to participate in the race.

Sato told the Indianapolis Star a right-front rocker broke on the car.

The No. 14 had to be towed back to the garage despite there not being any significant damage to the body of the car.

James Hinchcliffe, who will be the race leader when it resumes, was seventh fastest overall.

Speed chart

TXtimes

Manor enjoys strong Spa qualifying as Wehrlein reaches Q2

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 26: Pascal Wehrlein of Germany driving the (94) Manor Racing MRT-Mercedes MRT05 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Manor Racing enjoyed one of its strongest Formula 1 qualifying displays to date on Saturday ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix as Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon finished 16th and 18th respectively.

Wehrlein produced a particularly impressive lap in Q1 to make it through to the second stage of qualifying for the third time this season, finishing the session ninth.

After using two sets of new super-soft tires in the first stage, Wehrlein was forced to complete Q2 on a used set, meaning he lapped eight-tenths of a second slower than his original effort.

The German driver was resigned to P16 in Q2, which while bearing a tinge of disappointment was nevertheless an excellent result for the team.

“I’m very happy that we made it through to Q2, of course. Q1 was incredible for us with P9,” Wehrlein said.

“But unfortunately we had no new super-soft tyres for Q2, so it’s a bit of shame, and I had to do my lap on used tires.

“Q1 felt so good with new tires, so you can see what was possible today; that last run was not our true pace. So it was a bit of a shame, but that decision has to be made much earlier in the year.”

Teammate Ocon enjoyed his first F1 qualifying outing with Manor after replacing Rio Haryanto over the summer, and narrowly missed out on a place in Q2 after an impressive run to P18. However, he too was disappointed.

“I’ve been pretty happy with my pace generally but it’s not easy to start your F1 career more than halfway through the season,” Ocon said.

“I need more time in the car and with the super-soft tire and even managing the traffic; that’s quite a challenge too with all the cars slowing down after their laps.

“It takes more experience than I have in three practice sessions to really extract the maximum out of everything. That’s something to look forward to with each new race though, improving step by step.

“I was very quick on the soft tire, so although I’m a little disappointed today, I’m also excited about what is yet to come.”

Both Wehrlein and Ocon gain a place on the grid for Sunday’s race by virtue of Esteban Gutierrez’s grid penalty, dropping the Mexican to 18th.

The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

IMSA: CJ Wilson Racing, HART Honda win crazy, wet CTSC race at VIR

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Strategic timing and masterstrokes of driving in treacherous, rainy conditions helped drive the first victories of the season for CJ Wilson Racing and HART (Honda of America Racing Team), respectively, in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS and ST classes at VIRginia International Raceway.

The No. 33 ONE Capital/Motor Oil Matters Porsche GT4 Cayman Clubsport pair of Danny Burkett and Marc Miller finally broke through for an elusive first victory, after coming up close on so many other occasions this year – notably at Watkins Glen.

Burkett, the young Canadian, made an early smart call to be first into the pits for rain tires – a key decision when a few minutes later, the skies opened and VIR turned from sunny and clear to swampy, wet and miserable, with flooding occurring a bit later.

Then when the race resumed after nearly an hour of red flag conditions, the No. 33 Porsche pitted along with fellow GS class contenders the Nos. 15 and 76 Ford Shelby GT350R-C from Multimatic Motorsports and Compass360 Racing, respectively. CJWR’s pit stops have been under the microscope this year but a flawless stop occurred there to switch from Burkett to Miller.

Miller then seized the momentum on the final restart, passing Billy Johnson (co-drove with Scott Maxwell) in the No. 15 Ford for the lead after Turns 1 and 2.

Miller held on to the finish and won by 4.509 seconds over Johnson, who did well to hold off a hard-charging Trent Hindman (Cameron Cassels co-driver) in the No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche for second.

While Miller and CJWR have won in Continental Tire action before – CJWR was ST class champions a year ago – this marked both their first wins in GS, and Burkett’s first win in the series.

“Pure elation! This is awesome! It’s been such a long time coming. To finally do it… it’s almost surreal at this point. We had to come out here and do this. We had a fantastic race,” Burkett told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam.

Miller, who had a birthday on August 24, added, to IMSA Radio’s Jim Roller, “Man I just didn’t want to slide off the track. Car placement was so important. This feels so good!”

In ST, Ryan Eversley and co-driver Chad Gilsinger put on a wet-weather driving clinic in the No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si for their first win since Road America last year.

Gilsinger got out to the lead early in the race and led the majority of his stint, Eversley doing the rest once he took over in the afternoon after pit stops and driver changes were completed. Eversley, ultimately, won by 10.417 seconds over good friend Eric Foss (co-drove with Jeff Mosing) in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman.

“I did it because my team is awesome,” Eversley told Adam. “I didn’t lose any spots in the pits. When I got in the car everything was perfect. Chad Gilsinger, you should talk to more. He made the right choice to go to rains. If he would have been finishing, he would have done the same thing. HART, Honda Racing HPD. I’m blown away.”

Said the aforementioned Gilsinger to Roller, “Usually we don’t do well here. We were hoping it would rain. The first rain isn’t what we wanted. Nobody wanted that, especially on slicks. But we fought through and got to the pits in time, and the conditions suited our car quite well.”

Despite the heavy rain, lightning in the area and wet conditions in the pits (see below), there were no major accidents of note in the two-hour, 30-minute race.

The Wilson pair’s win closes them, unofficially, to 20 points of Maxwell and Johnson for the GS points lead, while Porsche and Ford are tied for the Manufacturer’s Lead.

In ST, Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante still lead the points by seven in their No. 17 Rennsport One Porsche Cayman, after a 14th place finish. Defending class champions Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer finished seventh in the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 and closed that gap.

The series resumes Friday, Sept. 16, at Circuit of The Americas for the second-to-last race of the year.

Gutierrez takes grid penalty after Wehrlein incident in Spa FP3

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 26: Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico driving the (21) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez has been hit with a five-place grid penalty after forcing Pascal Wehrlein onto the grass during the final Formula 1 practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday at Spa.

Coming through the kink on the Kemmel Straight following Eau Rouge and Raidillion, Wehrlein came across a slow-moving Gutierrez while on a hot lap.

Gutierrez appeared to move right to let Wehrlein through before crossing back across the track, forcing Wehrlein to dive onto the grass at one of the fastest points on the circuit to avoid a collision.

Wehrlein managed to get back on to the track without crashing, but was less than impressed, asking his Manor team: “F*****g idiot, what is he doing?”

The stewards looked dimly on the incident, handing Gutierrez a five-place grid drop and three penalty points on his FIA super licence.

Gutierrez qualified 13th on Saturday afternoon, meaning he will drop to P18 on the grid for the start of Sunday’s race.

“It was a really good effort from the team. We’ve been struggling with the car setup, but managed to find the best balance,” Gutierrez said after qualifying.

“In qualifying, it felt like a step forward considering the high track temperatures, which is making things a little complicated with the tires.

“In FP3 there was a miscommunication that cost us a five-place grid penalty, which is obviously very painful, but we will try to put that aside.

“I’ll start the race and give everything I’ve got to recover the lost positions and I’ll be fighting all the way to get into the top 10.”

The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.