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).

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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