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).

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”