Next year’s schedules for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series were officially released today by NASCAR, and among the changes stands out one in particular that will have fans across the nation giddy with joy.
The famed Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway will return to its traditional Labor Day slot on the schedule, a spot that it held for over 50 years as NASCAR’s oldest race. The last time it was held on Labor Day weekend was 2003, when grizzled veteran Terry Labonte scored his 22nd and final career Winston Cup victory.
Since then, a 500-mile race at Darlington has been held in late November, mid-April and on Mother Day’s weekend. But never again on Labor Day weekend, until now.
For several years now, many old-school fans have been agonizing over the tradition lost since the “Lady In Black” was replaced with Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in 2004, and have been clamoring to get the highly-regarded event back in its rightful spot. This change will hopefully win back some of the fans that were let down over a decade ago, and what could be better than a late-summer 500-miler on one of the toughest, slickest and crankiest tracks there is?
The schedule also reflects the changes with the new television contract between two major networks; FOX and NBC. From 2001 through 2006, the two networks shared NASCAR duties, splitting half of the year’s races, and the schedule essentially returns to that format. Because of the new deal, ESPN bowed out of its broadcasting duties.
In other changes, the sole date for the Atlanta Motor Speedway was moved up from its Labor Day weekend slot it has held since 2009, to the second race of the year, on Sunday, March 1. For many years, Atlanta held an early spring date, but not since 2010, the last year that the track had two annual dates. The day before the Cup race will also feature a doubleheader between the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series races.
The spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway was also moved further down the schedule, shifting from its late March date to a mid-April date on Sunday, April 19.
The summer race at Daytona International Speedway will also receive a small shift. Instead of its usual Saturday night slot during the July Fourth weekend, the event will become a Sunday night race in primetime, debuting the new television schedule for NBC and NBC Sports Network. According to the track officials, the 2016 race will be back on a Saturday night.
2015 NASCAR SCHEDULE
Saturday, February 14: Sprint Unlimited* (FOX)
Sunday, February 15: Daytona 500 Qualifying* (FOX)
Thursday, February 19: Daytona 500 Duel races* (FOX)
Sunday, February 22: Daytona 500 (FOX)
Sunday, March 1: Atlanta Motor Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, March 8: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, March 15: Phoenix International Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, March 22: Auto Club Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, March 29: Martinsville Speedway (FOX)
Saturday, April 11: Texas Motor Speedway (FOX)
Sunday, April 19: Bristol Motor Speedway (FOX)
Saturday, April 25: Richmond International Speedway (FOX Sports 1)
Sunday, May 3: Talladega Superspeedway (FOX)
Saturday, May 9: Kansas Speedway (FOX Sports 1)
Saturday, May 16: Charlotte Motor Speedway, All-Star race* (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)
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, August 2: Pocono Raceway (NBCSN)
Sunday, August 9: Watkins Glen International (NBCSN)
Sunday, August 16: Michigan International Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, August 22: Bristol Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, September 6: Darlington Raceway (NBC)
Saturday, September 12: Richmond International Raceway (NBCSN)
Sunday, September 20: Chicagoland Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, September 27: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, October 4: Dover International Speedway (NBCSN)
Saturday, October 10: Charlotte Motor Speedway (NBC)
Sunday, October 18: Kansas Speedway (NBC)
Sunday, November 25: Talladega Superspeedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, November 1: Martinsville Speedway (NBCSN)
Sunday, November 8: Texas Motor Speedway (NBC)
Sunday, November 15: Phoenix International Speedway (NBC)
Sunday, November 22: Homestead-Miami Speedway (NBC)
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Main Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images