News & Media

2012 Daytona 500 pushed back by a week

February 20, 2011, Official Release,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Daytona 500 will take place one week later in 2012, on the final Sunday in February, NASCAR has announced.

The race weekend is being pushed one week back from the traditional President's Day weekend to the final weekend in February. The date for the Daytona 500 is Feb. 26, 2012. To maintain the end of season schedule, the off Sprint Cup weekend typically scheduled in March will now be eliminated.

"When we look at the schedule in general, we've historically had an off week in that fourth week, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that hurts our momentum throughout the season. By being able to move the date back a week, we close up that off week, [and] NASCAR's able to keep the momentum throughout the season, which is great," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations.

The decision to kick off the NASCAR racing season one week later was made in close partnership with the sanctioning body, its broadcast partners including Fox, community partners and others within the industry. The rationale is three-pronged: 1. It shortens the racing season by one week; 2. It maintains momentum in the early part of racing season (TV viewership, media coverage, fan interest, etc.); 3. It's a better opportunity for fans as it moves the race further away from the "Daytona 500" of football held in early February.

O'Donnell added the move was made partly in advance of a potentially expanded NFL schedule.

"We're not going to deny the fact that part of this also is in dealing with the NFL. Who knows where they'll go with an 18-game schedule, but we want to get ahead of that. Either way, we think it's the right thing to do for our season," O'Donnell said. The Super Bowl is certainly a big event, but so is the Daytona 500, and to give fans an opportunity to go to both of those is certainly the right move."

Since fans like to plan their Daytona 500 trip well in advance, NASCAR is announcing the 2012 date much earlier in the season to minimize any inconveniences in planning their visit. Other schedule announcements for Daytona International Speedway, including Speedweeks, and other race facilities will be determined and announced at a later date.

"That's something that we'll develop with NASCAR as we work through this," Daytona president Joie Chitwood said. "I think the key [Sunday] was to make sure our fans knew that the event was moving back one week next year. We'll cycle through and deal with the Duels and the Shootout and all those things that go around Speedweeks."

The Budweiser Shootout has preceded the 500 by eight days, with the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races on that Thursday the week of 500.

Chitwood also said the Rolex 24 Grand-Am season opener, held on the last weekend of January this year, likely will move forward by one week, but that's contingent on discussions with the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce and the scheduling of bike weeks, an annual event that attracts motorcyclists from across the country.

"If I were to speculate, I'm sure that we'll cycle those back, as well, but we'll work with the chamber of commerce and the city of Daytona Beach to make sure bike weeks [typically the two weeks after the Daytona 500] have their spot on the calendar, as well," Chitwood said.

Sporting News Wire Service contributed to this report.