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NASCAR released the 2016 schedules for two of its three national series Monday without -- as expected -- any major overhauls going forward. The most significant development, though, doesn't relate to change at all, but an added layer of continuity built in for tracks.
NASCAR announced that it has reached sanctioning agreements with its host race tracks for the next five years. That means the 23 facilities that host Sprint Cup events and the 24 tracks that serve as XFINITY Series venues will remain locked in as a part of the NASCAR calendar through 2020.
According to an official release, NASCAR and the tracks will work to determine each venue's place on the calendar in the year 2017 and beyond. The sanctioning agreement also does not preclude additional tracks from joining the Sprint Cup schedule, though such a development would likely require a more dramatic alteration to the calendar structure. The premier-series schedule has stood at a modern-era maximum of 36 races since 2001.
The Camping World Truck Series' 2016 schedule will be released at a later date.
The Sprint Cup season kicks off Saturday, Feb. 13 with the non-points Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona International Speedway, which will greet fans with a new look as the Daytona Rising project comes to fruition. The Can-Am Duels follow on Thursday, Feb. 18 with Daytona Speedweeks culminating in the Great American Race, the Daytona 500, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 21.
The fan-favorite Southern 500 throwback race on Labor Day weekend will return, as will the popular NASCAR Goes West three-race swing in March. The western sweep starts March 6 with a stop in Las Vegas, followed by Phoenix on March 13 and Auto Club on March 20.
Among the notable changes for 2016:
• Keeping the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, which is as late as it can be this year, moves Dover up in the 2016 schedule, to May 15, the Sunday before the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte.
• Bristol Motor Speedway is adding a college football border war to its schedule this year, featuring Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee on Sept. 10. To accommodate the .533-mile oval's transformation from race track to football venue, the annual Bristol night race is on Saturday, Aug. 20. That shifts Michigan back a week to Sunday, Aug. 28.
• Pocono adds a NASCAR XFINITY Series race for the first time in 2016. The 250-mile race is set for Saturday, June 4, part of a race weekend with the Sprint Cup Series' Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 on June 5.
• Daytona's annual event in early July returns to a Saturday night event after a rain-plagued edition on a Sunday night this season.
• Richmond's first doubleheader weekend of the season in April will now be spread over a Saturday-Sunday schedule instead of Friday-Saturday.
The 2016 schedule features two off weeks in addition to the Easter holiday, so Sprint Cup racing will go quiet March 27, June 19 and Aug. 14 next year.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field again will be determined at Richmond on Sept. 10, with the 10 races from the 2015 postseason reappearing in the same order in the 2016 Chase. Elimination races are scheduled to take place at Dover, Talladega and Phoenix again next year.
|Feb. 13||Sprint Unlimited|
|Feb. 18||Can-Am Duel at Daytona|
|March 6||Las Vegas|
|March 20||Auto Club|
|May 21||NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race|
|July 17||New Hampshire|
|Aug. 7||Watkins Glen|
|Sept. 25||New Hampshire|