DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In a change of how business has been conducted recently, NASCAR on Monday said it has signed five-year sanctioning agreements with 23 tracks that host Sprint Cup Series races.
That’s quite a change for NASCAR, which had been operating on year-to-year agreements with the tracks.
“We’re excited for the future of Martinsville Speedway and the future of NASCAR,” Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell said in a statement released by the track Monday. “In the past, we’ve had to renew our sanction every year. Now that we know we have our sanction locked in for the next five years we can focus even more efforts to our top priority, which is the fan experience.”
While the agreement is new, Martinsville’s dates did not change. The spring race will be April 3, 2016, and the fall race will be Oct. 30, 2016 and will serve as the first race of the Eliminator Round of The Chase — the final three-race segment before the Cup final is held at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“We’re excited about our race dates for 2016,” Campbell said. “In the spring, we will once again be the first race back on the East Coast after the West Coast swing, and in the fall we will remain the first race of the Eliminator Round.”
There were a few scheduling changes made for 2016, one of the most significant coming at Richmond International Raceway.
The spring race will be moved from its traditional Saturday night date to Sunday, April 24. RIR president Dennis Bickmeier told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that while the fall race, which is the final event before the start of the Chase, has always been a solid attraction, he has been looking for a way to give the spring race its own identity.
“We looked at what we could do to strengthen the brand around the April weekend,” Bickmeier said. “Then putting some strategy behind it, it’s an opportunity, we think, to get some families back to the race track.
“You look at April and you think, ‘spring afternoon.’ You start to look at more of the nostalgia. We had more than 40 years of afternoon races here. So there’s some nostalgia to it.”
The races at Bristol Motor Speedway will be April 17, 2016, and the summer night race will be Aug. 20, 2016. Then on Sept. 10, 2016, the track expects to host about 150,000 college football fans who will be there to watch Virginia Tech take on Tennessee.
“Once the checkered flag falls on Saturday, we’ll have about two and half weeks to turn our iconic short track into a premium college football field,” BMS general manager Jerry Caldwell told the Bristol Herald Courier.
Other changes in the NASCAR schedule for 2016 include:
- Dover’s first race of the year was moved up before the Charlotte Motor Speedway races in May.
- Michigan’s second race switches places with the Bristol summer race in August to allow BMS more time to prepare the football field for the Tech-Tennessee game.
- Pocono Raceway will host its first Xfinity Series event in June.
The sanctioning body reached the same agreement with 24 tracks that host Xfinity Series races.