CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR rolled out its 2015 Sprint Cup schedule Tuesday with a number of significant changes, including moving the summer race at Daytona from Saturday to Sunday night.
Daytona, primed for a significant upgrades as part of its "Daytona Rising" project, will run the Coke Zero 400 on July 5, with new broadcast partner NBC. That change is for 2015 only, as Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood said the date would return to Saturday night in 2016.
Approximately 50,000 new front-stretch seats will be available for the race, with 40,000 seats located on the west side of the structure, from Turn 1 toward the center of the track, while 10,000 seats will be located in Turn 4.
"The Coke Zero 400 will also launch us into the homestretch for construction as we put on the finishing touches for January 2016 when we will officially christen a new era for this Great American icon," said Chitwood of the track's renovations.
Darlington Raceway will return to its traditional Labor Day weekend date next season. To get Darlington back to the Labor Day weekend after an 11-year absence, Atlanta Motor Speedway gave up the date. Atlanta now goes to the second race of the season on March 1. Darlington will be run on Sept. 6.
"I'm glad they came back. Don't know why they ever left," said Hall of Famer David Pearson, a South Carolina native and 10-time Darlington winner.
The season will still open with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, and then go to Atlanta. Then it's a three-race West Coast swing through Phoenix, Las Vegas and Fontana, Calif.
There were no changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, which will again begin at Chicagoland Speedway and end at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Next season marks the first year of NASCAR's new $8.2 billion television package, which is split between Fox and NBC. There had been hope by many fans that the return to NBC would bring a shake-up to the schedule, but moving Darlington to its traditional date was the only major change.
Fox holds the rights to the first 20 races, and seven of those will be aired on cable Fox Sports 1. NBC takes over the schedule at Daytona in July and will air the July 5 race on NBC. But its next seven races will be aired on NBC Sports Network.