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Unique Doubleheader, Dark Future For Texas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 17 2010

Texas Motor Speedway will hold its spring Sprint Cup race under the lights next season. It will also host two IndyCar races - on the same day. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Dallas – A unique IZOD IndyCar Series doubleheader and the first Saturday night NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the track’s history highlight Texas Motor Speedway’s revised 2011 schedule.

For the first time in the 16-year history of the IndyCar Series, drivers will compete in two individual races in the same evening on Saturday night, June 11. The newly renamed Firestone Twin 275s – formerly the Firestone 550k – will consist of two, full-field, 275-kilometer races (171 miles/114 laps each) with two race winners crowned.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Mobile 500 will become the first Saturday evening Sprint Cup race in the 15-year history of TMS on April 9. The event also will be the first night race of the 2011 Sprint Cup season.

The changes to two of TMS’ marquee race weekends were announced during a special 2011 schedule party and unveiling of the track’s “No Limits” marketing campaign before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,600 season-ticket holders at the House of Blues Tuesday night.

Joining O. Bruton Smith, chairman/CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., and TMS President Eddie Gossage for the announcements were Brian Z. France, NASCAR’s chairman/CEO; Randy Bernard, Indy Racing League CEO; two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

“When it came to this special event and the 2011 schedule for our fans, the ‘No Limits’ theme fit just perfectly,” Gossage said. “We worked diligently with NASCAR and the Indy Racing League to provide a racing season with a dramatic new look for our race fans. With the move to a night Sprint Cup race and historic twin IndyCar races to go along with a NASCAR tripleheader to close our season, we have a special racing season in store for the fans of Texas Motor Speedway.”

The Samsung Mobile 500 Race Week, featuring NASCAR’s Cup and Nationwide Series, will have an entirely new look as the majority of on-track activity will be run in the evening. The week opens with The Dallas Morning News Qualifying Days, with the Nationwide teams qualifying Thursday, April 7, for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 and Cup teams qualifying Friday, April 8, for the Samsung Mobile 500.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, a Saturday daytime race since 1997, also will have an historic footnote as it becomes the first Nationwide Series race run at night in TMS history when it moves to 8 p.m., CDT, Friday, April 8. The Nationwide race will be preceded by the final Cup “Happy Hour” practice.

The Samsung Mobile 500 moves from its traditional Sunday afternoon slot to a night show on Saturday, April 9 – first evening race of the 2011 Cup schedule. The race will be broadcast live in primetime on FOX beginning at 7 p.m., CDT.

“I’ve been around NASCAR racing at night my entire life – from attending night races in Nashville to promoting night races at Bristol and Charlotte – and I’ve always found them to be electric,” Gossage said. “We’ve always wanted one here and this year NASCAR presented us with the opportunity to run live in primetime on FOX Sports with the Samsung Mobile 500. We jumped at the chance to provide our fans with variety in our two NASCAR events. They also will get to see our first-ever Nationwide Series night race as well when we run the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on the evening prior.”

The IndyCar Series once again will be paired with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but will return to its traditional slot in the open-wheel schedule. The Firestone Twin 275s weekend will be run June 9-11 and return after an off-week between it and the 95th Indianapolis 500, the series’ two marquee events. IndyCar scheduled an off-week between the two premier events from TMS’ inaugural 1997 season through 2005.

The weekend initially will have a familiar look as Truck Series qualifying for the WinStar World Casino 400 will be held Thursday, June 9, followed on Friday, June 10, by IndyCar qualifying and the WinStar World Casino 400 that evening at 8 p.m., CDT.

On Saturday, June 11, TMS will play host to the Firestone Twin 275s, the first dual-race event in IndyCar Series history. Only 17 twin races have been run in the history of major U.S. open-wheel racing encompassing both the U.S. Auto Club and Championship Auto Racing Teams. The first such twin bill was a USAC-sanctioned event at Canada’s Mosport road circuit in 1967. The final twins race was a CART-sanctioned event at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1981, the last of nine twin races run on ovals.

The “Firestone Texas Two-Step” will feature the full IndyCar Series field competing in two separate 275-kilometer races with two points-paying winners crowned. Each twin race will award one-half the finishing points of a standard IndyCar event, with the combined points adding up to one full race total. Additional details of the format will be announced at a later date. The historic Firestone Twin 275s will be broadcast live on VERSUS beginning at 8 p.m., CDT.

“Randy (Bernard) and I discussed hosting twin races in January when he first took the job heading the Indy Racing League,” Gossage said. “The concept has Indy-car history to it, but at the same time provides a new dynamic event to our fans as well as the drivers themselves. Texas Motor Speedway traditionally has hosted some of the series’ most exciting races and the Firestone Twin 275s’ format should provide plenty more in the future. Drivers have two shots at winning and fans get an opportunity to see not one but two great races in one evening. It should be a tremendous show.”

The 2011 TMS season will close with the Nov. 3-6 NASCAR Tripleheader Weekend highlighted by the AAA Texas 500, eighth race in the 10-event Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The race week will kick off Thursday, Nov. 3, with Camping World Truck Series qualifying for the Longhorn 350k. On Friday, Nov. 4, qualifying for the AAA Texas 500 and O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide race will be held in the afternoon followed that evening by the Longhorn 350k starting at 8 p.m., CDT.

Final Sprint Cup “Happy Hour” practice will open Saturday, Nov. 5, followed by running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge with the start time to be determined. Race Week culminates Sunday, Nov. 6, with the AAA Texas 500, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., CDT, and broadcast live on ESPN.

“With the AAA Texas 500 having the largest crowd and purse of all the 10 tracks in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, there wasn’t a need to make a dramatic change to this event weekend,” Gossage said. “Our fans get an opportunity to enjoy all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series in one weekend while each is in the stretch run of the championship. It is an ideal way to close our racing season.”

Season tickets for 2011, starting as low as $270 and featuring a host of new benefits, will go on sale Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 9 a.m. CDT, and are available by calling the TMS ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com. Individual tickets for the 2011 Samsung Mobile 500 and Firestone Twin 275s race weekends will go on sale Tuesday, Nov. 30. Availability of individual tickets for the 2011 AAA Texas 500 will be announced at a later date.

2011 TMS Schedule-At-A-Glance

(All Times Central/Start times, broadcasters subject to change)

Samsung Mobile 500 NASCAR Doubleheader Weekend

Thursday, April 7 – The Dallas Morning News Qualifying Days (Nationwide Series), Time/TV TBA

Friday, April 8 – The Dallas Morning News Qualifying Days (Sprint Cup Series), Time TBA (SPEED); O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday, April 9 – Samsung Mobile 500 Sprint Cup Series race, 7 p.m. (FOX)

Twin 275s IZOD IndyCar Series/NASCAR Doubleheader Weekend

Thursday, June 9 – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Qualifying Night, 6 p.m., (No TV)

Friday, June 10 – IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying, 3 p.m. (VERSUS); WinStar World Casino 400 Camping World Truck Series race, 8 p.m. (SPEED)

Saturday, June 11 – Firestone Twin 275s IZOD IndyCar Series races, 8 p.m. (VERSUS)

AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Tripleheader Weekend

Thursday, Nov. 3 – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Qualifying Night, 6 p.m. (No TV)

Friday, Nov. 4 – Sprint Cup Series qualifying, 3:40 p.m. (SPEED); Nationwide Series qualifying, 6 p.m. (SPEED), Longhorn 350k Camping World Truck Series race, 8 p.m. (SPEED)

Saturday, Nov. 5 – O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide Series race, Time TBD (ESPN2)

Sunday, Nov. 6 – AAA Texas 500 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 17 2010
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