10 things every NASCAR fan must know about the 2016 schedule
With the official start of the NASCAR season almost a month away, we count down the 10 most notable highlights of the 2016 schedule.
10. The 'West Coast swing' is back
For the second consecutive year, the Sprint Cup Series will feature an early-season 'West Coast swing' consisting of Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 6), Phoenix International Raceway (March 13) and Auto Club Speedway (March 20).
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJonathan Ferrey
9. Darlington is on Labor Day weekend again
No surprise on this one. After a wildly successful return in 2015 to its traditional Labor Day weekend date, Darlington Racway will host the Sprint Cup Series on Labor Day weekend, again, in 2016. Will the Bojangles' Southern 500 again be advertised as a 'throwback' race? It's highly likely.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
8. The Chase races are unchanged
Same tracks, same order of events. For better or worse, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will again begin at Chicagoland Speedway in September and end in South Florida at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. And everything in between is the same, too.
Sporting News via Getty ImagesNASCAR Illustrated
7. There are 3 off-weekends
Just like in 2015, the 2016 Sprint Cup Series schedule features three off-weekends. They are, as follows: The weekends of March 27 (Easter), June 19 and Aug. 14. Of course, one of these weekends will likely be when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Amy Reimann tie the knot, so stay tuned.
Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
6. Pocono will have a new companion race
The first time ever, the XFINITY Series is venturing to Pocono Raceway -- the tricky 2.5-mile triangular layout that has traditionally hosted just Cup and trucks. Pocono Raceway will host its inaugural XFINITY race on June 4, as NASCAR's No. 2 division joins the Sprint Cup Series for a companion event at the Pennsylvania facility.
Getty ImagesDrew Hallowell
5. The July Daytona race is going back to Saturday night
The decision to run this year's July Daytona race on Sunday night instead of its traditional Saturday night slot wasn't very well-received. No need to worry, though. The race is back on Saturday night in 2016.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJared C. Tilton
4. The second Michigan race is pushed back
The August Sprint Cup event at Michigan will move to later in the month than its traditional slot. The race will be held Aug. 28 -- a week after the Bristol night race and a week before NASCAR heads to Darlington.
Getty Images for NASCARGeoff Burke
3. Richmond spring is switching from Saturday to Sunday
Don't worry, fans. Richmond International Raceway's regular-season finale will still be held on a Saturday night in September. But the Virginia short track's April race will be on a Sunday -- a notable change from its traditional Saturday night slot.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
2. Dover is moving up
The first Sprint Cup race at 'the Monster Mile' will be earlier in the schedule -- three weeks earlier, to be exact -- and held prior to the back-to-back May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway for a change.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesSean Gardner
1. Richmond's spring race is returning to the daytime
When the Sprint Cup Series convenes at Richmond International Raceway in April, the track's move to a Sunday race won't be the only notable change; an even bigger change is that the race will be held during the day, not at night. This will be the first regularly scheduled day race at RIR since 1997, although Sprint Cup drivers did compete on Sunday afternoon at Richmond last year because of a Saturday night washout. Richmond’s fall race — the last one before the Chase — will still be a night race, held on Sept. 10.