The Daytona 500 will take place one week later in 2012, on the final Sunday in February, NASCAR has announced.
The race weekend is being pushed one week back from the traditional President's Day weekend to the final weekend in February. The date for the Daytona 500 is Feb. 26, 2012. To maintain the end of season schedule, the off Sprint Cup weekend typically scheduled in March will now be eliminated.
"When we look at the schedule in general, we've historically had an off week in that fourth week, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that hurts our momentum throughout the season. By being able to move the date back a week, we close up that off week, [and] NASCAR's able to keep the momentum throughout the season, which is great," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations.
The decision to kick off the NASCAR racing season one week later was made in close partnership with the sanctioning body, its broadcast partners including Fox, community partners and others within the industry. The rationale is three-pronged: 1. It shortens the racing season by one week; 2. It maintains momentum in the early part of racing season (TV viewership, media coverage, fan interest, etc.); 3. It's a better opportunity for fans as it moves the race further away from the "Daytona 500" of football held in early February.
O'Donnell added the move was made partly in advance of a potentially expanded NFL schedule.
"We're not going to deny the fact that part of this also is in dealing with the NFL. Who knows where they'll go with an 18-game schedule, but we want to get ahead of that. Either way, we think it's the right thing to do for our season," O'Donnell said. The Super Bowl is certainly a big event, but so is the Daytona 500, and to give fans an opportunity to go to both of those is certainly the right move."
Since fans like to plan their Daytona 500 trip well in advance, NASCAR is announcing the 2012 date much earlier in the season to minimize any inconveniences in planning their visit. Other schedule announcements for Daytona International Speedway and other race facilities will be determined and announced at a later date.