Sunday, February 20, 2011
2012 Daytona 500 moved to Feb. 26
By David Newton
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The 2012 Daytona 500 will be held a week later than normal, eliminating the early off date and shortening the Sprint Cup season.
The "Great American Race'' will be held next year on Feb. 26.
"We have a very short offseason,'' said Steve O'Donnell, a senior vice president with NASCAR. "This gives us a little more time shortening up the season.''
Beyond moving the date to shorten the season, O'Donnell said NASCAR wanted to get ahead of any potential moves to an 18-game schedule by the NFL that could push the Super Bowl later than normal.
"We're not going to deny the fact that part of this also is in dealing with the NFL," O'Donnell said. "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 to kick off. The Super Bowl's certainly a big event, but so's the Daytona 500. To give fans an opportunity to go to both of those we think is the right move, it's a win-win for everybody."
The next Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2012. But Colts owner Jim Irsay and host committee officials have said the NFL has asked Indianapolis city officials to keep blocks of hotel rooms and city venues open for that weekend and the next.
There are no plans to condense the length of Speedweeks, although the date of the Budweiser Shootout has not been officially set at the weekend before the 500.
The NFL's current collective bargaining agreement runs out at the end of the day March 3. The players believe that team owners are preparing to lock them out as soon as the following day, which could threaten the 2011 season.
Nonetheless, NASCAR officials are anticipating changes to the NFL's schedule. Whether it's an 18-game schedule and/or an extra bye week thrown in, they certainly don't want Speedweeks trying to compete with America's biggest sporting event, the Super Bowl.
They even declined to say that the date for the next Daytona 500 -- the fourth Sunday in February -- would remain the same in future years.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.