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Daytona 500 moves to Feb. 26 in 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Daytona 500 is moving.

In 2012 the NASCAR season opener will move to Feb. 26, a week later than it has been run in recent years. NASCAR will lose the March off-week that this year follows the third Sprint Cup race of the season, in Las Vegas.

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president of racing operations, acknowledged the National Football League's consideration of a longer season -- one in which the Super Bowl might intrude on the traditional third-Sunday-in-February Daytona 500 date -- played a role in the joint decision by the sanctioning body and Daytona International Speedway to compress the schedule.

"We're not going to deny the fact that part of this also is 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 kickoff.

"The Super Bowl's certainly a big event, but so is the Daytona 500, and to give fans an opportunity to go to both of those we think is the right move. We think it's a win-win for everybody."

Daytona president Joie Chitwood III had a slightly different slant on the announcement.

"I think Steve would say that the Daytona 500 of football is something we do consider when we make these schedule changes," Chitwood said.

"I did not say that," O'Donnell demurred.

Other events during Speedweeks have not been scheduled, as NASCAR and the speedway are looking at dates for the Budweiser Shootout (which has preceded the 500 by eight days) and Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races.

"That's something that we'll develop with NASCAR as we work through this," Chitwood said. "I think the key today was to make sure our fans knew that the event was moving back one week next year. We'll cycle through and deal with the Duels and the Shootout and all those things that go around Speedweeks."

Chitwood also said the Rolex 24 Grand-Am season opener, held on the last weekend of January this year, likely will move forward by one week, but that's contingent on discussions with the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce and the scheduling of bike weeks, an annual event that attracts motorcyclists from across the country.

"If I were to speculate, I'm sure that we'll cycle those back as well, but we'll work with the chamber of commerce and the city of Daytona Beach to make sure bike weeks (typically the two weeks after the Daytona 500) have their spot on the calendar as well."

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