NASCAR announced the 2015 Sprint Cup schedule yesterday, with some big surprises! Remember when Labor Day weekend meant Darlington Raceway?

photo credit: NASCAR

Well, after an 11-year absence, it will again, in 2015.

That's one of several schedule changes announced by NASCAR. “The 2015 NASCAR national series schedules promise to provide our fans with the compelling competition and storylines they so richly deserve,” said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “These enhancements to our race dates, particularly in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will be of benefit to our fans and other stakeholders in our industry. From the start of the season at Speedweeks at Daytona culminated by our championship finales at Homestead-Miami, we’re looking forward to the great racing that will be delivered through our outstanding television network broadcast partners FOX, FOX Sports 1, NBC and NBCSN.”

Key date changes featuring Darlington Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway, some of NASCAR’s most tradition-laden tracks, highlight the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. Following the 57th running of the Daytona 500 Feb. 22 on FOX, Atlanta Motor Speedway will host the season’s second race weekend (March 1), while Darlington returns to its traditional Labor Day weekend date (Sept. 6).

photo credit: NASCAR

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to Atlanta for the first time since 2012 as part of a unique doubleheader on Feb. 28 with the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Additionally, Bristol’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spring date moves deeper into the calendar from mid-March to April 19. Hopefully this will reduce the chances of a race being delayed by snow, as happened a few years back.

photo credit: NASCAR

Dates for the spring races at Phoenix and Texas Motor Speedway (April 11) step back one week from their 2014 schedule slots.

All-in-all, positive steps, in my opinion...and much needed.