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No major changes as NASCAR releases 2014 Sprint Cup schedule

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NASCAR on Tuesday released its Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2014 that provides few changes from this year's 36-race calendar.

The regular season opens with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23 and ends at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Sept. 6.

NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Cup championship playoff then starts Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway and ends at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway on Nov. 16.

One change is that Kansas Speedway's spring event will be a night race May 10, and three other tracks (Texas, Darlington and Martinsville) had their spring dates shifted one week.

The race in Southern California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, is March 23.

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president of racing operations, said "we're certainly aware" that critics believe the Cup schedule should be significantly altered, especially in light of NASCAR's sagging popularity in recent years.

One suggestion frequently heard, for instance, is including a twisting road-course race in the Chase.

But with track owners, sponsors, race teams, television partners and other constituents involved, "it's not as easy as just flipping the switch" to make big changes, O'Donnell told reporters on a conference call.

NASCAR also has been criticized by some for having a season that's too long, placing its Chase playoff in competition with baseball's playoffs, pro football and other sports. But O'Donnell said "I don't think we're interested in reducing the number of races."

NASCAR also announced that the Air Titan track-drying system, which was rolled out on a limited basis this year, would be available at every Cup race next year. The system can sharply reduce the length of rain-related delays.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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