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MOTOR RACING

Fontana to stage Sprint Cup playoff race in 2009

August 19, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

The NASCAR Sprint Cup race held Labor Day weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana will be moved to October starting next year, speedway President Gillian Zucker said Monday.

This year's race, the Pepsi 500, is Aug. 31 but that will change to Oct. 11 in 2009, as part of a three-track swap on the Cup schedule, Zucker said. The two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval also stages a Cup race in late February.

The shift would mean that the Fontana track would play host to one of the 10 late-season Chase for the Cup races that determine which driver wins stock-car racing's premier championship.

Moving the race to October also would probably give the Fontana track relief from the often scorching heat of Labor Day weekend. The heat is widely viewed as one reason why the 565-acre facility hasn't been able to sell all of its 92,000 seats in recent years.

"We couldn't be more thrilled, mostly for the race fans," Zucker said, adding that "to be in NASCAR's form of the playoffs [with the Chase] is something that's very special."

Under the changes, Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) would receive Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway's date in early to mid-October, Atlanta Motor Speedway would get the Labor Day weekend race and Talladega would receive Atlanta's fall date later in October, Zucker said.

The shift is scheduled to be formally announced today at a news conference with NASCAR President Mike Helton, Zucker and officials of the other tracks. NASCAR declined comment Monday.

Temperatures soared to 110 degrees at last year's Labor Day race in Fontana, and speculation began surfacing this spring that NASCAR might rearrange its schedule in hope of having cooler weather for the event.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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