BROOKLYN, Mich. There's no mystery surrounding NASCAR's scheduled press conference Friday at Michigan International Speedway. Word the California Speedway will gain a second racing date the traditional Southern 500 weekend has been one of racing's worst-kept secrets.
Darlington (S.C.) Raceway will lose the most-traditional race on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series but gain a date later in the season. The Southern 500 has been a staple at Darlington since 1970, but now that weekend will involve another cross-country trip to the two-mile raceway in Southern California. The race also will be moved to prime time.
North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham then will give its November race to Darlington to complete the swaps among properties owned by International Speedway Corp.
When it's all over, Darlington will have dates in March and November; California will have races in April and September; and North Carolina will have a lone date in late February.
Although NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said the schedule might be revamped as part of Re-alignment 2004 and Beyond, no other significant changes are expected in next year's schedule. Atlanta Motor Speedway has been petitioning NASCAR to move its March date under the lights in June, and that remains under consideration.
ANDRETTI OUT: John Andretti's release from Petty Enterprises and the famed No. 43 Dodge came as a surprise.
Andretti was told Tuesday he was out of the car Richard Petty drove to 200 career wins and seven championships.
''I don't know what to say,'' Andretti said shortly after testing a car Monday for the team. ''You want to be loyal to people, to things, whatever. That's what digs the deepest.''
Andretti had driven for the team for five seasons. He will be replaced by former CART driver Christian Fittipaldi in Sunday's Sirius Satellite 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
PIT STOPS: Roush Racing suspended operations for its Busch Series team and driver Stanton Barrett. The move came after sponsor, OdoBan, decided to withdraw its support of the team. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. will appear on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on Wednesday and on HBO's On the Record with Bob Costas on June 27.
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