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Martinsville Cup schedule to mirror those used elsewhere this season

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NASCAR announced Tuesday that “enhanced” two-day weekend schedules would return this year and be used for 12 of the 36 Cup Series races.

The first is this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Qualifying for the STP 500 will be held Saturday after the Camping World Truck Series race. Qualifying was held on Sunday for last October’s playoff race.

The schedules feature two days of Cup action to go with three total days of on-track activity (Camping World Truck Series teams practice Friday at Martinsville, for example). The weekends also will have a rotating schedule of Cup drivers participating in interactive opportunities for fans.

Enhanced schedules are set for both Martinsville races and the following race weekends:

Richmond I and II,  Kansas (May), Chicagoland, Kentucky, Pocono (July), Watkins Glen, Bristol (August), Indianapolis and Talladega (October).

The concept of such race weekends for Cup was implemented in the second half of last year at Martinsville, Indianapolis, Pocono and Watkins Glen.

Also, the Kansas race in May, the September Richmond race, the Kentucky race in July, and the Bristol race in August had Cup cars on track two days those weekends.

Daniel Hemric to make Cup debut at Richmond Raceway in April

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Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric will make his Cup debut next month at Richmond Raceway, Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday on Fox Sports 1’s “NASCAR Race Hub.”

Hemric, 27, will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR at Richmond on April 21. He will also compete in the Sept. 30 race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

A native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, Hemric will be sponsored by Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff in both races. The company serves as an associate sponsor on Hemric’s No. 21 car in the Xfinity Series.

“You only get one chance to make your Cup Series debut, and it is pretty incredible to know that I am able to do it with Richard Childress Racing and with a partner such as Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff,” Hemric said in a press release. “RCR and Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff have been so influential in so many drivers’ careers – a lot of my heroes growing up. To know they will play a large role in the next step of my career and my initial Cup Series debut is very special.”

MORE: Daniel Hemric’s racing career saved by a Ford Mustang

“Since joining our organization, Daniel Hemric has shown his determination and dedication to this sport both on and off the track,” said Richard Childress in a press release. “Making his Cup Series debut is the next step in his career and we are proud to have him take that step with RCR.”

Hemric is in his second full-time season with RCR in the Xfinity Series. Last season he was part of the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Through five races this season, Hemric is fifth in the standings.

“To make my debut at Richmond will make me feel at home, since I spent years coming up through the ranks at short tracks across the country,” Hemric said. “To do it again in front of my hometown crowd in Charlotte later in the year is an overwhelming feeling. Many people have laid everything on the line to get me to this point and I am extremely grateful to all of those people for putting me in position to get this shot in the Cup Series. These are going to be two very special weekends, to say the least.”

The Richmond race weekend won’t be Hemric’s first time in a Cup car. He was called on by RCR last year to drive Ryan Newman’s car in a Goodyear tire test on the CMS road course. He also practiced and qualified Paul Menard‘s car last November at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Federated Auto Parts extends race entitlement deal with Richmond Raceway

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Richmond Raceway has extended its relationship with Federated Auto Parts to sponsor its fall Cup race for another five years, the track announced Thursday.

The race at the .75-mile track will be the Federated Auto Parts 400 through 2022.

This year’s Sept. 22 race will mark the seventh consecutive year Richmond and Federated Auto Parts have partnered together.

Unlike the previous six races, this year’s race will take place in the first round of the playoffs. Richmond had been the site of the regular-season finale since the inception of a postseason in 2004.

“Federated Auto Parts has been an outstanding partner of Richmond Raceway over the years, and we are thankful for their dedication to continuing the tradition of NASCAR racing in Richmond,” said Richmond President Dennis Bickmeier in a release. “We are proud to be working with a fellow Virginia company, and look forward to how our partnership will continue to enhance the iconic Richmond racing experience for years to come.”

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Kevin Harvick glad to see evolving Cup schedule, but wants more changes

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – If Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts a Cup race on its infield road course just once it would be worth it to Kevin Harvick.

For Harvick, the buzz around the Sept. 30 event is an example of what good can come from experimenting with the 36-race Cup schedule.

“If we don’t ever run it again, think about all the conversation that it has created,” Harvick said Tuesday at the NASCAR Media Tour. “If you did it every year, it would just be another race. Those are the types of things that we need to create. We need to create events and moments.”

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has been one of the most outspoken drivers in recent years regarding a desire for NASCAR to shake up its schedules, including a return to short tracks in the Truck Series.

In 2015, Harvick said 90 percent of tracks that host Cup events should only have one race a year. A few months later he advocated moving Saturday night races to Sunday afternoons and said Iowa Speedway should be given a Cup race.

Harvick expressed approval of changes NASCAR has made this year, including the swapping of race dates.

“You see Richmond in the playoffs (Sept. 22) and Indy in a date (Sept.  9) where the fans can sit in the stands and not burn their rear ends off,” Harvick said.

Another change is Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosting two Cup races, including the playoff opener on Sept. 16. The second race date was moved from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Both tracks are owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc.

“Going to Vegas to kickoff the playoffs is a good move from a market standpoint,” Harvick said. “It is a great race track but the market itself is something you have to pay attention to.”

According to, the average temperature in Las Vegas on Sept. 16 is 93 degrees.

Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion, also expressed his desire for a rotation of the championship race.

The Cup season has ended at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a 1.5-mile oval, since 2002.

“I think it gets stale,” Harvick said. “It is a great race track but it isn’t all about the race track. It is about the event. How many times have you had a crappy Super Bowl but everybody goes to the Super Bowl because it is an event. That is what we need to create.”

The swapping of race dates and the creation of the Charlotte road course have occurred while NASCAR is in the middle of a five-year sanctioning agreement with tracks. The agreement ends in 2020.

Harvick presented other ideas for getting tracks more attention and creating unique events, including the prospect of a wild card race.

He also believes tracks should be able to lease their race dates to other tracks, especially when they’re undergoing renovations.

“You renovate your race track, then you have the right to take your date and lease it to someone else during the renovation process so that you can go try new markets and you can go have a unique event,” Harvick said. “Then that gives that particular race track a grace period to get all the work done and not have a race so they can keep working and get the renovations done in a shorter amount of time. That allows you to keep the race tracks renovated and still make money off their race by working a deal out with another race track with their sanctioning agreement.”

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NASCAR America: Virginia is rich in stock car history

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NBCSN’s Rutledge Wood takes you through the vast NASCAR history that originates from the state of Virginia.

While it hosts four Cup races a year at Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway, many drivers and one of the most famous teams in NASCAR history, Wood Brothers Racing, call the state home.

The first NASCAR Cup race was held at Martinsville in 1949 and won by Red Byron.

The state was home to Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, the only African-American driver to win a Cup race, as well Ricky Rudd, and Jeff and Ward Burton.

Watch the above video for the full look at Virginia’s place in NASCAR history.